Achromatic: A term applied to a painting done with black and white and shades of grey.
Acrylic Paint: Fast-drying paint containing pigment suspended in an acrylic polymer emulsion.
Alkyd Resin: A synthetic resin used in paints and mediums to help facilitate faster drying
Alla Prima: The term used to describe direct painting when a single paint film is completed in one session.
Analogous Colors: Any three colors that are next to each other on the color wheel.
ASTM: American Society for Testing & Materials, the independent standard for paint quality.
Balance: A term used to describe the overall distribution of forms and color with the aim of producing artistic harmony.
Binder: When mixed with pigment, a binder forms paint. A binder can be oil, gum Arabic, egg, acrylic polymer, etc.
Bistre: Transparent brown pigment made from boiled beech tree soot.
Bleeding: The effect obtained when a dark color seeps through a lighter one.
Blending: The technique of smoothing together multiple colors so that their edges become indistinguishable.
Bloom: An opaque, white deterioration in the condition of a varnished surface, often caused by storage in damp conditions or application in a humid environment.
Body Color: An opaque paint with sufficient covering strength to mask an underlying color.
Brushwork: The individual way in which each artist applies the paint to the surface. Almost a professional fingerprint, each style of brushwork is specific to, and identifies, the artist.
Casein: A paint whose binder is made from animal milk protein.
Chiaroscuro: From the Italian meaning 'clear-obscure', this term describes the interplay of light and shade in a work with strong tonal contrast. Paintings that show strong direct lighting and deep shadows are said to be done in the chiaroscuro style.
Chroma: The intensity or purity of a color. The term saturation is also used to define the chroma of a color.
Cissing: Term for when a water-based paint which fails to adhere adequately to the support. Also known as 'crawling' or 'creeping.'
Cockling: An unintended wrinkling of the paper support caused by inadequately preparing the surface to receive the surface wash.
Colloidal: A gelatinous substance consisting of particles dispersed throughout another substance which are too small for resolution with an ordinary light microscope but are incapable of passing through a semi-permeable membrane.
Color Bias: The defining of a color as ‘cool’(containing a blue bias) or ‘warm’(containing a red bias). The terms cool and warm are not absolute as we encounter cool (alizarin) and warm (vermillion) Reds as well as we can encounter cool and warm colors in every group of colors.
Color Wheel: A device that puts colors in a spectral sequence, used to visualize cool, warm, and complementary colors.
Complementary Colors: Colors with the greatest contrast and appear opposite each other on the color wheel. The complement of a primary color is the combination of the other two primaries; i.e. the complementary color of blue is orange (yellow+red)
Composition: The overall arrangement of elements within a work.
Cool Colors: Colors that are biased to a blue-tone. Generally blues, greens and violets.
Contre-jour: A term referring to a work where the source of light is behind the subject.
Copal: A hard tree resin, distinguished by its aroma, which is used in making mediums and extremely durable varnishes.
Crosshatching: Multiple parallel lines drawn close to and crossing each other in order to indicate tone. Also known as 'Hatching'.
Damar: A tree resin or gum used to make oil mediums and varnishes.
Dead Color: Colors used in underpainting, generally a muted, earth tone quality such as Yellow Ochre, Green Oxide.
Diluents: Any liquid which dilutes paint.
Distemper: A sticky blend of glue, water-based paint and chalk, commonly used for murals and posters.
Earth Colors: Generally umbers, siennas and ochres and are usually mined from clays, and other naturally occurring earth formations. Tend to be fastest drying, least flexible colors in a palette.
Encaustic: A technique of mixing pigment into a binder of hot wax.
Fat: Any paint with a high oil content. The opposite is 'lean'.
Filler: An inert pigment that adds bulk to a paint and also opens the pores of the support onto which the color is applied.
Film: A very thin coating of color.
Fixative: A shellac-alcohol spray used to “fix” works, i.e. prevent them from smudging. Most commonly used with charcoal, chalk or pastels.
Format: The physical size of a support - e.g. a canvas.
Fresco: The application of paint onto freshly-applied wet plaster.
Fugitive Colors: Colors that tend to fade with light exposure.
Gel Medium: Ranging from heavy to light, they increase the volume or thickness of acrylic paint and have a unique sheen, either matte or glossy. They are transparent and can be mixed into the paints at any ratio, but too much will “cloud” the color. If they are thinned with water, they have a tendency to cloud.
Genre: A type or category of work.
Gesso: A primer for rigid surfaces composed of whiting, marble dust, and/or glue size. One can paint acrylic or oil over gesso.
Glazing: The application of transparent films of color normally thinned with medium. For instance: a transparent red glazed over a dry film of blue will produce purple.
Grisaille: A term of French origin describing painting in tones of a single grey color to produce a 3-D sculptural relief effect. The same effect in brown is called brunaille, and in green is called verdaille.
Ground: Any specially prepared painting surface.
Gum arabic: A binder for watercolor paints derived from Acacia trees.