Cedar Lee August 24th, 2013
“Toning” a canvas is when you cover your entire surface with a thin layer of color before starting your painting, so when you actually begin the painting you had planned, you’re painting on top of a color other than white. This helps create an even tone throughout your painting and is an easy way to create unity in a work of art from the very start.
I was preparing a 36″ square Gessobord for a new painting last week, and decided to tone it with a transparent earth red, very roughly brushed on to create variation of value within the color and to show the brush strokes. This is not THE way to tone a canvas…as with many art techniques, there is no right or wrong, just personal preference and aesthetic choices. You can choose a number of techniques to get the effect you want–use thinner or thicker paint, apply paint with a brush, towel, or sponge, and vary the color you choose to tone with.
I am painting in oils here, but you can just as easily tone a substrate when working with other painting mediums. In the past I’ve worked a lot with acrylics and my process was similar when toning canvases with acrylic–although acrylics dry much faster! I say “substrate“ rather than canvas because you can use this toning technique on many surfaces–paper, wood, any kind of primed fabric, and more. Basically toning is just applying a glaze of color as your first step of making a painting, and glazing is a general painting technique with very versatile applications with different mediums and materials! It’s so much fun.
Please enjoy the video: