Blog, Painting Tutorials

Anatomy of a Painting Part 2

Anatomy of a painting part 2, work in progress by Rose Miller of

Continuing from my last post Anatomy of a Painting Part 1, I’d now like to concentrate on painting hair. As complicated as hair seems to look, it’s actually one of the easiest parts of the body to paint, once you understand the method of working “wet in wet” as I will try to explain in this post.

Stage 1:  In this photo you can see that I’ve completed a colour wash. With dark colours this is nearly always a must, as most dark coloured oil paints are quite transparent. It’s best to build up layers of colour rather than putting on one thick layer of colour, especially in this style of painting. Also shown here are the markings of the braid pattern. I like to have a concise preliminary drawing of how the braid and structure of the hair will be formed. This layer must be completely dry before starting the next stage.

Stage 2:  I have now almost completed the whole area of hair in a layer Van Dyke Brown. Ive mixed the paint with a little bit of gel medium to get a semi opaque glaze, you should still be able to see the plait markings slightly through the glaze. Pending the humidity you are working in, this layer still needs to be wet before moving onto the next stage. It’s even better if this layer is “tacky” rather than very slippery

Stage 3:  Now the fun bit! With some white paint (I use Titanium White), mark in the highlights. This is straight from the tube with no medium mixed in. You want the highlight paint to be a thicker consistency than the dark glaze, this way you will have more control of the paint handling with the highlights. I like to use a smooth but stiff, narrow brush to mark in the highlights. With another clean smooth flat brush you can then blend the highlights into the dark glaze to get a smoother effect.

Stage 4:  Continue the highlights all throughout the glazed hair area. You can go back and add more detail into the highlighted areas where needed. If you find that your highlights are getting too blended out and that you are loosing detail, stop and then wait for the painting to completely dry, so you can repeat the glaze and highlight process. If you do repeat make sure you use a thinner glaze of the dark paint, but keep the highlights opaque without any medium mixed in. The previous layer will show through this new glazed layer, but your painting will now be a shade darker (due to the new dark layer of glaze). So the effect will be a smoother transition of shade to highlights, with the newly added highlight detailing on top.

I hope this is all making sense! I’d be happy for any feedback or questions to help explain this method more clearly if needed.

Painted with love,
Wolfgang and Rose


4 thoughts on “Anatomy of a Painting Part 2”

  1. Your work is so beautiful!
    I was just wondering how do you do your skin tone in your oil paintings?
    What colour palette do you find best for shading the skin?

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