How to Mix Sepia Tone Oil Paint

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Make sepia tone paint to replicate a vintage look
Make sepia tone paint to replicate a vintage look (Image: sepia fence image by Dumitrescu Ciprian from Fotolia.com)

Sepia toning is a printing technique popularized in the early days of photography that produces a brownscale instead of the grayscale associated with modern black and white photography. Sepia tone continues to be used to evoke a historic, vintage or nostalgic feeling. Artists can replace black with sepia while doing a black and white painting to achieve this same effect on canvas. Many companies produce a ready-mixed sepia paint. You can also mix your own version of this warm, grayish-brown using colors you probably have on hand.

Things You'll Need

  • Sample sepia tone image or photograph
  • Palette
  • Palette knife
  • Artists' oil paints in Mars Black, Burnt Umber, and Zinc White
  • Linseed oil
  • Paint brush
  • Heavyweight paper or primed canvas scraps
  • Odorless mineral spirits
  • Rag

Identify a middle sepia tone on your photograph. Mix Burnt Umber paint with a small amount of Mars Black paint in the middle of your palette with your palette knife. Add a few drops of linseed oil for ease of mixing.

Test your mixed paint with a brush on a scrap of primed canvas or heavyweight paper. Refer frequently to your photograph as you continue to adjust the amount of brown and black paints to achieve the desired middle sepia tone.

Mix darker sepia tones using your middle sepia tone as a starting point. Transfer some of your middle tone to several small piles of paint on your palette. Add black paint in larger and smaller amounts to produce a range of darker sepia tones.

Transfer some of your original sepia tone to the other side of your palette in several small piles, away from your dark sepia tones. Add increasing amounts of Zinc White paint to different piles of sepia tone to create a selection of lighter tones.

Place your palette away from excessive heat or direct sunlight to keep your oil paint pliable for your next painting session. Clean your brush with odorless mineral spirits and a rag,

Tips & Warnings

  • Mix your paint on your palette in an organized scale from lighter to darker tones so you will know exactly where to go while you are painting your canvas.
  • Start with small amounts of paint while mixing colors to avoid wasting paint.

References

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