Tole and Decorative Painting Glossary

Dictionary of Painting Terms

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Absorbancy - The degree to which paper absorbs paint.

Acid-Free Paper - A neutral pH paper which will not excessively darken with age.

Acrylic - Synthetic resin used in an emulsion as the binding medium for acrylic colors.

Acrylic Paint - A water based paint which dries quickly and is available in tubes or bottles.

Adhesion - How well paint sticks to a surface.

Alkyd - A resin based paint which can be used like oils, but dry faster than oils.

Angular Brush - A flat brush with bristle tips cut at an angle.


Back-to-Back Float - Method of placing two floats side by side so that the paint from each float touches the paint from the other and the water or extender sides face out. Also called "reverse float" or "ribbon float."

Basecoat - The first layer of paint applied after sealing.

Batik - A method of fabric painting where a temporary wax coating is used to cover areas not to be painted.

Binder - A compound used to suspend color pigments in paint.

Bisqueware - Smooth surfaced ceramic bisque objects that are fired in a kiln once and cannot be fired again after painting. (Not safe for food storage).

Blending - A soft, gradual transition from one color or tone to another.

Blocking In - The inital painting stage over a preliminary drawing whereby the colors are applied as broad areas of flat color (remember Paint-by-Number?). Also known as "laying in."

Blotting - Gently pressing a brush against a paper towel to remove excess moisture.

Brights - Short, hard-bristled brushes, also called chisel blenders.

Bristle Brush - Paint brushes in which the bristles are either natural, synthetic, or a combination of the two.

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Cat's Tongue - Same as "filbert" or "oval" brush.

CDA - Abbreviation for "certified decorative artist," a distinction given by the Society of Decorative Painters.

Chisel Blender - Also called a "bright." This is a square ended brush with short bristles used for shading and blending.

Chisel Edge - The "tips" of the bristles on a flat or angle brush. This is the part of the brush that would touch a surface first if held in a vertical position.

Chroma - The brilliance or dullness of a color. Also called "intensity."

Color Wheel - The primary, secondary and tertiary colors arranged in a circle, much the same as colors are refracted in a rainbow.

Complementary Colors - Those colors opposite each other on the color wheel (i.e., blue and orange).

Consistency - The thinness or thickness of a paint.

Contrast - Color variations which create a sense of depth in your painting.

Crackle - A method of antiquing used to create an aged, cracked appearance.

Curing Time - The length of time it takes for paint or varnish to "set" or reach its ultimate, stable state.

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Dagger - Flat brush with long bristles cut in an oval shape.

Deerfoot - A short, full-bristled, stiff round brush with bristles cut at an angle. Used for stippling.

Double Loading - Applying two colors to a brush, one each on opposite sides of the bristles.

Dressing a Brush - Filling brush bristles with paint or medium.

Dry Brush Technique - Using a dry brush almost free of paint to stroke in highlights and shading.

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Easel - A frame or stand for holding a painting while working on it.

Eggshell Finish - Process of applying basecoat with a small sponge roller to achieve a subtle textured finish.

Emulsion - A mixture of mutually insoluble liquids in which one is dispersed in droplets throughout the other (i.e., oil in water).

Extender - Also called "retarder," a product added to paint to slow its drying time, vary its transparency or to allow for more even strokes.

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Fan Brush - A brush with bristles shaped like a fan. Often used for painting grasses, fur, etc.

Faux Finish - Decorative painting that imitates the look of marble, wood, etc. "Faux" means false.

Ferrule - The metal portion of the brush that houses the bristles.

Filbert Brush - A flat brush with oval shaped bristles.

Flat Brush - A brush with squared-off bristles with a sharp chisel edge.

Floating or Float - Technique used for applying shading or highlighting. Also known as "sideloading." A flat or angular brush is usually used with one side loaded with paint and the other side loaded with water or extender.

Flow Medium - Mixed with acrylic paints to improve "flowability" when doing line work. Also works well with floats.

Focal Point - The main area of visual interest in a painting.

Fugitive - Colors that are not lightfast and will fade over time.

Fully Loaded - This is what you become after six or eight vodka martinis :-)  In painting, though, it refers to a brush that is completely loaded with paint.

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Gesso - A creamy acrylic primer which can be used on almost any surface without a "shine" to it, i.e., can be used on wood, clay pots, etc.

Glaze - Applying a transparent layer of paint over all or part of a painting to modify the overall color.

Gouache - A type of watercolor paint characterized by its opacity.

Graded Wash - A wash in which the tones move smoothly from light to dark or from dark to light.

Graphite Paper - Transfer paper with a gray-black color.

Graphite Pencil - Standard lead pencil.

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Heel of Brush - The part of the brush where the bristles enter the ferrule.

Highlight - Lightening areas of your painting to bring them forward, which gives the illusion that these areas are receiving the most light.

Hue - The name given to a color (i.e., yellow, violet).

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Intensity - See "Chroma."

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Layering - A method of giving depth to a painting whereby several applications of paint are applied in layers, allowing for dry time in between.

Laying In - See "Blocking In."

Liner - A thin bristled, finely pointed brush often used in scrollwork and outlining.

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Masking Fluid - A liquid that can be applied with a brush to "mask out" areas of artwork before applying another wash.

Masking Out - Using masking fluid to "mask out" areas of artwork before applying another wash.

Matte - A dull finish having no gloss or "shine" to it.

MDA - Abbreviation for "master decorative artist," the highest level of certification awarded by the Society of Decorative Painters.

Medium - 1. Refers to the various materials used in art, such as acrylics, oils, pastels. 2. Refers to products added to or combined with paint that alter its consistency or drying time.

Monochromatic - Painted in several shades of one color.

Mop Brush - A large, full bodied brush with very soft bristles, often used for dry blending.

Multi-Load Technique - Loading a brush with multiple colors to achieve color variations in one brush stroke.

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NSTDP - Abbreviation for "National Society of Decorative Painters," often shortened to "SDP" or "Society of Decorative Painters."

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Oil Paint - Paint using poppy or linseed oil as a binder. Popular for its ease of manipulation and saturated color.

One-Stroke Painting - Popular decorative painting technique developed by Artist Donna Dewberry where double and multi-loading are used to achieve highlights, shadows and color changes in one stroke.

Opaque Color - Opposite of transparent. Background cannot be seen through an opaque color.

Open Time - The amount of time it takes for paint to dry to the touch.

OTT-Light - A full spectrum light used by artists to help distinguish colors as if being viewed in natural sunlight.

Oval Brush - See "Filbert Brush."

Overlaying Wash - The technique of painting one wash over another in successive layers in order to build up a depth of color or tone.

Overstroke - The process of applying brush strokes over an area that has already been painted.

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Palette - 1. The range of paint colors in a design. 2. Surface on which paints are placed and blended.

Perspective - The method of creating three dimensions on a two dimensional surface. In linear perspective, objects appear smaller as they get farther away.

Petifours - Small square sponge applicators used like stamps for decorating backgrounds, borders, etc.

Pickling - A technique of using thinned, transparent paint to give wood a "washed out" appearance, with the wood grain showing through.

Pigment - Solid colored particles that form the basic component in all types of paint.

Pounce or Pouncing- See "Stippling."

Primary Colors - The three colors of the color wheel (red, blue, yellow) which cannot be produced by mixing other colors and which, when mixed in different combinations, produce all other colors.

Priming - The preliminary coating, color or preparation that is laid onto the surface prior to painting. Provides the surface with the right absorbancy and color before painting.

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Ragging - A technique used to create a textured effect by pouncing a rag up and down on a freshly applied glaze.

Rake Brush - A brush with bristles that are thinned and uneven at the tips, often used for painting grass, fur, etc.

Receding Color - Perception of a color as being distant from the viewer.

Retarder - Added to acrylic paint to delay the drying process. Also used in place of water to achieve more even strokes. (Note: Overuse of retarder can impair the quality of the paint).

Reverse Float - See "Back-to-Back Float."

Ribbon Float - See "Back-to-Back Float."

Rosemaling - Decorative painting style from Norway.

Round Brush - A type of brush with round, full bristles forming a fine point at the tip.

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Sable - Mink tail hair used to make fine brushes. Used most often with watercolors.

Saturation - The degree of intensity of a color (i.e., vivid or dull).

Script Liner - A liner brush with longer bristles than a regular liner.

Scruffing - Dry brushing.

Scumbling - Semi-opaque or thinned colors loosely brushed over an underpainted area so that some of the color beneath shows through.

Sealer - Protective coating applied to surface before and after painting which prevents chemical reactions between the paints and the surfaces they are applied on.

Secondary Colors - The three colors on the color wheel (green, orange, purple) which are arrived at by mixing two primary colors which lie between them on the color wheel.

Shade - A color mixed with black.

Shading - Invariably linked with tone, shading usually refers to the way areas of shadow are represented in a drawing or painting.

Shader - Another name for a flat brush.

Sideloading - See "Floating."

Spattering - A technique that involves flicking the paint off the hairs of a bristle brush or toothbrush with your nail to achieve a "speckled" or "fly-specked" appearance.

Spotter - A fine pointed brush with very short bristles used in fine detail work.

Stencil - An image cut out of cardboard or other material. Paint is then applied through the cutout.

Stippling - Giving a textured appearance by lightly loading a small amount of paint onto an old scruffy brush, sponge or stippler brush and "pouncing" up and down on the painting surface, allowing some background color to show through.

Stippler Brush - A full, round bristled brush available with either soft or stiff bristles.

Stylus - A tool used to transfer a pattern onto a surface.

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Tannin Blocker - A special wood sealer which will prevent knots and pitch in wood from bleeding through your painting.

Tertiary Colors - Colors that contain all three primaries on the color wheel.

Textile Medium - A product used in fabric painting which is mixed with regular acrylic paints to allow for proper absorption into the material.

Tint - Color mixed with white.

Tinting - Applying just a trace of color to a surface.

Tipping - Fully loading a brush with one color and then just touching the tip of the bristles in another color. Creates color variation in a single brush stroke.

Toe of Brush - The tip of the bristles.

Tone - The degree of darkness or lightness of a color.

Tooth - Refers to the "roughness" of a surface. A surface with tooth is one that has enough roughness or texture that paint will easily adhere to it.

Triangle Wedge - A brush where bristles have three sides, cut in a triangular shape. Ideal for painting ribbon and borders and can be single, double or triple loaded.

Translucent - Able to see through the paint, but not clearly.

Transparent - Able to see through the paint clearly.

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Underpainting or Undercoating - Preliminary painting, over which other colors are applied.

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Value - How light or dark one color is in relation to another.

Varnish - Protective surface over a finished painting. Creates a glossy or matte surface.

Viscosity - The thinness or thickness of a liquid. High viscosity paint is thicker than low viscosity paint.

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Wash - See "Pickling."

Watercolor Paint -Quick drying paint made from ground pigments and a water soluble binding.

Wet-on-Wet - Applying wet paint onto wet paint.

Wet-on-Dry - Applying wet paint onto a dry surface.

Wet Palette - Used to keep paints on your palette from drying out while painting. Commercial wet palettes are available but you can make your own using a shallow covered container with a thin wet sponge and specially treated (wet palette) paper.

White Lightening - This is a product made by J.W. Etc. that is a water-based white sealer often used for pickling wood. If you'd like to read more about this product and how to use it, go to: J. W. Etc.

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