Color the crib

The coloring of the crib represents the most arduous and delicate phase of all our work, but at the same time it is the one that gives us the most satisfaction.

The selection of colors is based on the permeability of what we are going to color.

The colors that can be used are of different types; there are the earths, the industrial chemical type oxides. Carefully evaluate the costs of the various colors, keep to your budget, otherwise you risk not being able to continue the work. The cheapest products for coloring are building tempera, but if we consider the final result and the final effect, we will have to opt for natural powdered or acrylics. The coloring takes place by degrees and it is possible to use all types of color on the same support, which must necessarily be well dry and free of dusty residues, so that the color can have its perfect adherence on the surface. To prepare the surface to accommodate the color, proceed by applying a very diluted layer of cementite, which will make the surface less porous, or water in solution with a minimum percentage of a wall-mounted breathable fixative. To proceed it is necessary to consider that the colors fade more away from the first floor and that the shades tend to blue or blue, which is why in the mixture of colors the blue must never be missing, even in the foreground. It will also be appropriate for the objects on the first floor to have stronger shades than the others that will be more subtle and nuanced, re-proposing what happens in nature, with shades that flow towards the blue. The coloring cannot be separated from the lighting that we will include in our work, in fact the shades of the lamps can alter the colors and can affect their disposition to create particular effects. It is therefore good to place one or more lamps on the crib that simulate the final or final lighting of the work, so we will be certain that the final effect will be very similar to the one we are working on. The coloring material includes the use of brushes of various sizes, a palette for mixing colors and the same colors that must be chosen according to the needs. The following table lists the colors most used to make the crib divided by genres. This range of colors is suitable for different functions according to their characteristics, for example: natural earths are necessary for the coloring of rocks and mountains and houses; the tempera for the houses and the wall structures are more suitable in case of large dimensions; acrylics to cover the least water-permeable surfaces and for possible final nuances. In order to have a satisfactory result, you will have to rely on your experience, or to learn, learn and view professional video examples, you can buy my VIDEOCORSO IN DVD.

There is a standard body that measures and catalogs standard colors, according to the RAL Classic System. RAL is used to define the standard colors for painting and coating. RAL is the most popular central European standard colors used today. The following color folder is an example of an approximate representation of RAL colors.


Additive color synthesis

Additive color synthesis is used by the human eye and by many devices that are able to simulate the human eye, such as digital cameras, cameras and monitors; these contraptions synthesize colors by combining differently colored points. An image is broken down into many dots (pixels) alternately red, green, blue, additive synthesis occurs even when the lights coming from different lighthouses overlap, as happens in the theater. Historically the first device for additive synthesis was the Newton disk, on which many circular sectors of various colors are drawn, quickly spinning the disk the colors are mixed and a mixed color is obtained, which, if the colors are dosed appropriately, it is a white. The fundamental colors for additive synthesis are the three which are sensitive to the cones of the human eye, namely red, green, blue (in English Red-Green-Blue: RGB). Mixed colors are seen as the sum of their RGB components.

Subtractive color synthesis

Subtractive synthesis between colors is the opposite of additive synthesis. The three fundamental colors in this synthesis are complementary to the three basic colors of additive synthesis: the complementary yellow of blue, the complementary magenta of green, the complementary blue-cyan of red. In English Yellow, Magenta, Cyan often summarized by the acronym YMC. The simplest example of subtractive synthesis is obtained by overlapping more colored filters: the color that reaches our eye is the one that can pass through all the filters; each filter subtracts a part of the light that passes through it and this justifies the subtractive term. Painters and draftsmen to mix colors stretch with brushes (or pencils) layers of color superimposed on the canvas (or paper) and therefore in fact realize a series of colored filters. It is therefore a subtractive synthesis .N.B. It is often said that in the drawing the fundamental colors are red, yellow and blue; strictly speaking it is an incorrect diction that should be corrected in red-magenta, yellow, blue-cyan. Another example of subtractive synthesis is that used by color photo and film films: the film is covered with three overlapping layers, one yellow, one magenta, one cyan. The synthesis that we want to obtain from our work imposes the mixture of fundamental colors and colors derived from synthesis with other colors already on the market in the most varied shades.

sintesi sottrattiva

The table illustrates the possibilities of mixing the fundamental colors of the subtractive synthesis to obtain all the possible colors. This can be used when using temperas to have specific colors or when you want to get special and original shades, the numbers beside indicate the parts to mix with each fundamental color.

tabelle e tipologie di colorante

Here a table with the types of dyes available on the market.

Obviously you will not have to buy all the colors, but only a limited part, you will select the colors that you will need once you have defined the setting and style of the crib. For example, in a crib of oriental type surely it will not be possible to miss a Terra di Siena Naturale e Bruciata and an ocher.

Pigments (earths and oxides)

Inorganic pigments are divided into two categories:

  • those, known as earths obtained from colored minerals of alluvial or sedimentary origin that present great finesse and plasticity, present in nature, subjected only to simple treatments (extraction, sorting, crushing, preparation of powders in mills, separation of finer fractions by polishing) ; possibly roasting to obtain darker lands, called “burned”). This category includes, for example, the white Meudon, an earthy variety of limestone of organogenic origin, gypsum, natural and burnt ocher lands, shadows, etc .; The industrial chemistry has subsequently provided artistic production with increasingly sophisticated and chemically pure products, which have allowed the offer of colors on an industrial scale. Technological evolution has led to the production of reliable pigments in imitation of the most expensive colors. The pigments can have different nature: mineral or organic, natural or synthetic. The current pigments (around 95%) are of synthetic origin and there are many varieties available.
  • other varieties of inorganic pigments are oxides, products obtained from natural minerals through the extraction of the base metal or its compounds, more complex physical and chemical processes, until the pigment itself is obtained. This category includes oxides and compounds of numerous metals, such as lead, zinc, copper, cobalt, chromium, titanium, etc .; eg white lead, zinc, titanium, yellow and red cadmium, cobalt blue


Rabbit glue

We know that the earth must be mixed with water, but to obtain a firmer and more lasting color it is necessary to use a binder. The glue par excellence currently on the market is rabbit glue, heir to the ancestor of parchment glue used in the past. Its yield is better if used hot, but be careful not to bring it to the boil, the high temperature would make it lose its property. During the coloring work it must be prepared respecting the following proportional ratio, ie glue / water is 1/7 some other 1/10 based on the use to be made of it, for example 10g of glue 100 of water. Take a glass jar and add water and glue in proportion, and leave it in the bathroom 8/10 hours, when the glue has increased in volume, close the jar with its lid and put it in a small saucepan. water in a bain-marie and let it warm up until it is melted and not boiled. After obtaining the binder for painting with pigments (natural earths) the next step is to lay the color on our nativity scene, the procedure is very simple. For funds that require larger quantities, we take a container, pour the binder more or less the amount needed for our crib, and pour in the selected pigments. We mix carefully and with the help of a brush we spread on the plaster, if the color is veiled and not covering, it will be appropriate to add other pigments until obtaining the right covering amount desired. When the surface of our crib is dry, to continue it will be enough to have a container with clean binder, a brush and pigment. We will dip the bristles in the binder, we will take some pigment and we will mix it on a piece of polystyrene, then we will apply it to the piece of our crib.

The characteristic of some glue paints is that they are “reversible”, this type of paint is appropriate when one wants to preserve the possibility of eliminating it with water, even after drying, to regain support for its original state. The alternatives to rabbit glue are the Vinavil or the wall fixative, the effect obtained is similar although less powerful, also in this case it is necessary to mix in proportions similar to those seen in water and vinavil or insulation.





Coloring usually starts from the third floor. 

Stages of coloring a crib

  • Now I illustrate the technique of chiaroscuro

Once the various structures have been completed, we can proceed with the coloring of our crib, preparing a dark and dense base, mixed appropriately in a container using a solution with rabbit glue with the following proportion

1:10 1:15.

The solution involves the fusion of the solution described above with Marrone added to the ultramarine blue and Cobalt or Prussian. The coloring is decisive for our crib, since it determines the realistic appearance and imposes a great deal on the final result, so when mixing the colors you must always start from the first floor, and then fade towards the next floors. The background color must have chosen brown shades, with the addition of ultramarine blue or cobalt.

The mixture must always tend to blue, to become only blue for the mountains on the horizon.

In the image a nativity scene created by the master Pigozzi in which the effect that should be obtained in our diorama or crib is evident.

For further clarifications, techniques and advice on coloring, I recommend buying my professional DVD VIDEOs.

First phase of coloring

Application of a primer over the entire crib. For the foreground, brown is mixed with a pinch of blue so that brown is the first, as you continue on to the next floors, more blue must be added to reach the mountains in the background, which will be predominantly blue. The bottom should be applied with a brush, trying to cover all areas, especially the interstices.

fasi colorazione presepe

To save a few euros you can use white cementite that will go toned with the addition of building dyes, we will get a decidedly darker color. We proceed with the drafting of the fund, remembering that the latter must not necessarily be the same on all parts of the crib, but that it may differ depending on the plan and the type of object, the important thing is that everything is homogeneous and that cover all the parts. This means that the fund must take on a tone very close to the final one. Naturally, the selection of the shade used must be made taking into account the needs and the type of the crib.

In the photo another example of drawing up the fund

For further clarifications, techniques and advice on coloring, I recommend buying my professional DVD VIDEOs.

colorare presepe

Even the formation of spots of color, especially in the corners, can become an effect to be exploited. The next phase of coloring occurs only after the bottom has completely dried, this phase requires patience and technique.

Colors widely used in the coloring phase

In synthesis subtractive they are Giallo Rosso Blu (even if not exactly these as seen above) with some fundamental lands like the natural earths or those burnt and of the titanium white. The colors are mixed exclusively with rabbit glue, which is the binder par excellence.

Coloring for beginners

This technique that I am going to illustrate for you is suitable for all those who are approaching for the first time and foresees the use of white acrylic as a base, natural earths or tempera colors and rabbit glue with water for the mixture. A palette is prepared and it begins with the coloring of the bricks and the surface, with the chiaroscuro technique.

colorazione principianti presepe

The imagination of the performer of the work, during the drawing up of the colors, is the most efficient means to make the result satisfactory. Having obtained the color according to the mixing described above between white tempera and earth or tempera, start spreading it on the surfaces with a brush, remembering to clean it on the edge of the palette or plate constantly. The brush should be kept in an almost horizontal position while passing over the surface. When you paint the walls with bricks on the surface, we invite you not to enter the cracks between the individual carved bricks, so as not to cover the dark background, which will serve to bring out the mortar, as in reality.

colori presepe

We must continue to color with different overlaps of color on the bricks and on the various surfaces, changing and often varying the shades to reach the desired effect. You can also add green at the end to simulate corrosion and moisture infiltration. As mentioned the choice of colors must fall on shades chosen according to the setting of the crib and the type of facades and bricks. The colors of natural Siena and Terra Rossa are widely used colors. At the end of the coloring it will be useful to pass a little white color mixed with red, that is to say the so-called strokes of light that will make the parts stand out more, simulate the effect of the sun.

Always remember that the brush must always be dry and not soaked with color to avoid sagging and too much homogeneity of the surface. The colors that are added must be light and delicate shades. You need to be very patient and gently spread many colored hands. Help yourself with photos and feel like waiting because the colors tend to change over time, due to the loss of water, and above all a wet surface tends to make the colors homogeneous.colorare presepe

In the example below, not all the steps are performed, to get the final color quickly. This technique involves a constant overlapping of nuanced tones that leads to the illustrated result. If the result is not satisfactory, you can always correct it, spreading the background color again, but you must consider that this operation will release a patina of a certain thickness, which will not allow optimal results.

colorare presepe

During the drafting of the background it is also possible to mark parts with darker colors, for example corners and attics, the contours of windows and doors. As mentioned above, the insulation for walls diluted with water will have its utility because it will highlight the contours and interstices. If the chosen background color, which can be tempered or washable properly darkened with black, brown or a mixture of these, tends to lighten then it is better to add wall insulation to keep it of the desired degree.

The previous images show the phases of coloring on a brick wall, furthermore we can see how the dark background brings out, once the surface is shaded, all the work of engraving bricks, windows and everything that has been placed on the wall. The other images show the final effect of the coloring, obtained with the shade of white, which gives rise to the so-called strokes of light useful for highlighting the worked surface of the plaster. This technique involves the laying of a light white layer on the surface with a dry brush. In this way the protrusions will be exalted, reproducing a three-dimensional depth effect. The technique in successive layers is that used in the coloring of the crib, guaranteeing the achievement of evocative effects, of considerable satisfaction for the artist. A help is offered by the lighting, in fact the light coming from some lamps like solar light, placed in height, will give a sublime effect.

I remember that the base applied to our crib must be dense, dark and homogeneous, and then, gradually, using the layered technique, to pass to lighter shades.

colorare presepe

This technique is also used for coloring mountains, raised structures and everything that needs coloring within our crib. For rocks, the effect to be obtained is less pronounced than in a wall structure, so it does not need a color background.

Coloring with basic colors for the cribs

This technique sees the use of natural earth, rabbit glue but, above all, the exclusive use of three fundamental shades to achieve all the shades of color, to which are added other shades depending on the needs. The colors we are going to use are Yellow (canary or other shades), Red (vermilion or carmine) and blue (overseas or cobalt) with some shades of natural earth. It always stretches a background of color that will be obtained with brown and a hint of ultramarine blue, in proportions such that brown is the predominant one. Then you take a palette (a piece of polystyrene for example) and begin to use the colors by taking a little at a time and creating the shades you want, always mixing everything with rabbit glue. In case we wanted to obtain a light brown, mix the blue with the red and the yellow trying to find the shade that you want helping yourself also with natural earths ready. Never use black to darken, but opt ​​for the mixture of the three basic colors. Titanium white, a natural earth, is used to lighten the color obtained and to obtain the famous strokes of light, the colors with shades close to green can be used to color the vegetation.

miscele per colori presepe

Once the coloring is completed, a dry mixture of talcum powder is used with the addition of natural ocher earth, Sienna near the predominant color of the crib. We moisten the surface with a spray, apply it with a brush, tapping and eliminating the excesses by blowing on it, we will have an ancient and dusty effect.

Prepare the rabbit glue as widely described in the previous paragraph and prepare the bottom, as explained above, but with a small difference, or the addition of blue also in the first floor, increasing the dose as you proceed with the subsequent plans of crib. We use a container to preserve the earths of different shades, it will be very useful in the following phases, because with the tip of the brush you can remove minimal amounts of color without dirtying the contents.

miscele per colori presepi

Mix blue and brown with yellow and red tips, so as to obtain a color between gray and brown, in the solution of rabbit glue prepared previously. Recall that the rabbit glue, once prepared, being of organic origin, can no longer be used after a fortnight. If you want you can put it in the refrigerator for longer life. To understand if the fund is good you need to prove its covering power on a test palette.

Once you are certain of the shade, you start applying it on the surface, covering everything, especially in the interstices. You will notice that the yield of the background color will have different results, in relation to the affected part bark, plaster, polystyrene polyurethane. For this reason it is necessary that the plaster, even with a glaze, must be present on all the surfaces so as to amalgamate completely.

After passing the bottom, you start with the execution of the shades, using the basic colors and the earth, mixed with water and rabbit glue. It can be used as a basic white of acrylic color in a jar. Once a color has been mixed and selected, for example an ocher, the surface is applied with a dry, upright brush

segreti colori presepi

Usually the passes are multiple, because it allows to obtain color of different facets, able to simulate the natural colors and to bring out the protrusions and the work with chalk and polystyrene. White is used, mixed with a hint of blue, to highlight more parts than others.

As far as the mountains are concerned, the discourse is always the same. Remember that the blue must be present in all colors, in different proportions, depending on the level of the crib on which you operate, the color acquires an extra light blue shade, as you move away from the observer. You will notice the lighter effect on the surfaces, but remember to never use black to darken some areas, opt for a blue mixed with dark brown, you will get a much more natural effect. The final color tending to dark blue as can be seen from the image.

Here is another example of coloring phases of a wall, obtained with the Catalan plaster technique. After applying the primer, color veiling is started, using the chiaroscuro technique and overlapping different shades.

To determine the achievement of the temporal wear effect are the glazes. The first glaze is obtained with talcum powder to which natural earths are added, naturally dry, the addition of colors is based on the type of crib that is being made and the colors available to us. For example, add some Sienna with a hint of blue, in the case of Arab cribs or other colors for cribs of other types in which the fundamental colors are different. The powdery mixture obtained must be applied by tapping the crib with a brush, then it is blown to remove the excess parts. Before this operation, moisten the affected area with a spray containing steamed water. In the case of glazes due to wet wet effects, oil colors mixed with essence of turpentine and linseed oil, in solution 50 and 50 are used. The colors used are bitumen, cobalt blue, Sienna mixed in a very liquid solution. These must be applied in particular points, for example, the cracks of the rocks or the lower parts of walls and doors.

The two veils have different functions: the one with the talcum powder lightens the color, while the second serves to make the color more bright. So the first is excellent for the second and third floors, the second for the part close to the observer. These touches will contribute decisively to the final effect of the crib, once the basic coloring is completed.

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