The Grisaille Technique - Underpainting | Trekell Art Supply

The Grisaille Technique - Underpainting

Grisaille is a painting technique in which an artist uses a monochromatic palette in greys, or similar neutral grey colors. For the etymologist in you, grisaille comes from the French word for grey: “gris.”

Historically, some artists used the technique to make a model from which to base an engraving. Others used the technique because they prefer the monochromatic look. Still others used it as the foundation for layering oil paint colors on top to create their oil painting.

The Grisaille Technique - Underpainting | Trekell Art Supply

This technique involves several steps. First, a toned canvas sets the stage for your work. That means painting the canvas with a mid-tone neutral so it’s no longer white.

Next, you draw the subject. Then you start adding medium shades of grey to create shadows. You can either layer your lighter areas first or you can block in darker areas--every artist has their own approach.

Regardless of your method, this step is about gradually adding more detail and building up to your darkest and lightest tints. The effect can be quite stunning in and of itself, or you can choose to use your grisaille as an underpainting and then layer colors over it to create your final work.

The Grisaille Technique - Underpainting | Trekell Art Supply

Grisaille has several benefits. It can be cost-effective--you’re only using shades of one color. It helps with painting over in color; you can use grey tints and shades that can be easily covered up. An artist also only has to focus on light and shade without thinking about color, making the painting process a bit less complex.

Trekell offers an array of paints, canvases, and panels with which you can create your grisaille art. While the technique is most often used in oil painting and acrylic painting, it can also be done in watercolors.