2018 Workshop Details Coming Soon! click here
Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What is an Alcohol Wash Underpainting?

'Reverie'           8x10       pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $145
The Mystery and Magic of the Underpainting is something I explore in every painting I do. I am always trying to play with different media, techniques and color choices. It makes daily painting more interesting. I truly don't have a preferred underpainting technique. I choose the underpainting to fit the concept of my painting. I like options!

So I love when my readers suggest underpainting ideas and ask questions. It often leads to new discoveries for me...and I share them with you!  A friend recently asked about alcohol washes on Pastel Premier paper. I blogged about it yesterday. Today I was asked for details about doing an alcohol wash. If you haven't tried this technique let me give you some tips:


Alcohol wash on Uart paper using Derwent Inktense blocks

  • An ALCOHOL WASH is simply a technique used to liquify pastel creating a wet underpainting. Using a paintbrush and 70% rubbing alcohol the artist wets the pastel creating a wet wash. Pastel can also be liquified with water and Odorless mineral spirits with slightly different results. ( I have also used vodka which works great!)
  • Sanded paper or paper that can take a wet wash is needed. Note that some sanded papers do not take a wet wash. (LaCarte)
  • It is best to use a harder pastel for an alcohol wash. The softer pastels with more pigment than binder tend to get thick and gummy when wet. I have had success with softer pastels when I apply them very lightly.
  • Take your time! You are turning pastel into liquid paint....like gouache ...so take advantage of this and slow down and use the brush to paint! Use brushstrokes to help describe what you are painting. It is not just a matter of getting everything wet....slow down and make the underpainting just as important as the pastel application.
Do you have any tips for doing an alcohol wash? Feel free to share them in the comments!

3 comments:

Helen Stephenson said...

Yesterday you said you never use 90% alcohol as a wash. Is there a reason?

Karen said...

I have been told that is has a higher flash point so is more flammable potentially. Since I sometimes travel with it I stick to 70%

robertsloan2art said...

This is a great article. One thing about alcohol wash is that it will dry faster than a water wash, so there's some speed of process and convenience involved. Go lightly on the pastels, a little goes a long way in wash underpainting. It doesn't have to cover solidly anywhere.

One thing that helped me get it was some practice using wash with watercolor pencils, getting light tones with light applications of color and swishing the liquid around to put tones where I wanted them.