The most difficult feature of painting in distemper is that the colors dry so much lighter than they are when first put on, and many of them have, by gaslight, an entirely different appearance than they have in the daytime. Most colors dry several shades lighter than they are when wet, and, worse still, they do not all dry lighter in the same proportion, so that any person new to the work cannot estimate the particular shade of his paint when first laid on. It is, therefore, advisable for the painter to try his colors on a small scale at first, and dry them in front of the fire.
To render the colors opaque, a certain proportion of whiting or flake white is always mixed with them, according to the shade desired. Transparent and glazing colors being an exception to this rule, no whiting is used with them. The strength of the size also makes a vast difference; very strong size darkens. As to the appearance of colors at night: French ultramarine, a bright blue by daylight, is a muddy purple by gaslight, and therefore unfit for distant tints or for brightness. Verditer blue, cobalt blue, celestial blue are best. Yellow is much lighter by gaslight, and rose pink loses its brightness. The colors being all mixed with water to a pulpy state are now put into the compartments on the palette, putting no more on the palette than is required for immediate use. In scene painting many of the different shades are only obtained by mixing one color with the other while on the palette. The way to do this is as follows: Suppose a purple is wanted, the painter would take up a clean brush and dip it in the size-can; he would then transfer it quickly to the compartment on the palette containing the rose pink, and having got a good brush-ful of his color, would spread it on the palette; he would thou dip the brush in the ultramarine and mix this also with the rose pink, and to get it a shade or two lighter he would dip the brush in the whiting pan.
Tints composed of three or four colors can be rapidly compounded in this way, adding more size as often as required to render them workable. Where a lot of color is required, as for skies, the colors are mixed in pots, and to get the various tints the painter dips his brush first in one pot and then in another, and in this way puts in a sky of perhaps a dozen different hues.
For foliage, a quiet general tint may be obtained by mixing Dutch pink with black, indigo with blue verditer. Light ochre with green lake gives a rich green, which may be changed to a cool one by the addition of indigo. For sunset skies mix in separate pots the following: verditer and indigo; verditer and damp lake; damp lake and orange chrome. For clouds, mix verditer and orange red, or Venetian red and azure blue; rose pink and azure blue. For cold gray clouds add a little black. For lights in clouds, mix yellow ochre and rose pink, or yellow ochre and orange red. For distant foliage mix verditer and rose pink, or use Dutch pink alone. For the sea, Dutch pink, verditer, indigo, raw sienna, azure blue and emerald green will be found most useful. For rocks some of the following tints will be useful: indigo, burnt sienna and rose pink - emerald green and black - Vandyke brown and ultramarine - indigo, rose pink and ochre. Black and Venetian red make a useful gray. For gold colors mix brown ochre and Dutch pink, or Dutch pink and sienna or Vandyke brown, these for laying in. For the lights use flake white and lemon chrome, orange and yellow chrome, chrome and Dutch pink. Purple and mauve look fresh by day, but are dirty and muddy by gaslight.
For moonlight skies a good tint is verditer and indigo mixed. For clouds add black and more indigo. Water is generally the color of the sky and the objects that are reflected therein, such as trees, banks and rushes. For branches and trunks of trees, use indigo, lake and yellow ochre - burnt sienna and ultramarine - Dutch pink, burnt sienna and indigo. For grass, use pure greens, mixing more or less yellow chrome for high lights. In painting dead leaves use chrome and burnt sienna. For stone buildings, mix yellow ochre, umber and indigo, or ochre, celestial blue and red. For bricks, Venetian red, and for shadows add ultramarine. Where fire is reflected use orange lead.
Great care should be taken in mixing tints, for some colors like Prussian blue are so strong that a very little will suffice, so if used without due thought it becomes necessary to add more of the other colors.
Some painters mix molasses or golden syrup with their size, which makes the colors work more freely. In painting a scene on a new cloth the first thing to be done, after the canvas is strained,. is to size it all over. This is done with strong size, size melted in a kettle with just water enough to prevent burning.