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Grisaille Paintings

The French word, grisaille, loosely translates to  gray tones. Grisaille is a  painting technique by which an image is displayed completely in shades of gray and generally modeled to create the illusion of sculpture, particularly relief. This feature of grisaille was used predominantly by the 15th-century Flemish painters,as in the outer wings of the Van Eycks' "Ghent Altarpiece" and in the late 18th century to emulate classical sculpture in wall and ceiling decoration. A grisaille may be done for its own sake as a decoration, as underpainting in the case of an oil painting (in preparation for glazing layers of colour over it), or as a model for an engraver to work from.


There are several advantages of a grisaille foundation:

1. Grisaille(gray tone value) underpainting segregates and conquers the painting process, so it's awesome for painters of all skill levels.

2. An artist needs to conquer the rhythm of nature and allow light to dance playfully through an art work. The foundation for this is obtained in the graytone process.

3. The artist constructs a foundation in gray tones.This monochrome underpainting varies in value from black to white and consists of various gray values that will assist in several kinds of effects when light tries to pass through or bounce off the layers of paint.

4. The grisaille underpainting assists in providing a foundation for transparent color overlays. Transparent colors have no body on their own.That is, it is not possible to construct textural quality using a transparent paint alone.Hence, the illusion of texture is created in the grisaille underpainting, over which color is glazed using transparent oil paint.

5. The completed grisaille underpainting will stand alone as a finished art work.That will be called a classic grisaille.


The term grisaille is applied to monochrome painting in enamels as well as to stained glass. Portions of a window can be done in grisaille using, for example, silver stain or vitreous paint , and other sections can be completed in coloured glass.


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