Make Your Paintings Pop with Grisaille and Underpainting

Updated May 16, 2018


Graphic by Johannes Madsen

SHAREABLE Graphic by Team Artopia

SHAREABLE Graphic by Team Artopia

Grisaille and Underpainting

In this review, we learn about grisaille and underpainting. We look at how these techniques can be used to give amazing depth and color to your paintings.

These books and tutorials shows the results you can achieve with a grisaille and underpainting techniques. Grisaille and Underpainting are tonal painting techniques for creating dimension. Renaissance artists popularized the neutral, often gray (gris is french for gray) or sepia underpainting style that gave the famous dimensional effect to their paintings. Grisaille and underpainting are known as an oil painting method but can be used with acrylics and watercolors.

Underpainting example

Underpainting example


Learn about Grisaille and Underpainting

Learning how to paint in tones and how to develop an underpainting is part of a classic art education. Many artists find this a faster and effective way to paint because it puts your focus on creating clear tones with better control over your lost and found transitions.

Lost is a term for soft blends

Found is a term for a crisp edge

The additional layers of transparent color are easy to control and quickly build to give you an impressive dimensional painting. This underpainting and grisaille technique is great for artists who desire to paint in smooth detailed realistic style. Rendering skin, fabric and reflective surfaces is much easier with this method of painting.

Check out our Pinterest board ‘Grisaille and Underpainting’ below for inspiration and great examples of grisaille and underpainting techniques used in classic and contemporary art.


The painting featured in this article is Grande Odalisque, painted in 1814 by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and can be seen at The Louvre Museum in Paris.