Visual art: The basics of the alla prima painting technique

The Alla Prima painting also called prima technique aims at the most direct potential completion of the picture. Translated from Italian, Alla prima means something like at once or at the same time, which hits the core of this technique: the completion of a picture in one sitting.

Advantages and uses of the technology

The paint is applied very directly with the Alla Prima technique instead of painting individual layers, allowing them dry and then painting additional layers over them.

With this technique, the motif is completed within one painting unit before the picture has dried and hardened. This automatically means that there is no need for background painting and extensive retouching. Typically the motif is worked on and refined in one painting unit until the work is completed.

The advantages of prima painting lie in the extremely direct style of painting, the associated speed, and the high degree of spontaneity and temperament that is expressed in such works.

This technique is particularly suitable for temporary recordings whose nature should be reproduced at a certain point in time.

In landscape painting, prima painting is used, for example, to be able to portray the mood of a certain occurrence of light before it changes.

This technique is also used when a celebrity fashion trends model is to be painted. Only if the portrait is painted rapidly in such a situation can the expression and posture of the model be represented in an acceptable time frame.

Tips for your prima painting

Work on an already tinted painting surface. This saves you the tedious priming of the white surface.

Prepare your colors and be aware of which color mixture should be applied. As an aid, you can use a charcoal pencil or thin paint to draw outlines of the motif, which will make the most important elements and proportions clear to you.

Use a drying retarder if you are working with acrylics.

Start with larger brushes and switch to smaller and smaller ones as the details in the image become more granular. Make sure to cover the large areas with lots of paint.

Since no changes are made after the paints dry, you will need to make revisions while the image is still wet. Simply scrape off the paint with a spatula or painting knife to reassemble the surface.