Sgraffito Art Technique

There are many oil painting techniques to excite the artist, such as Alla prima, impasto and glazing, but the little known Sgraffito technique is worth exploring. Practicing Sgraffito in oils simply requires different mark making implements and contrasting colours.


Sgraffito with Oil Paints


Sgraffito has traditionally been used for decorating ornaments and earthenware, but it can also be practiced in oil painting. By using different mark making tools, Sgraffito can be used to suggest movement and energy, as well as texture to an oil painting.


What is Sgraffito?


Simply put, Sgraffito is a practice whereby an overlying layer of oil paint is etched off to reveal another layer beneath, usually of a contrasting colour. An otherwise lifeless oil painting could have added interest with the introduction of Sgraffito. An interior scene, still life, landscape or sky sketch can have an added element of texture and energy with Sgraffito.

Essential Art Materials for Sgraffito Oil Painting


To add texture to the marks within the oil paint, impasto medium can be used to add bulk to the oil paint. By scratching troughs into the thick paint with the butt end of a brush or comb, the textured oil paint can be used to reinforce the feel of wood or brick, or any other subject matter depicted within an oil painting.


Any mark-making implement can be used for Sgraffito, such as old palette knives, combs, toothbrushes, chisels or scissors.




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Tips on Sgraffito with Oils

To add energy to an Sgraffito painting, the artist may apply a bright colour onto the painting surface prior to applying the final painting on top. Such an under-paint is known as an imprimatura. A quick drying imprimatura in acrylic paint is an ideal surface for oil painting.


If the final painting is to be green, such as a garden or landscape scene, for instance, applying bright red beneath will add vibrancy to the Sgraffito when the overlying green paint is scratched off to reveal this conflicting colour. A demonstration on painting Sgraffito with texture can be found on my other site on oil painting demonstrations.


A Simple Oil Painting Technique


The artist who wishes to venture onto interesting oil painting techniques may have a go at Sgraffito. By adding an element of texture, energy and contrast onto an oil painting by scratching the upper surface of oil paint with any mark-making instrument, the artist may transform an otherwise ordinary oil painting.

This site comprise of pictures and 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