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Giclee as an Underpainting

Did you know that you can use a giclee print as an underpainting? This is a more and more recognizable technique in the process of aiding in the creation of original artwork. Our technicians can work with you to help prepare an image to become an underpainting printed on canvas.

With the advent of archival digital printing it has become more popular to create an underpainting using a giclee print on both paper and canvas. It can be a guide or template for an artist’s painting.  This is not much different from the traditional method of using a projector to project your drawing or photograph on a canvas to help with painting. We have quite a few artists that have been using this technique for years with great success.

We can advise you on how to proceed with painting over your print based on your medium of choice.  We have mentioned some quick tips below.

Obviously if you are only painting a little paint here and there on a print then you are creating an “embellished print” and MUST sell it as that. A giclee that is used as an underpainting is a “template” to assist with painting. It is of the utmost importance to disclose your process to your clients so they do not mistake your embellished print as an original.  Misleading your clients will cause you to gain a bad reputation. This is called fraudulent misrepresentation. In business this is illegal!

You MUST cover all of the canvas with your medium to call your work an original.  If you leave any print exposed you will need to call your work mixed media or another similar term. Artists can give this process a bad name by selling their work as an original oil or acrylic painting when in fact it is an embellished print or mixed media original.

If you cover your whole canvas you can call your work an original painting. At that point it is literally no different than having used a projector.

Wikipedia defines an underpainting as “an initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint”.

“This technique was pioneered by Titian in the High Renaissance. The colors of the underpainting can be optically mingled with the subsequent overpainting, without the danger of the colors physically blending and becoming muddy. If underpainting is done properly, it facilitates overpainting. If it seems that if one has to fight to obscure the underpainting, it is a sign that it was not done properly.”

Some purists may feel using a giclee as an underpainting is cheating.  We are compassionate toward this point of view, but we do see both sides of the issue. We are trying our best to help people understand how to use digital printing technology ethically.

When you are creating art remember that the greatest artists in history pushed the boundaries of all the resources at their fingertips to create their vision.  Each artist has individual tastes and methods.  We need to come to accept the use of modern technology to help expand how art affects and influences the world around us.  You have nothing to worry about as long as you are are transparent about your methods. If technology helps you reach an end product you are proud of then go for it.

You must be forthcoming if you are not covering all of your print with paint!  Its not a bad thing, its just an accurate representation of your artwork.

Tips & Pointers

Each artist will have to experiment a little to get used to working on top of a print.  If your underpainting prints are on canvas you will want to have the canvas stretched or mounted to tighten the canvas to help your brush move across the surface with ease.

Acrylic: Paint directly on the canvas print with no varnish and finish with a clear gel medium to protect the print and the paint.

Oil: Paint over a varnished canvas print to keep oils from breaking down the ink layer and mixing a little with your paints.

Pastel: Apply directly over a paper or unvarnished canvas print.

Watercolor: Apply directly to a fine art paper print.

If this is a method you choose to try we can help you through the process.  Give us a call today 703-684-0005!