One of the best ways to speed up your process, and unify your painting all in one go is to use a toned ground. And as an added bonus, you bypass some of the difficulties that are present when you’re faced with a blank white canvas. In today’s Quick Tip session, I’m going to cover what a toned ground can do for you, and a simple process to get started.
I want to go over first, what a ground is and then about how you would go about putting that onto your. Surface that you’re going to paint on a ground is simply the surface. You’re going to paint on top of, and sometimes it’s considered also the surface that you’re actually preparing, prepping and creating.
So it’s both the panel that you’re painting on. And it’s what you do to seal that panel or that canvas and using a toned ground. You bypass some of the difficulties. That are present when you’re faced with that white canvas, a lot of people are intimidated when they are staring at a blank white canvas.
It can be a little bit overwhelming someone. The first things that a toned ground can do for you is it can eliminate that overwhelm and that intimidation factor. So it is a really good idea as far as something that can jump, start your painting process and get you over that hurdle of the blank white canvas staring at you.
It also speeds up your painting process and, establishing a middle value. Very quickly so that if you want to create a strong sense of space and dimension, all you need to do add is a lighter value and a darker value to create that sense of space. So it speeds up the process from that direction as well.
And as a bonus, it also helps to unify the entire painting. I’m going to show you an example of that in just a minute. Now in the two panels that you see right here. This was one of my panel prepping afternoons, and I did it outside so that it would speed up the drawing time. I use yellow ochre as the tone color for my grounds, and I almost always paint on its own ground.
The only time that I don’t is in the middle of the Southern summer. If I’m painting a noonday scene or a mid morning, mid-afternoon the light here in the middle of summer is glaring white. So the town ground goes away at that time of year. But in general, the color of the light here is, has a gold tint to it.
So I ended up using yellow ochre. Now you can use acrylic to tone the ground if you’re, if you’re working on top of something that has an acrylic. sealant on it. So if you’ve used acrylic gesso, you can use acrylic paint to tone the ground. But if you’ve got something that has an oil primer on it, you cannot put acrylic paint on top of that.
So keep that in mind. I used, oil, acrylic paint on these to tone them and apply them very thinly. For the most part. One reason I blew this one up is so you can see the difference between the panel on the left and the panel on the right. The one on the left, the paint was thicker. And so it appears muddier and a little bit more opaque.
Than the one on the right. I like to keep it very thin. So it’s fairly transparent and you can see some of the white of the painting support showing through. Not as a glaring white, but as kind of a golden light. So yellow ochre is one of those colors that goes muddy in a pile when it’s thick, and golden and transparent when it’s thin. If you’re using an oil color to tone the ground, I advocate that you not use thinner or solvent. Don’t dilute the oil paint with solvent. I just take a paper towel and smear the paint thinly on, so that I’m not having to use any solvent to thin it out.
Avoid the solvent, but apply it really thinly. And it gives you that nice golden surface. Be sure to let it dry before you start painting, or you’re going to end up with a muddy mess.
People use different colors for toning or underpainting. If you’re working on a portrait, you want to use something that’s a contrast. What your subject is a still life that becomes completely up to you. I know people who use an orange color, and ones who use green and blue.
It’s really a personal preference and up to you. If you’ve never used one before, I’d experiment a little bit.
So in this one, you can see where I’ve toned to the ground really loosely, with a paper towel, smearing the paint around so that it covered the panel super thinly. Those marks you see are from the paint smearing with the paper towel, not from a big brush, but if you’re going to use a brush with acrylic, then use a giant one.
Don’t worry about the marks you’re making, because they’re going to get covered up for the most part. Then I have marked out the big shapes. Lightly really thinly, with the color that I’m going to block in with. So I use the tip of my knife, but you could use a small brush. I don’t always do this. I did this for a demo for a course, a class.
That’s what it looks like in the very beginning. Then at the end, that toned ground can be almost completely covered up.
Peeking through, down there in the bottom and the water reflections and a little bit up in this sky, then I’ve also added paint at the very end. That was almost the same color as the tone to ground. And then it begins to help pull it all together, but that underlying color can become a unifying factor.
I would strongly recommend that you prep some panels or perhaps some canvases or paper with a toned ground.