Grisaille painting - "Mousetrap" with MUSSINI® finest artists´ resin-oil-colours

The grisaille painting has a very long painting tradition and has been practised already in medieval panel painting. “Grisaille” means a composition of a painting using only grey colour shades (tonal art work), while the motif appears only through different light and shadow areas. After a grisaille has been finished, it can be overpainted and coloured with several thin and glazing colours.

Today we will have a look over the shoulder of the German oil painter Dirk Schmitt, who will show us – using the example of a mousetrap - how to paint a grisaille with Schmincke MUSSINI® finest artists´ resin-oil colours. The particular: The picture will be painted onto a coloured underpainting which is going to be visible in some parts and leads to a slight chromaticity.

You will need:

  • Pre-primed canvas (or linen canvas, primed with 1 layer Schmincke transparent primer (50 516) as well as 3 layers Schmincke primer 1, strongly absorbent (50 512)- all layers have to dry in between)
  • daVinci Maestro 2 brush in different sizes, one flat brush
  • MUSSINI®: Brown pink (10662), Atrament (10779),Warm grey 1 (10787) and Norma® Professional Neutral black (11700)
  • Schmincke Flake white hue (11108)
  • Schmincke MUSSINI® Medium 3 (50040) - accelerates drying
  • An object to be painted, here: an old mousetrap
  • Palette
  • small container for the painting medium and cloths


Preparation 1:

If you use pre-primed canvas, please make sure that the surface is strongly absorbent. This is very important for an oil painting. If necessary you can prime the canvas once or twice using the Schmincke primer 1, strongly absorbent. If you prefer painting on pure linen canvas, you have to prime it before: After one layer of Schmincke transparent primer, which has to dry, you apply 3 thin layers of Schmincke primer 1, strongly absorbent with a flat brush.


Preparation 2:

Now you apply a first imprimatura with Neutral black thinned with MUSSINI® Medium 3 (drying accelator). This layer has to dry completely (min. 1 week).

HINT: Dirk Schmitt always prepares several painting grounds with primer and imprimatura as stock.


Step 1:

Now you paint a thin, glazing colour layer using MUSSINI® Brown pink, which will be thinned with MUSSINI® Medium 3 (accelerates drying). You can go on with painting directly into the wet colour layer.


Step 2:

Make a rough sketch of the motif using MUSSINI® Atrament and a fine daVinci Maestro 2 flat brush (size 10). Now the different areas of the motif will be filled with several mixtures of Atrament and Warm grey 1, all thinned with MUSSINI® Medium 3. Mixing these two colours you will achieve many different grey shades from very light to very dark grey. Thus, the contrasts of light and shadow areas will become clearly visible. The yellow-brownish underpainting, by the way, leads to a greenish appearance of the grey colours (simultaneous contrast).




Step 3:

Now you can paint the background in different grey shades, too. The upper part will be painted darker than the lower part. For a perfect colour gradient you have to bray the colours softly into each other. Oil colours are ideally suited for this technique. Some smaller areas will be left unpainted, so that the underpainting remains visible which leads to a tender chromaticity.




Step 4:

Now you add some final light points in the foreground using Schmincke Flake white hue which is perfectly suited due to its opaque character and its pastose consistency. All "painting standards" for oil colours are now fulfilled: the colours are applied from dark to light, fat over lean and from glazing to opaque.




Creative Option:

For those, who want to colour the "grisaille" afterwards, please keep in mind that the painting shall be (almost completely) dry. Now the MUSSINI®-colours thinned with a small amount of Transparent paint medium (50053) can be applied. You better chose glazing colours, which also have to be thinned and applied in thin layers. Thus, the tonal composition remains visible and the effect of light and dark shades, combined with soft colour impressions, make this painting so special.