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Dots: An Easy Technique for Dappling

Text and photos by Jennifer Danza

Pastels are fun to use and render a beautiful result. However, instead of using pastels exclusively, why not add some glaze and acrylics to the mix? Some colors, like dappled grey, are actually easier to paint using mixed media. Let's get started!

Prime a model horse using white sandable primer like Painter's Touch by Rustoleum.

Prime a model using white primer. Use a good reference image.
Shave pastel sticks to a fine powder using a razor.

 

After the primer has dried, spray the horse well in non yellowing Krylon glossy fixative and then spray it with the matte fixative. This step is extremely important because the fixative "sets" the primer and prepares the surface for the rubbing alcohol technique we will be using later in the painting process.

While the layers of fixative are drying, put on your dust mask and shave a bit of brown chalk pastel and black pastel onto a paper palette using a razor. Mix both powders together (in dry form) to create a brown/black color.

Shave pastel sticks to a fine powder using a razor.
Prime a model using white primer. Use a good reference image.

 

CAUTION: Always wear your mask anytime you shave or apply pastels and especially when you spray your fixatives.

Take a soft dry brush and dip it into the brown/black dust. Gently apply the pastels to the hindquarters, chest and neck area.

Apply pastels to areas to be covered with dapples.
Apply pastels to areas to be covered with dapples

 

After the dust is applied, don't spray it and don't touch it. The dust needs to be freshly applied for this step to work. This is where we create dapples by wiping away areas of dust with rubbing alcohol. Just take a Q-tip and dip it into some rubbing alcohol and then blot the Q-tip on a paper towel so it isn't dripping wet. Touch the Q-Tip to the horse and twist gently in a circular motion. 

Dot in dapples using rubbing alcohol and a Q-Tip.
Dot in dapples using rubbing alcohol and a Q-Tip.

 

The pastels will lift instantly onto the Q-Tip and will leave a dot on the area coated with pastel dust. Continue to make dots anywhere you've applied dust. These dots will serve as the open portion of your dapples.

Wipe along hindquarters and chest.
Wipe along hindquarters and chest.

 

When you are satisfied with how the dots look, spray the horse with the Krylon glossy fixative and let dry. After the fixative dries, spray the matte fixative on the entire horse so more pastel layers can be added. More pastel dust is then added along the legs, neck and face. If any excess dust falls onto the open dots at this stage just use the rubbing alcohol again to wipe the area clean. Spray with both the glossy and matte fixatives and let the horse dry thoroughly.

At this stage, the horse's dapples always look too sharp for my tastes and I've added another technique that will not only tone down the sharpness but will help create even more realistic dapples. This technique can be used over the work you've just done.

Mix white acrylic paint with some Liquitex Glazing Medium. It's a 50-50 ratio that can be altered to personal tastes. Like your paint a bit more transparent? Add more glaze. Like it thicker? Add more acrylics. I have found that the more transparent the mix, the better it is for this step. Apply the acrylic mix to areas where the whites meet the dappling dots. 

Tone down dappling using glaze and acrylics.
Add more black pastels to legs and face.

This coverage will help unify all the mediums used up until this point. Move your brush in one direction. Don't go back and forth. Cover a little or cover it all. It is up to you. The acrylics will start to cover the pastels slightly, making them look like they are coming from underneath the coat.

Toning down color
Tone down dappling using glaze and acrylics.

After toning down, its time to make some areas pop! Mix up a bit of brown and black acrylic and water this down with some glazing medium until it is transparent. Apply this acrylic color to areas where the grey of the dapple should pop more. You can push and pull this color. It is important to follow your reference image at this step for more realistic results. 

Add more black pastels to legs and face.
Toning down color on full horse.


After the color looks good to you, paint your markings, eyes and hooves and then take straight acrylic white and apply it to any dapples you want to have "pop". 

Bring out dapples using acrylic detailing.
Bring out dapples using acrylic detailing.

 

Lightening marks along the legs can also be painted in or "popped" at this stage.

Give the horse one final spray of matte fixative and gloss the eyes and hooves with clean nail polish or Liquitex gloss medium. 

The final result!
The final result!

 

Supply List

Brown chalk pastel
Black chalk pastel
Krylon Fixative or similar glossy fixative
Testor Dull Coat or similar matte fixative
Titanium white acrylic paint
Rubbing alcohol
Q-Tips
Black acrylic paint
Brown acrylic paints
3M Dust safety mask
Liquitex Glazing Medium

 

To learn more about Jennifer Danza and her artwork, please visit www.jenndanza.com!

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