Impasto Technique for Oil Painting

Painting impasto entails applying thick paint straight onto the painting surface. Impasto techniques contribute towards expressive paintings, for the thick paint adds an element of texture and movement to the painting, which can give satisfaction to the oil painting process.


Impasto Oil Painting


Impasto is an oil painting technique that compliments painting alla prima, which means “in one go.” By applying thick paint straight onto the painting surface, the artist may enjoy using bold and expressive brushstrokes in rendering skies, cornfields or seas. Painting impasto is also ideal for expressing emotions within a painting, as the Expressionists did. Oil painting techniques such as using palette knives and Sgraffito are ideal with impasto.

Cheap Impasto Painting


But using thick oil paint can be costly, for the amount required in producing deep ridges and troughs within the oil paint. In particular, using palette knives or other mark making implements when producing an impasto oil painting will surprise the artist in how much paint will be used up quickly. But impasto medium will make impasto painting cheaper.


What is Impasto Medium?


An alkyd-based gel that adds bulk to the oil paint, impasto medium is available from most art shops in tubes. Don’t be put off by the brownish substance that emerges from the tube as it is squeezed out, it will not tint the oil paint once it is mixed in. When added at a ratio of about one part impasto medium to five parts oil paint, or thereabouts, a thick opaque oil colour will result. But too much impasto medium will cause the oil paint to look translucent.


Using up unwanted pigment on the palette will also come in useful when mixed with other colours to produce neutrals and earths, and will add volume to the paint mix.

Watch my Youtube video on how I painted Cezanne's the Great Bathers in impasto speeded up.

YouTube Video


How to Paint Impasto

Applying paint impasto is a great antidote for the artist who finds it hard not to agonise over every detail. By using wide bristle bushes, no thinner than number 6, or other mark making implements and a small art board, the artist will be forced into using bold brush strokes within the painting. Keeping the composition simple will also help. A vivid sunset or rough seas are an ideal subject matter for impasto techniques in oils.


Essential Art Materials for Impasto


Painting impasto is a painting technqiue that in many ways, is the opposite of glazing, or painting in layers. This means that one layer of thick paint is required. In terms of oil painting materials, the following might come in useful:

  1. Paint thikener Impasto medium
  2. Oil colours including the primary colours
  3. Wide bristle brushes, no smaller than size 6
  4. Mark making implements, such as palette knives or old combs.
  5. A simple composition to work from, such as a photograph consisting of few elements that give scope to use thick paint and expressive marks
  6. Artists’ spirits
  7. Rags
  8. A large painting palette. An old china plate, or cling film clipped onto a large board is ideal
  9. Primed art board

A Simple Oil Painting Technique


The beginner in oil painting will find impasto painting complements alla prima, which means completing a painting in one go and in one layer. Using thick oil paint will enable the artist to explore mark making in the oil paint and introduce an element of texture and movement into the painting.

This site comprise of excerpts taken from my 2 art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon.


© Rachel Shirley 2010