Toning the canvas
The question, “what color should I tone my canvas” comes up periodically in class or from some on watching an oil painting DVD. This is a very good question. Toning can work for you and often times I see it work against people. First, I think that you should tone your canvas in the color harmony or the color that you usually work with. For example, David Leffel normally tones his canvas with a greenish brown color and most of his backgrounds are either greenish brown or black, usually very dark. These dark colors work well for him so that when he mixes a paint and puts it on his canvas not only is he going to fit it into the same color harmony but very much the same value structure as well. Now, if you paint outside you may want to tone your canvas with blue or green so it doesn’t work against you. The solution is to think about what you normally paint your paintings with – what color harmony and what key. Your paintings should be toned with those colors.
Another note on that same topic of toning is that a lot of people like to put the compliment down as the tone and they think that it gives it sort of a “sparkle” or electric kind of visual scintillation feeling when the painting is done and it is viewed because maybe it might be a green painting but there will be these transparent oxide red colors coming through or orange coming through. It is true that they do have that look when you are right on top of the painting but when you get back to painting viewing distance, where most paintings are viewed, the opposite happens because when compliments are viewed at a distance, they merge together to form gray. This has a tendency to make the painting look dirty. So, it depends on what your goal is. If it is entirely for your experience of painting and you like the way that it looks while you are painting and you don’t really care what it looks like from viewing distance then that is a good technique for you. But, if you want it to look good from a distance as well as up close then you might want to rethink using compliments because as the impressionists taught us, the colors optically blend together when we back up.Read More