Alla prima - A painting technique used by the impressionists where a work was usually completed in one sitting with opaque layers of paint. Many impressionist works were painted directly from nature. (see Monet)
Analogous colors - Related colors that lie adjacent on the color wheel such as blue, blue-violet, and violet. Analogous colors share the same primary color.
Binder - An ingredient in paint which allows it to bind to a surface. A drying oil, such as linseed, is a binder for oil paint. In acrylic paints, the binder is acrylic polymer emulsion.
Blending - The process of mixing adjacent colors to eliminate abrupt divisions and create a smooth gradation from one color to the next. Because of their slow drying time, oil paints are ideal for blending colors.
Chiaroscuro - An Italian term meaning, "light-dark", chiaroscuro refers to substantial changes of light in a painting that contribute to creating dramatic mood in a work. Chiaroscuro became popular in the baroque period. (see Carravaggio)
Complement and Complementary Color - In color, any hue that is directly opposite on the color wheel.
Dabbing - A painting technique used by impressionist painters where short strokes of paint are applied to the surface. Dabbing was done in layers and contributed to the flickering effect of impressionist works. (see Pisarro)
Gesso - Originally used in fresco painting, gesso referred to various mixtures of coarse and smooth plasters that were applied in layers in preparation for painting. Later, gesso (or gypsum) was added to rabbit skin glue to create gesso sotile (soft) for panel painting. Today, the gesso most artists use is a blend of polymer emulsion and white chalk and is used for both oil and acrylic painting on either panels or canvasses.
Glazing - Is the process of layering thin transparencies of paint. Glazes create luminous effects because light can pass through them and reflect back from the surface of the painting. In oil painting, most glazes are made from a combination of oil, damar varnish, solvent, and small amounts of paint. Today, many glaze mediums are made with alkyd-based resins to allow for both low toxicity and fast drying. In acrylics, glazes are made from a mixture of polymer media and small amounts of paint. (see Dutch still - life painting)
Ground - The initial layer or surface of the painting which serves as a barrier between the canvas and the paint. Before the use of acrylic gesso, grounds were applied to canvas, while gesso (see gesso sotile) was used on rigid supports. Grounds can be textured, colorful, neutral, opaque, or transparent depending on the surface the artists wants to use. Before the impressionists, most paintings were done on a prepared ground, either imprimatura or toned.
Impasto - Impasto is a thick application of paint. Rembrandt used impasto for highlights in a painting. This technique added both spatial and expressive qualities to his work. Later, painters such as Van Gogh used impasto throughout the entire canvas. Today, acrylics are often used for impasto applications because they dry quickly and are easy to cleanup.
Intensity - is created by the density of pigment in a particular paint. Intense colors are also known as saturated colors. Mixed colors tend to loose their intensity -- which is why many painters prefer to use pure tube colors rather than mixtures. (see Vermeer)
Local color - The "actual" naturalistic color of an object -- as opposed to subjective color which is exaggerated or invented.
Matte - A dull surface as opposed to a shiny surface.
Opaque - An application of media that completely covers, for example, any underneath drawing or color. The opposite of transparent, light cannot pass through anything that is opaque.
Pulling - A painting technique whereby paint is removed by a rag or brush to expose areas beneath the outermost layer of paint. Pulling is also used to create marks on a surface.
Shade - Colors which have been darkened by adding black.
Scumbling - A technique where paint is lightly dragged over a dry surface. Scumbling does not entirely cover the surface and allows underneath areas to show through.
Tint - Colors which have been lightened by adding white.
Value - In art, the relative darkness or lightness of tints, shades, and colors. White is the lightest, or the value with the highest key; black is the darkest, or the value with the lowest key.
Varnish - A mixture of solvent and a resin, such as damar or alkyd. Varnishes are used to create an even gloss or matte finish over a surface which restores the original appearance of wet paint. In acrylics, gloss or matte mediums serve as varnishes.
Wash - A thinned paint made from a solvent (as in the case of oil paint) or water (as in the case of acrylics). Washes are different from glazes, because they are not made by adding more paint binder, such as linseed oil or acrylic polymer emulsion. In painting with oils or acrylics, washes should only be used in the initial blocking-in stages of the painting.
Wet in wet - A technique of painting when wet (or oily) paint is applied onto a wet or oily surface. This is essential for blending colors. Painting is often done by applying paint directly onto wet surfaces so blending and color mixing can be done directly on the canvas rather than on the palette.