What is the chromatic layer in a painting on canvas ?


Each painting on canvas is unique in terms of composition, as we often find artistic works of a very different nature.

However, if we make a general abstraction of what a painting on canvas is and take a cross-section of a work of this type, its composition could be structured as follows.

Structure of a painting on canvas components


In this article we present the composition of the chromatic layer or pictorial layer of a painting on canvas . Based on the online course Conservation and Restoration of Paintings.

Before analyzing the chromatic layer of a painting on canvas in detail, let’s briefly define the other components mentioned above.

The support is the basis for the other components of the work Conservation of paintings online course

The support for a painting on canvas can be:


The preparation layer is the intermediate layer between the support and the paint and has a dual function.

It has a mechanical – technical – function, making it easier for the support to adhere to the rest of the layers and eliminating any imperfections that the support itself may have. It also has an aesthetic function depending on the base color it has.

The preparatory drawing in which all the characteristics of the work are defined, including dark lights and colors, sometimes outlined with watercolor.
Varnish is a layer composed of resins of natural or synthetic origin dissolved in a solvent, which when evaporated forms a protective film

Chromatic layer

This is one of the most heterogeneous layers of a painting on canvas , and its components can be very varied.

It consists of the binder (medium) and the pigments. The function of the medium is to allow the pigments to mix, giving rise to different colors, and to keep them “stuck” to the support.

layers of a painting on canvas

The medium

The different types of medium determine the pictorial technique.



TYPES OF BINDERS (medium) - painting on canvas
  • Tempera, whose binder is egg; animal glues; vegetable glues; gums; caseins; dextrin, milk; wax; soap.


  • Gouache and watercolor – in which the pigments are agglutinated in a sticky, water-soluble substance – gum arabic or gelatin;


  • Oil – drying oils – such as walnut, flax and poppy oil

Classification of the pictorial layer

Taking into account the concentration and proportion of pigment and binder used in the execution of a painting on canvas , we can obtain different layers of paint.

So with the same materials we can produce different types of pictorial layers, with different aesthetic effects, different behavior over time and different conservation problems.

painting layers in painting on canvas

Pigments in art restoration and research The pigments

Pigments are small particles of color, of natural or synthetic origin, which, when mixed with a “medium”, give color to works of art from prehistoric times to the present day.

Their use throughout history is linked to geographical, social and status aspects, etc. It reflects artistic styles and movements and reveals the palettes of artists and their mastery of color.

But they are also elements with specific physical and chemical characteristics that react differently to environmental conditions and interact with the other elements present in a work of art.

Get to know the Conservation and Restoration online courses

Certified training institition

In online courses with certificate in conservation and restoration techniques, learn the ethical principles and intervention methodologies adequate for each type of material.

Learn the differences, limits and levels of intervention in preventive conservation, curative conservation and restoration.

The online courses on conservation and restoration techniques consist of a basic structure of lessons with text, images, explanatory diagrams and case studies. Plus:

Tables and charts
Explanatory videos
Supporting texts and downloadable E-books
Indication of external resources (web and bibliography) for further study of the topics

The online courses also contain analyses of works actually carried out, demonstrating conservation and restoration techniques.

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