Grisaille Step by step

Tips and techniques for acrylic painters
Grisaille Step by step

This exercise has 2 applications: The first one is a Value Scale provided, to purely understand tonal value, and the second one applying it to the immediate transfer of the bird you did in. You will be asked to look closely and match tones you see, not the tones you think you know. This is an exercise in mixing first, and observing, second. You are training yourself, in these exercises, to see even the most subtle tonal changes.

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Step 1: complete your Immediate Image transfer and remove all the leftover paper. To begin you will need Golden Fluid Bone Black and Golden Fluid Titanium White, Glazing Liquid or OPEN medium, a soft, fine brush, Styrofoam plate,


Step 2: We will do 10 squares in all, pure white to pure black, with 8 tones of grey ranging from light grey to dark grey and moving from light to dark


Step 3: To perform these old techniques, we must be able to replicate the drying time of the old Masters that largely worked with oil paint. Because acrylic paints are designed to dry quickly, it is necessary to slow down the drying time by adding Open Medium to the paint as well as brushing Open Medium onto the board. This will help in blending the paint.


Step 4: The trick, when blending, is to be aware of the amount of paint on the brush, known as “the load”. An overloaded brush is more difficult to control. Keep a rag handy to wipe off the excess paint your brush may pick up – it is unnecessary to clean the brush with water until you have finished.
Begin light to dark, starting with the Titanium White, and then gradually add small amounts of the Bone Black.

Value Scale/Grisaille * print the scale provided on card stock

Step 1: Set up the Styrofoam plate, numbering it from 1 – 10, leaving room for the pure Bone Black and Titanium White at the top. Put a generous dollop of Glazing Liquid in the centre of the plate, and a small drop of the Glazing Liquid on each position, # 1 – 10 positions. (This helps to keep the paint from drying as you work).
Step 2: Dip your brush in the Titan White on the styrofoam plate, and fill in the first square on the Value Scale.
Step 3: Take almost all of the Titanium White and pull it over to the number 1 position, mixing it with the Glazing liquid. Using the wet brush, dip just the tip of your brush into the edge of the Bone black and then blend it into the white making a very light grey. Remember to do this gradually, like the colour mixing exercise, by avoiding going too dark, too fast.
Step 4: Repeat step three, by gradually adding a little more black each time. Make sure you’re pulling most of the lighter grey into the next position on the styrofoam plate. Once you’ve painted into the square of the Value chart, go back to make the next shade.

The more Titanium White you add, the more opaque your shade is.

I’ve provided 10 squares – you can do hundreds of these.

* Download printable worksheet [PDF] >>