Execution of Dead Color- Under-paint by Master Algrim. 2017

When you have completed the underdrawing is the second stage “dead-coloring”. To day it is called underpainting. Under the Renaissance was dead-color one of the key-techniques and this pictorial strategy was used until the French Revolution. Without an adequate theoretical knowledge and mastery of the technique you will not be able to achieve a satisfactory art-work. Why it is called dead-color is the lack of color used in this technique only 2-3. (Lead-white or lead thin yellow, raw umbra and maybe som boneblack in the final stage). Dead-coloring was so important that it vas mandatory in the Flemish-school.

Dead-color technique is seldom used by artist to day. Because they dont understand why they shall use so mush time to paint with dead-color and then cover it with new paint. To day most of the artists paint directly on a white commercial-prepared and cheap canvas, with a full color palett. Often even without a plan or drawing on the canvas as a resolve of that, they dont understand why the function and the practice of underpainting/dead-coloring is comprehended.

Dead-color technique is a kind of a monochrome version of the final painting. The advantage is that the artist can fully concentrate to the main compositional elements, details, volum, contrast,
anatomi and create illumination of dark and light. I recommend to execute the dead-color painting with an chiaroscuro effect. It was more or less common to “block out” areas with dull colors witch anticipated the final colors. (This technique must not be confuse with “hounding” wish I will talk about later). Following this block-out metode, each individual area will “merging” with the final color in a flat tint.

If the dead color technique is done correctly, you will experience that this does not complicate the painting-process. You will also understand that it will save you a lot of time and a lot of frustration in the long run. A much better final result is obtainable. If you master the basic technique the artist will understand the logic in dead color underpainting.


How would a dead-color painting appear? In theory it would be pleasant to see a “finished” and correctly preformed dead-color painting and it would be fully possible to “communicate” with the artwork already on this stage. It would of course miss the entirety a finished work produces with it`s color, depth, final details and texture.
In theory you can use almost any earth-pigments for dead-color. But it is important that you find a “neutral” color that will communicate with the colors you plan to use in the next layer.
Raw Umbra is the most common pigment that has been used. If you buy a quality-pigment (not chemically preformed) the Raw Umbra has a green-like tone. But as it is for all the earth-pigments, the color and how the pigment behaves depends on where it is extracted since there are big varieties geographically.

The way the pigment is grinned and cleansed is also determining in prominence for how the pigment will be to work with. Buy quality and not necessarily from the big and globalized producers when these has profit and not always quality as their first priority. It is a connection with quality and prise! It exists producers that has specialized in presenting high-quality nature-pigments for fine art use.

The preparation of the canvas has to be neutral and correctly done. This means that the preparation is stable and at the same time flexible for corresponding with the canvas. It has to be matte, free of dust an “sucking” so the underpainting attach to the preparation, fat on lean. ( go to preparation of canvas)

The dead-color pigment is grinned in the usual way with cleansed Walnut-oil (go to cleansing of oil) with a grinder on a toughened glass-surface (go to painting). The medium to the dead-color painting has to be “thin” and can rationally mixed with one part oil and tree parts solvent such as turpentine or lavendel. It is hard to describe the correct texture and “flow” on the dead-color painting, but the darker parts of the painting should be laid with “mezzapasta” witch means half-pasta in Italian.


The canvas and the preparation contains 6-8 layers of ground. Each layer must dry in one week and is grained with sandpaper and water between each layer. The painting itself contains only natural earth or mineral pigments of the absolute best quality.

Algrim also uses a small amount of bee wax and liquid-secura in his paint/paintings and makes all his paint by himself. Algrim’s paintings can have as much as 20-30 layers of paint and glaze. Combined with the liquid-secura. Algrim’s paintings contain only the same ingredients as the masters used during the Renaissance.


Canvas with «fishbone» structure. Algrim paints on a specially made canvas with a «fishbone» structure.


The blind-frame is made from the best slow growing wood and has under 4% humidity.


Backside of a painting. Every painting by Algrim has a double canvas on the rear side for extra protection.

Algrim use this pigments:

Lead white, Lead-tin yellow, Yellow ochre, Raw Italian sienna, Burnt Italian sienna, Raw umbra, Burnt umbra, Cyprus cold green, Bone black, Malachite, Cinnabar, Orpiment, Azurite, Lapis Lazuli.

The painting itself contains only natural earth or mineral pigments of the absolute best quality. The pigments are grained in cold pressed walnut oil of the clearest and best quality.


WARNING! NOT FOR AMATEUR USE! Some of this pigments are poisonous and some are very difficult to work with. Make sure you know hove to use it and protect your self!


Why purifying the oil? For example Azurite has a bad reputation to turn black or greenish. The truth is that this pigment (Azurite) is extraordinary permanent.(If it is clean) It don’t change colour after been exposed from sulfur gases or acid from oils like many thought. A painting who is not correctly executed will be discoloured because of polluted pigments or wrong binders. Not correct prepared drying oil will change colour when it mix with pigments. The discolouration is in the binder/oil and not in the pigment (if it is clean and from a high quality supplier). Some drying oils can be discoloured (not by yellowing, but it change to black or greenish). It is extremely important to use completely clean pigments and correct purified oil. Walnut oil who is purified as followed will not be discoloured. Residues and “pollution” means that the oil may become discoloured (yellowing) when it dries. Crude oil may also result that the oil and some pigments react in an undesirable manner. These reactions or discolouration is usually very marginally, but can also result in big problems. I highly recommend that you buy oil and pigments from suppliers who sell products of the best quality. It costs a bit more, but this knowledge will help you to avoid small or large changes and problems when you paint. The purified oil is recommended for use in bright colours and when you grind mineral pigments. The cleaning process will also show how good or bad the oil are. You’ll find that quality oil has much less “pollution” than bad and cheap oil. This process will also minimise the yellowing of the oil. The separation process of 200ml oil will take about two weeks



Pour a half part distilled water in a completely clean bottle or test tube. Pour an equal share of walnut oil and make sure you don`t fill the test tube completely


Put on a tight lid or hold your finger over the spout and shake the mixture for a few minutes until it turns milky white. Leave it fore one to two weeks with the lid loosely on until the oil and water are separated.


Use a pipette to soak up the purified oil and make sure you not get the remains located between the oil and water. Repeat the process if you want an even cleaner oil (Recommended). Pour the neutralised and purified oil in a clean bottle after the separation.