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Intro to Casein Painting

Many artists have added the medium of casein to water color and oil, and you will probably enjoy working with it. In many respects, casein resembles the versatility of acrylics.

Casein is a flexible, permanent medium, it is easy to handle and requires no reorientation in color mixing, since the same pigments are used as in the other two media.

Since casein is soluble in water and is frequently used on paper, where it dries quickly with a matte-like effect, a casein painting resembles a water color when completed.

When handled in a similar manner, but painted on a rigid surface such as gesso board, it can be varnished when finished and will then take on the appearance of an oil painting.

Placed in heavy, close-fitting frames, varnished caseins are often entered in oil exhibitions and are most difficult to distinguish from oil paintings.

Many artists use casein as a base or underpainting and then finish the painting with oil glazes. You'll achieve great luminosity this way.

It is important to remember, however, that a coating of casein varnish must bebrushed over the casein base before you begin the oil glazing. Otherwise the oil paint will sink into the casein base and a dulling of the color will eventually take place.

I also advise against repainting with casein color after the varnish has been applied, as it may flake or chip off.

Some color manufacturers state that you can use regular retouch varnish to varnish casein paintings, but I think it is better to use a special casein varnish that is available in art supply shops.

The only medium necessary for casein color is water. You can use any type of brush, but if you have worked in water color you will probably prefer a soft brush.

Always wash the brushes immediately after use, for once the casein becomes imbedded in the hairs it is almost impossible to remove! It's a good idea to have two jars of water, as you do for water-color work. One can be used for mixing and the other for keeping the brushes clean.

You can use any absorbent surface: Water-color paper, illustration board, kid-finished bristol board, colored charcoal paper, and gesso board are all excellent.

You can also obtain an especially prepared casein canvas, but you can use any absorbent canvas that is not too heavily primed.

A sufficient range of colors is available to enable you to select your favorites.

Your first impression of this medium will be of its fast-drying quality. If this disturbs you, obtain a bottle of casein medium, which is mixed with water and the color.

5 Casein Painting Tips:

  • Always add some water to the color.
  • Use an absorbent base to insure that the casein color adheres to the surface.
  • Do not apply the color too thickly, as it may chip or flake off.
  • You must isolate the casein surface with casein varnish before you begin to use oil on the painting.
  • Never allow brushes to dry with casein on them.
  • Wash brushes with soap and water.

More Casein Articles






Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez

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