Underpainting with acrylics for oil paintings

Underpainting with acrylic paint can save you time, but give you the same advantage as using oils.

Of course, oils and acrylics don’t mix. One is oil based, the other water based. But, there are ways to combine the two.

Acrylics are essentially a plastic. They have the advantage of drying quickly either thick or thin, but they do not have the blending that oils have.  Acrylics can be thinned very easily using water and can be used for glazing.

Begin with a thin wash of acrylic over the gessoed canvas or board. Once it has dried which will be a few minutes, you can then draw your design with a brush and thinned acrylic. Blocking-in of the shapes can also be done with the acrylic paint. Remember to keep your paint thin and flat. Do not have thick glossy acrylic paint. The oil will not adhere properly to the acrylic paint in this case.

Now, it’s time to start with the oils. Make sure that your acrylics are absolutely dry. Start with thin oil paint, then build texture. Always remember the adage “Fat over lean” or “Thick over thin”. Thin paint, then thick. This lets oil paints dry properly. Golden Paints has printed some information about the guidelines of oil over acrylics.

I’ve used the acrylics and oils in this way before as a time saver when I have deadlines. I’ve also accidently grabbed a couple of acrylic paint tubes thinking they were oils. Oil and acrylics definitely don’t mix. I had a mess!

For more information on what colors to use when underpainting, click here.


Comments for this post

  1. Sheila January 30, 2013, 2:37 pm

    I will try this! Thank you Becky!

  2. oil painting February 1, 2013, 12:13 am

    This is beautiful! possibly my favorite of your paintings that I have seen.

    1. admin February 5, 2013, 11:40 pm

      Thank you very much.

  3. akrilik ac February 2, 2013, 10:47 pm

    I like the ideas painting on the acrylic… I never saw the painting like that… nice!

    1. admin February 5, 2013, 11:41 pm

      It does help to save time when on a deadline. I’ve also used it for toning my canvases ahead of time for plein air painting.

  4. Holly Chapman February 6, 2013, 9:40 pm

    Hi Becky, I’ve been trying to sign up for the Easel Notes Blog to be delivered to my email several times. It keeps saying it can’t display the webpage. Can you tell me how to sign up for it please? Thanks, ~Holly

    1. admin February 14, 2013, 9:41 pm

      I checked the feedburner link and it seems to be OK. hope it is working for you now.


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