How to paint a Fresco

How to paint a Fresco

All the steps and tips to create a beautiful fresco

To paint a fresco can be an easy task, for sure easier than what most people usually think.

Let’s be honest, Frescoes are majestic and when looking at them it’s obvious to wonder how they were created in the very first place. What most people can’t imagine though, is that to paint with such a technique can become an easier than thought task just by carefully following some specific steps. Unbelievable? Let’s start from the beginning, from what a fresco is, then to list all the needed steps.

What is a Fresco?

Accordingly to the My Modern Met, the Fresco is one of the most significant mural-making techniques in the history of art. They’re quite right since this kind of technique has been around for millennia now, inspiring both ancient and contemporary artists alike.

Even though the technique of fresco has been employed since antiquity, it is commonly closely associated with the Italian Renaissance painting period. This is mainly due to the fact that fresco was the most common medium, along with egg tempera and oil painting, at the time. As a matter of fact, most commissions were coming from both the Catholic Church and Local Governments which always preferred this fresco technique; but what does this particular technique consist of?

The fresco painting is a work of wall (or ceiling) art, created by applying pigments onto “intonaco” or a thin layer of plaster. The word fresco (affresco in Italian) literally means “fresh”, and this is because a true fresco’s plaster (or intonaco) is wet when the paint is applied. It basically consists of brush painting onto freshly applied wet lime plaster and it uses water as the medium to let the paint be absorbed into the plaster as it dries, to bind the pigment into the structure of the plaster. It’s then comprehendible how permanent this technique is, and how it could resist for centuries for us to still admire it today. The fresco has, in fact, a huge impact on people and strongly enables the artist to depict complex narratives and to experiment with depth and spatial relationships.

All the steps for the creation of a fresco

The very first step of making a fresco is to create the preparatory drawing, called the “full-scale cartoon” on which to refer to while painting the actual fresco. The fresco’s process starts only once the drawing is made.

The first thing to do is to prepare the surface (mostly wall) with a two-in-a-row- layers of plaster. Then, it’s the time to merge the pigments into the water in order to apply them to the plaster layer.

Once the pigments are merged with water it’s time to apply them on the two-in-one plaster layers and re-draw the outlines of the full-scale-cartoon. In this phase is crucial to finish drawing within the drying time of the plaster, which is approximately around 7-8 hours, because the pigment gets bound in the plaster (and so in the wall) only if it’s applied when the plaster is wet. That’s why it is essential to act quickly, in order to properly bound the pigment in plaster and to make the fresco as permanent and durable as possible.

Then it’s time for another layer of plaster (intonaco), or as many are needed to complete the overall image. The full representation of the preparatory drawing is split, keeping count of the time of the plaster drying process.

Useful tips

The main tip here is to always remember and be aware of the drying timing of the plaster. This is the key point in order to get things properly done. This is because the fresco technique forces the artist to work quickly while preventing him from correcting any possible errors.

If really interested in this ancient and peculiar art medium, the best and most rewardable solution is to try it at least once in your life. It is recommendable to try first with an expert, an artisan, a painter, or anyway a professional who knows how to go throughout all the steps to the creation of a beautiful fresco.

Click here to find out our “Creating a Fresco” experience, where timing is made faster for you to easily and nicely go throughout all process.


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