An Important introduction to Alla Prima oil painting

Oil painting is the most time-consuming medium for an artist. No doubt it has more demand and more satisfaction from the viewer but what if you are in a hurry to deliver the painting to your client or if you have to work in a rush? Well, Alla prima is the answer to all these problems. In this blog post, you are going to know what actually is Alla prima technique and what is the meaning of Alla prima and how it is different from other oil painting techniques.

The word Alla Prima is a Latin phrase that means “at first attempt” or “on the first go”. Another word used for Alla prima is ‘wet-on-wet’ because you are painting on top of wet paint without waiting for it to dry. But there is a slight difference between the actual; wet-to-wet approach and Alla prima. You can also call it a direct approach.

“Alla Prima is a technique of oil painting in which artists create the whole painting in a single sitting or session”

This technique fulfills the demands of immediacy, clarity, and spontaneity that is value able for students and professionals. This technique is not for large and highly baroque workout compositions but instead, it is a quick making of a subject.

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This is not an old technique in oil painting. It was discovered in the mid-19th century and practiced by many great masters such as Jan Van Eyck, Rogier Van Der Weyden, etc. It got famous in a short period of time and nowadays, it is being called a separate technique of oil painting.

Why there is a need for Alla prima?

Alla Prima painting
Image Credit: Raw Pixel

Basically, the idea of all prima is to create the whole painting in just one layer. You are also going to include only the most fundamental elements. This practice is suitable for beginners who can directly work on a painting without wasting any time.

This technique is also built to full fill the immediate demand from customers because, in some working conditions, artists cannot wait long to complete the painting or customers don’t want to wait for weeks or several days. For this need, the idea of all prima come out which allow the artists to create oil paintings in lower time.

This technique is also very helpful outside because you cannot go again and again to the same place by picking up the canvas and other materials. It simply allows completing the whole painting outdoors in any working condition.

Some artists also prefer it because they want to work on fresh scenes to get more original material in their paintings. This quick work is very helpful by giving impressive brushstrokes.

Should you get into this technique?

Alla prima is the simplest version of oil painting which allow beginners to work freely and there is also a demand for Alla prima paintings in the market. Those who master a specific technique always get worth from it. You can easily blend the colors together to achieve a more luminous effect.

If you are a beginner in oil painting, I will suggest you get into this technique because it is going to teach you a lot. It is time friendly and you don’t have to put that much effort into creating a single painting. Moreover, you need a bit of experience and time to master it.

Difference between Alla prima and oil painting

Alla prima is a technique in which paint is applied to the canvas while still wet, rather than allowing it to dry between layers. It requires consistent but a small amount of time to make the whole painting but it will give little details as compared to oil paintings. Working with Alla prima means you are going to work wet-on-wet rather than allowing the paint to dry before starting another layer.

Oil painting is a medium of painting in which artists use oils such as linseed oil to thin the oil paint and then work slowly with patience. Oil painting requires a lot of patience and skills to create wonderful artwork. It is known for its drying time because sometimes, oil painting takes up to months to dry completely. You also have a great knowledge of mediums and solvents before getting into them. There are a lot of techniques of oil painting in which Alla prima is also included.

Difference between Alla prima and other techniques of oil painting

There are 7 techniques of oil painting which include Chiaroscuro, Scumbling, glazing, underpainting, impasto, grisaille, and Alla prima itself. All these techniques are used for specific purposes to achieve a specific type of artwork. For example, chiaroscuro is the use of strong colors, especially light and dark to achieve better contrast, glazing is the use of transparent layers over the dried surface, scumbling is used to soften or lighten the areas of painting, underpainting is used to apply a layer of paint over a canvas, impasto use to give a 3D effect to the painting and at last all prima is used to get a fresh painting in a less time.

What are the disadvantages of Alla prima

Alla prima can be a fast technique to work with oil paints but it can have some disadvantages. Once you have applied the paint on the canvas, you cannot make corrections because you have to be quick. You also have to be consistent while working on this technique. It means you don’t have a sufficient amount of time to get relax. If your painting is going to take 3 hours to complete then you have to consistently work for 3 hours if you are working on a single layer.

You must have good control while working with this technique because you cannot achieve the desired result which can waste all your efforts and struggles.


Alla prima is a technique of oil painting in which artists achieve their final results in a single layer without wasting any time. It is recommended for beginners to learn oil painting from depth. It could be complex for some artists if they cannot work consistently for several hours. There is always need a for motivation to master this technique. Once you master it, you are going to make a lot from this technique because it has a good market value.


Who was the first artist to use Alla prima?

There is not a properly detailed mention in history about which specific artist use it for the first time but Frans Hals was amongst one of the few artists who started with this technique. He was a Dutch artist who was born in 1880 and died in 1666.

What is the difference between wet-on-wet and Alla prima?

There are too many miss concepts and confusion between artists regarding these two terms. As Alla prima is a technique through which we do oil painting. The same as wet on wet is a technique through which we work with Alla prima technique with wet paint.

What are some of the most realistic Alla prima paintings you have seen?

I have seen some of the paintings of Richard Schmid which are really wonderful to watch.

What Alla Prima’s art technique allowed Bob Ross to complete a painting in just 30 minutes.

He used the glazing technique to create soft and feathered edges. He also used a special brush to hold a large amount of color over the canvas. It was wet on wet technique which allowed him to create such wonderful artwork.

If you have any additional questions, please ask in the comment box. I will create some additional blogs on this topic because there is little knowledge among beginners regarding Alla prima. Thanks!


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