Tonking Painting Technique

Tonking an oil painting is an art technique for the beginner who wishes to erase a mistake on an oil painting. Named after Sir Arthur Tonks, this oil painting technique enables the artist to turn back the clock.


How to Erase a Mistake on a Painting


The beginner in oil painting or even the practiced artist may at some point feel dissatisfied with an area of an oil painting and wish to begin again. The option of starting the painting from scratch may be considered, but this can be avoided. Tonking means that an area of the painting can be carefully erased without disturbing the surrounding area. Tonking is useful if:
  • The oil paint is too thick in a particular area
  • The oil paint has been overworked, causing the painting to lose its life
  • An area of the painting does not key in properly to the rest of the painting, in that the tone is too light or too dark
  • The consistency of the oil paint is not what is desired, for instance, too much linseed oil has been applied too soon
  • Correcting an object in the painting that is inferior in quality to the rest of the painting, for instance lollypop trees, cotton wool clouds or boxy houses
  • The offending area is close to intricate detail and care is required to delete it without disturbing the surrounding area.




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How to Tonk an Oil Painting

The technique of tonking a painting is quite simple, but needs to be done properly to be effective.
  1. Identify the area of the painting that needs changing.
  2. Tear a sheet of newspaper or scrap paper into roughly the same shape and size as the offending area of the painting
  3. Place carefully over the area
  4. Press down firmly with the palms of the hands
  5. Lift carefully off
  6. Repeat several times with fresh paper until no traces of the oil paint can be lifted off.

The area tonked will have a small residue of oil paint, but it will not affect the paint to be applied.


Correcting an Oil Painting


Tonking is in effect blotting an oil painting. With the procedure completed, the area can be begun again, but care is required in grafting the edges of the new area with the existing paint, so that it fits in with the rest of the painting. This can be done by gently blending the edges of the painting area with a soft clean sable brush. Extra care is required around detail. 

Tonking Mistakes in Oil Paintings


A handy technique that saves the trouble of having to begin an oil painting again, tonking makes it possible to erase an unsatisfactory area of oil painting. Several sheets of scrap paper or newspaper.are the only requirements. By carefully blotting off the offending area, the section can be begun again without having to start the painting from scratch.

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.


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© Rachel Shirley 2010