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Fat Over Lean

If your painting dries and you want to paint another layer of paint on top of your dried paint, it is important to make sure you are painting "fat over lean". That simply means that when you paint multiple layers of paint, the paint layers on top should have a higher percentage of oil (fat) than the layers on the bottom. So add a few drops of refined linseed oil to your paints when painting extra layers on top of your dry paint. This will ensure that the upper layer has more oil (fat) than the lower layers (lean).

Oiling Out Your Dry-to-the-Touch Painting

If your painting has dried and become matte, it will be difficult to see what your colors really look like as they dry, especially the dark colors. This is normal, and all quality oil paints become matte and "flat" as they dry. Blacks become gray, and color in general becomes less saturated and "washed out".

Gloss varnish will bring back all the life to your painting — it will once again have all the depth and richness of fresh wet oil color. But if you plan on working on your painting further, do not use varnish! Not even a "re-touch" varnish. Instead, you will need to "oil out" your painting in those areas that have become matte. This will act like varnish to help you see your paint accurately so that you can continue painting further if you wish. You only need to wait until your paint is dry to the touch before you can oil it out.

Watch this video where I explain how to oil out your dried and matte painting.


Once your painting has dried for a couple of months (well beyond dry to the touch), it is ready to varnish. If you keep your painting in a very warm place — for example, above 85°F (29°C) — you can varnish it after about three weeks instead of two months. On the other hand, if your painting is stored in a very cold place while it dries, it may need to dry for twice as long before varnishing.

I like to use a gloss varnish. Watch this video where I explain and demonstrate why I never use a matte varnish:

And watch this video for a demonstration of how to varnish a painting:

Going Forward with the Draw Mix Paint Method

In general I tell my students who want to learn to paint realism well that they should use the Draw Mix Paint method and follow it very strictly for at least five paintings (ten is even better). That means following my instruction "to the letter" and allowing yourself no "wiggle room". Once you have finished five to ten paintings using the method, then you can leave the parts you don't need anymore behind, or leave the whole method behind if you wish. Using the method strictly really will teach you to draw, mix color, and paint, so that you will have an "instinct" for drawing and color perception.

With enough experience with the Draw Mix Paint Method, you really can look at a vase on a table and know instinctively how to mix the shadow color with oil paint. That is what the great realists could all do — and this is what the method will teach you.

More Useful Links from Draw Mix Paint

If you painted from a photograph for this course and you plan on working from life in the future, be sure to go back through the course and choose the "I am working from life" option. There is a lot of material in the course that just relates to working from life, so don't miss it.

And here are five helpful videos I made which were not mentioned in the course at all:

If you're going to be photographing your painting (and you should!), click the links below for some guides we have on how to do it:

And if you're going to be taking photographs and making prints to paint from, click the links below for guides on how to do that:

And a just a few more links to additional Draw Mix Paint resources:

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