Toning A Canvas

Duration: 1:37

Toning a canvas for oil painting means creating an initial thin layer of fairly neutral color on the canvas that will be underneath your painting so no white canvas shows through. It’s one of the most important foundational steps you’ll learn as an artist, and though the toning will never be seen, it will help your painting succeed by creating a layer that keeps the painting working as a unified whole. Don’t skip this essential step!

To tone her canvases, artist Katie Liddiard demonstrates how she begins by mixing a combination of Van Dyke brown, a neutral brown, and ultramarine blue. She then adds mineral spirits to thin the paint to a soupy consistency. With a brush, Katie begins to scrub this mixture across the canvas. Katie then adds additional color, perhaps a yellow or green, to the existing mixture and continues to work, covering the canvas. While the overall tone is still neutral, adding a little color helps avoid a too-flat tone and adds subtle variation underneath the painting. While you’ll want to blend a little, you don’t need to smooth out all the brush strokes.

That’s all there is to it! Let your toned canvas dry overnight and your surface will be ready for next steps. Don’t forget to clean your bush!

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