How Do You Add Depth To Your Oil Painting?

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Answered by: Debra, An Expert in the Oil Painting Technique Category
How to add depth to an oil painting

Painting can be a very lucrative and enjoyable activity. However, it can also be frustrating for a novice to create a sense of depth in a painting. In order to simplify the process there are a few steps you can take.

Things you will need


a flat bristle brush - 3 "

a fan brush - 1"-2"

assorted oil paint in tubes

smaller brushes for details

white canvas board

pallet knife

Step one

Focal Point

Assuming that you have already set up your painting area away from direct sunlight but in a well ventilated room. Stand in front of your canvas and find a place about a third of the way down the board and centered. That is your focal spot. You can now add a white base as a smooth medium to paint on to the entire canvas.

Step two

Using the flat bristle brush paint a blue color of your choice across the top half of your painting. If water is in the lower half of the picture extend this blue color further down the canvas.

Sky and Clouds

Using the flat bristle brush paint blue color across your canvas only on the top half of the painting. If you are adding a lake or water of some kind then extend the blue further down accordingly. Remembering your focal point add dabs of grey white paint for clouds. Then take a fan brush and add white to the edges to add depth. The same is true of the trees or mountains. This will help to add depth to your oil painting.

Step three

Trees and Mountains

Using a pallet knife and a deep purple shade of color turn the knife on its side against the canvas and carefully outline the shape of the mountain. Keep doing this until a variety of mountains are formed. Wipe off the pallet knife and then using a medium lavender shade scrape along the opposite side of the mountains for shadows. Do the same technique with white oil paint to highlight higher areas of the mountain peaks. Remember to think of where the sunlight would be touching. The mountains will be smaller towards your focal point and larger as it get closer to you. This adds depth to your oil painting.

The same technique applies to trees and shrubbery. Load the larger flat brush with dark green paint and turn the brush on its side.Dab darker green paint first to add depth and then a lighter shade of green beside it. Finally, you mix white with a touch of yellow and take your fan brush and lightly highlight the trees branches in the direction that the sun is shining.

Remember always build the painting towards you from the farthest point to the closest. This will add depth to your oil painting. Things farthest away will be smaller just like in real life. You can use this technique on any painting or drawing. Knowing how to do this helps to take the fear out of getting started. After awhile it will start to come naturally.

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