Glossary of Art Terms
Welcome to Rex Art's Glossary of common Art Terms. Here we hope to give you a brief definition of various art terms which might be unfamiliar. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas please e-mail us.
A chalk ground which absorbs oil and is used in oil painting to achieve a matt effect and to speed up drying.
A water dispersion of polymers or co-polymers of acrylic acid, methacrylic acid, or acrylonitrile. Acrylic emulsions dry by evaporation of the water and film coalescence.
A solution of acrylic resin in a volatile solvent. Paints made with an acrylic solution binder resemble oil paints more than those made with acrylic emulsion binders.
Color that results from the mixture of two or more colored lights, the visual blending of separate spots of transmitted colored light.
Synthetic resin used in paints and mediums. As a medium Liquin from Winsor and Newton works as a binder that encapsulates the pigment and speeds the drying time. In Paints W&N Griffith paints are good example of alkyd paints.
Technique in which the final surface of a painting is completed in one sitting, without under painting. Italian for "at the first".
Free from water.
Refers to materials that meet certain criteria for permanence such as lignin-free, pH neutral, alkaline-buffered, stable in light, etc.
The American Society for Testing and Materials. An independent standard for certain paint qualities, adopted by most manufacturers.
The nonvolatile adhesive liquid portion of a paint that attaches pigment particles and the paint film as a whole to the support.
A brown, transparent pigment.
In artwork, the effect of a dark color seeping through a lighter color to the surface.
Smoothing the edges of two colors together so that they have a smooth gradation where they meet.
A dull, progressively opaque, white effect caused on varnished surfaces by damp conditions.
Opaque paint, such as gouache, which has the covering power to obliterate underlying color.
The characteristic way each artist brushes paint onto a support..
Closely woven cloth used as a support for paintings.
Other than what we watch on TV it is a planning device in mural painting, often a full-scale line drawing of the design, without color and tone.
A natural protein obtained from cow's milk. Produces a flat, water-resistant film.
Term is used to describe the effect of light and shade in a painting or drawing, especially where strong tonal contrasts are used.
More than one set of close parallel lines that crisscross each other at angles, to model and indicate tone.
The relative intensity or purity of a hue when compared to grayness or lack of hue.
Wrinkling or puckering in paper supports, caused by applying washes onto a flimsy or improperly stretched surface.
A technique of picture making in which the artist uses materials other than the traditional paint, such as cut paper, wood, sand, and so on.
The arrangement of elements by an artist in a painting or drawing.
A polymer in which the molecule is of more than one type of structural unit..
A hard resin used in making varnishes and painting mediums.
A resin from conifer trees, used in making oil mediums and varnishes.
A term for colors used in underpainting.
The ragged edge found on handmade papers.
The act of cutting out paper designs and applying them to a surface to make an all over collage.
Best quality Gouache paints, often used in commercial art.
Liquids, such as turpentine, used to dilute oil paint, the diluent for waterbased media is water.
Applied to paint, a smooth, homogeneous mixture of ingredients; the process of dispersal, in which pigment particles are evenly distributed throughout the vehicle.
A blend of glue, chalk and water-based paint, used mostly for murals and posters.
A material that accelerates or initiates the drying of an oil paint or oil by promoting oxidation.
An oil that, when spread into a thin layer and exposed to air, absorbs oxygen and converts into a tough film.
A liquid in which small droplets of one liquid are immiscible in, but thoroughly and evenly dispersed throughout, a second liquid. eg. Acrylic Emulsion
Literally, to burn in. A painting technique in which the binder is melted wax.
A term used to describe paints which have a high oil content.
Inert pigment added to paint to increase its bulk, also called extender.
A thin coating or layer of paint, ink, etc.
A solution, usually of shellac and alcohol, sprayed onto drawings, to prevent their smudging or crumbling off the support.
A painting technique in which the pigments are dispersed in plain water and applied to a damp plaster wall. The wall becomes the binder, as well as the support.
Pigment or dye colors that fade when exposed to light.
A white ground material for preparing rigid supports for painting. made of a mixture of chalk, white pigment, and glue. Same name applied to acrylic bound chalk and pigment used on flexible supports as well as rigid.
A very thin, transparent colored paint applied over a previously painted surface to alter the appearance and color of the surface.
Opaque watercolors used for illustrations.
A monochromatic painting, usually in gray, which can be used under colored glazes.
coating material, usually white, applied to a support to make it ready for painting.
A plant substance that is soluble in water.
A gum, extracted fro Acacia trees, used in solution as a medium for watercolor paints.
A technique of modeling, indicating tone and suggesting light and shade in drawing or tempera panting, using closely set parallel line.
The perceived color of an object, identified by a common name such as red, orange, blue.
Absorbing or attracting moisture from the air.
A style of painting characterized by thick, juicy color application.
A thin, veil of paint, or paint-tinted size, applied to a ground to lessen the ground's absorbency or to tint the ground to a middle value.
The purity and brightness of a color. Also called saturation.
Used to describe the prevailing tone of a painting. A predominantly light painting is said to have a high key. In contemporary mural painting, the key is the result of scratching a walls surface to prepare for final layer of plaster - similar to "tooth"
A dye that has been chemically or electrically attached to a particle and does not bleed or migrate.
A dispersion in water of a solid polymeric material.
The process of drawing out excess liquid through a porous substance.
Used as an adjective to describe paint thinned with a spirit, which therefore has a low oil content.
A method of water-washing pulverized pigments to clear the particles of dissolved salts or organic matter.
Resistant to fading or other changes due to light.
The actual color of an object or surface, unaffected by shadow coloring, light quality or other factors.
Canvas that has not been primed, sized or otherwise prepared beforehand for painting.
A dispersion in water of a solid polymeric material.
A technique for attaching, with glue, mural size painting on paper or fabric to a wall.
The top tone or body color of a paint seen only by reflected light.
A stiff cardboard with a window cut out of the center, attached to a backboard.
Flat, nonglossy; having a dull surface appearance. Variant spelling - matt.
The liquid in which pigments are suspended. Also a material chosen by the artist for working. Plural is media.
The action of a pigment or dye moving through a dried film above or below it.
In drawing and painting this refers to the use of different media in the same picture.
A material with low molecular weight that can react with similar or dissimilar materials to form a polymer.
Picture making technique using small units of variously colored materials (glass, tile, stone) set in a mortar.
Also referred to as wall painting. this word describes any painting made directly on the wall.
Multi ply board made of cotton rags or buffered cellulose to ensure chemical stability and neutrality.
The surface which a painter will mix his colors. Also the range of colors used by an artist.
Originally the green brown encrustation on bronze, this now includes the natural effects of age or exposure on a surface.
A condition of old paintings where lead-containing pigments have become more transparent over time, revealing earlier layers.
particles with inherent color that can be mixed with adhesive binders to form paint.
Ingredients added to paint to either make it flow or be easily redissolved.
French for "open air". Term describing paintings done outside directly from the subject.
A series of monomers strung together in a repeating chainlike form. That really makes it clear ;)
An inert particle to which dyes can be laked.
A material that prevents or inhibits the growth of microorganisms in organic mixtures.
Coating material, usually white, applied to a support to prepare it for painting.
Polyvinyl acetate, a manmade resin used as a paint medium and in varnish.
The bending of light from one course in one medium to a different course through another medium of different refractive index.
The numerical ratio of the speed of light in a vacuum to its speed in a substance.
A general term for a wide variety of more or less transparent, fusible materials. The term is used to designate any polymer that is a basic material for paints and plastics.
A red-brown chalk.
The process in which a paint binder, under moist and alkaline conditions, becomes transparent or discolored.
The technique of applying a thin, semi-opaque or translucent coating of paint over a previously painted surface to alter the color or appearance of the surface without totally obscuring it.
Italian for "dry". A technique of wall-painting onto dry plaster, or lime plaster that is dampened shortly before paint is applied
Italian for "shaded off". Gradual, almost imperceptible transitions of color from light to dark.
Technique in which the surface layer is incised or cut away to reveal a contrasting color.
Term for a color darkened with black.
A yellow resin formed from secretions of the LAC insect, used in making varnish.
Material, such as sand, that is composed of a metal, oxygen, and silicon.
A drawing method using a piece of metal, usually silver wire, drawn on a ground prepared with Chinese white, sometimes with pigment added.
A red-brown chalk used for marking-out frescoes; also the preliminary drawing itself.
Material applied to a surface as a penetrating sealer, to alter or lessen its absorbency and isolate it from subsequent coatings.
A preliminary drawing of a composition.
A method for transferring an image to a larger or smaller format. Return to top
A wooden chassis for textile supports that has rigid, immovable corners. Return to top
A wooden chassis for textile supports that has expandable corners.
Color resulting from the absorption of light.
A detailed drawing or painting made of one or more parts of a final composition, but not the whole work.
The basic substrata of the painting; paper, cotton, linen, wall, etc..
Technique of painting in which water and egg yolk or whole egg and oil mixture form the binder for the paint. Used also as a term for cheap opaque paints used in schools.
Referring to materials that are thick and viscous while at rest but will flow if brushed, stirred, or shaken. Resumes its viscous state when the agitation stops.
Term for a color lightened with white. Also, in a mixture of colors, the tint is the dominant color.
An unlaked dye that can bleed or migrate through dried paint films.
Small grained but even texture. Tooth provides for the attachment of succeeding layers of paint.
In oils, the movement of one paint layer over another.
A gum , extracted from certain Astragalus plants, used as a binding agent in watercolor paints and pastels.
French for "deceive the eye". A painting with extreme naturalistic details, aiming to persuade the viewer that they are looking at an actual object, not a representation.
The traditional stage in oil painting of using a monochrome or dead color as a base for composition. Also known as laying in.
The relative lightness or darkness of a hue. Black is low value. White is a high value.
Generally, a more or less transparent film-forming liquid that dries into a solid film.
Italian for "view". An accurate representation of an urban landscape.
The entire liquid contents of a paint.
An oleo resin - the semisolid mixture of a resin and an essential oil - derived from the larch and used primarily in making mediums and diluents for oil painting.
Old term for green underpainting.
Evaporating rapidly or easily.
The space that a object or figure fills in a drawing or painting.
A thin, usually broadly applied, layer of transparent or heavily diluted paint or ink.
A technique of painting using a binder made from a water-soluble gum. Watercolors can be transparent or opaque.
Substance added to water or to water-based paints in order to reduce surface tension. eg. Ox Gall.
See Encaustic. Return to top
The use of a waxy medium to make a design over which a colored wash is spread.
The application of fresh paint over an area on which the paint is still wet
See Water Tension Breaker.
A thinner used with oil paints replacing Turpentine.
Chalk which is purified, ground with water and dried to form an inert pigment.
Rarely used term for woodblock printing. Also the mechanical reproduction of wood grain for decorative purposes.
This effect on oil paintings is usually caused by one of three reasons: excessive use of linseed oil medium; applying any of the varnishes that are prone to yellow with age; or most often - an accumulation of dirt embedded into the varnish.
Describes the forms of works of art and ornaments based on animal shapes.