Painting an oil miniature (ACEO)

I thought I'd share with you the process of creating a miniature oil painting.

So far all of my miniature oil paintings have conformed to the standard ACEO measurements. So to begin with I must explain what an ACEO is...

What is an ACEO?

ACEO stands for Art Card Editions and Originals. They can be created using any medium at all - the only stipulation is that they measure 2.5 inches by 3.5 inches. ACEOs are highly collectible and can be displayed on a mini-easel




or in a small photo frame. Many collectors display their collections in a photograph album on the coffee table, where they can be admired by visitors and readily enjoyed by the owner every day.


How I create my ACEOs using oil paints

To begin with I cut out some canvas paper to the required size of 2.5 inches x 3.5 inches. 

Next I tape my paper to a board. I use the back of an old watercolour pad as it is nice and light for lifting and moving around as I work, and tape on the back using a rolled piece of masking tape. Sometimes I tape round the edges instead, which will leave a white border that can look nice.



Then starting at the top left (because I am right handed), I begin to paint.

I invariably begin with a base layer. For this one I wiped blue oil paint diluted with Liquin across the paper with a rag and then lifted my flower petals using Zest-It Solvent.

Liquin is a medium for mixing with your oil paints. Add a small amount to give the paint a nice buttery consistency, and add more to give a more liquid paint. For the base layer I add more liquin. An added benefit of Liquin is that it speeds up the drying process.

Zest-It I really like the this range of solvents because it does not contain the nasties that are in turps. I only use turps if I am painting outside, and if I am using turps then I wear latex gloves.




After a couple of day's drying I then add the details.

I don't paint dark to light as most oil painting tutorials would have you do. I find that working light to dark means that you can maintain the freshness of the highlights much more easily and can get more done in one session.

Unfortunately for you I got so carried away with this stage that I forgot to take step by step photos - this is the only stage I photographed.


I use photos a lot to assess my work. I can see from the photo above that I have missed some of the branch under the buds.

Here is the finished painting.



Now we play the waiting game. I would normally leave it on the board for a week or two but I wanted to show you it on the mini-easel so I carefully took it off the board holding only the edges, and now it is sitting on a mini-easel where I can enjoy watching paint dry. It will need to stay on the easel for a couple of months. 

And finally, after 6 months, I can varnish it! 

It is possible to test for dryness before the 6 months is up by rubbing a section of the painting with turps on a tissue, but to be honest I don't want to risk damaging it, so will just leave it be.



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