Fredrix Artist Canvas

Heavy Texturing and Layering Techniques 101

Every artist dreams of creating works of art that will enthrall everyone from novices to notable critics. While a talented artist can certainly create captivating paintings using a variety of techniques, no other technique is as effective as one that produces a heavy textured, layered appearance. Famous artists from Pollock to Van Gogh used certain techniques that allowed them to not only create rich, textured surfaces that were visually stunning, but to also create pieces that conveyed deep feelings and emotions. The heavy texturing and layering techniques these artists and others have used to accomplish this include:


Impasto is a essentially a buildup of thick paint. According to Jean Roberts and Craig McDaniel, authors of Painting as a Language: Material, Technique, Form, Content, the technique is an extreme of “painterly” application. The Encyclopedia of Fine Art (EFA) cites several advantages of the impasto technique including:


•Mimics the broken-textured quality of highlights – that is, the surfaces of objects that are struck by an intense light
•Conveys feelings and emotions
•Conveys a three dimensional impression
•Rough texture draws attention to certain points or aspects of a composition


Besides Pollock and Van Gogh, examples of impasto painting can be seen in works by Baroque painters such as Rembrandt, Hals and Velazquez who used “minutely and painstakingly worked impastos to depict lined or wrinkled skin, folds in robes, or the glint of jewelry,” according to the EFA, and impastoed paint on Auerbach’s paintings that “can be as thick as a bread crust.”


So here’s how it’s done. According to Roberts and McDaniels:


You can mix your oil paint with heavy-bodied mediums such as Oleopasto or oil painting wax or you can apply oil paint straight from the tube, with no medium or thinner. This will allow you to take advantage of the thick, buttery texture that is characteristic of oil paint in its normal tube consistency. Paint can be applied with a stiff bristle brush or palette knife to add extra marks onto the thick paint. For a rich mixed color effect, try loading the brush with two colors at once. Thickly applied paint will hold its shape, so it is important to pay attention to the direction, width, and length of the marks you are making. If you don’t succeed in creating the shape of brushstrokes that you want, use your knife to scrape the paint off and try again.”


Tip: Hang on to all of your old flat bristle brushes that have lost most of their elasticity. They can be used for the next technique on our list—drybrush.


Drybrush does not offer the same textured, layered effect as impasto, but it does create a thick, textured surface with a “sparkling effect of diffuse, broken colors,” says Roberts and McDaniels. The process involves loading a relatively dry brush with paint and using it to apply paint to canvas. According to, “the strokes that the dry brush produces are characteristically scratchy and lack the smoothness of washes and blended paint. They can be wild or restrained, emphatic or subdued, depending on the painter’s artistic intentions.”


To create the required textured surface, seasoned artists suggest starting with a canvas with a heavy weave such as Fredrix PRO Series Ultimate 20 oz. Canvas. In addition to featuring heavy texture for excellent tooth, Fredrix PRO Series canvases are stretched on kiln dried stretcher bars with extra bracing for added support and they are available in a wide range of sizes. Browse Fredrix’s PRO Series collection today!