Imagine trying to scrape off an offending area of a watercolor painting with a cloth or knife—doesn’t seem too
likely does it? Thankfully for oil painters, a variety of household objects can be used to immediately fix mistakes
in the simplest of ways: just get that paint off the canvas.
Old greeting cards, fingernails, credit cards and kitchen knives are all options, but many painters will have a
painting knife in their arsenal of painting tools. Use it (or any other tool) to carefully scrape off the mistake.
Technique #2: Blotting
Scraping usually works best on mistakes that are large and in less detailed places. If you used the wrong blue
for a section of your lake, by all means, scrape it off. But if the area is a more intricate detail, you can also
Paper will absorb oil paint and is a useful tool for removing paint from a canvas. Just as you’d dab at a red
wine stain on a white carpet, carefully blot the mistake on your canvas with a small piece of paper cut to fit.
Newspaper works just fine.
Technique #3: Sanding and Titanium White
If your paints have already dried a considerable amount, you may have to sand down the mistake instead of
scraping. Use fine glass paper and sand until smooth. Be careful that bits of paint don’t get lodged in nearby
areas—have a small vacuum cleaner or a damp cloth handy to wipe off the dust.
Once the area is flat, your goal is to try to start again on a flat white canvas. You can do this by painting a
few thick layers of titanium white paint to cover the affected area. Then you can try again.
Technique #4: A Rag and Some Turpentine
Turpentine is one of the most common solvents used in oil painting. It is traditionally used to thin paints in
order to follow the “fat over lean” rule used in oil painting (each additional layer of paint should have a greater
oil content, resulting in a final product which won’t crack).
But since turpentine thins paint, it is sometimes helpful to use a little when trying to wipe off a mistake. Add
a little bit to a cloth and see if the paint will wipe off more easily. This works best with wet paint.
In the end, remember that mistakes are bound to happen. Use a combination of the above techniques to cover them
up the best you can, but if it’s not perfect, just go with the flow and do your best to integrate the mistake into
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