The first step of spolvero is planning the painting. The artist draws an original design. (Krieg Barrie)

The first step of spolvero is planning the painting. The artist draws an original design. (Krieg Barrie)

The artist then pokes tiny holes along the outline of the drawing. (Krieg Barrie)

The artist then pokes tiny holes along the outline of the drawing. (Krieg Barrie)

The artist places the drawing over a new canvas. Then the artist bounces a cloth sack of charcoal dust over the tiny holes. The dust leaves a copy of the original sketch on the new canvas. (Krieg Barrie)

The artist places the drawing over a new canvas. Then the artist bounces a cloth sack of charcoal dust over the tiny holes. The dust leaves a copy of the original sketch on the new canvas. (Krieg Barrie)

The artist paints colors over the charcoal sketch lines. After the painting is finished, no one will see the charcoal lines. (Krieg Barrie)

The artist paints colors over the charcoal sketch lines. After the painting is finished, no one will see the charcoal lines. (Krieg Barrie)

This drawing, Head of a Muse, is by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. Look carefully. You can see the spolvero dots under the sketch lines.

This drawing, Head of a Muse, is by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. Look carefully. You can see the spolvero dots under the sketch lines.

How Spolvero Works

Posted: January 1, 2021

Draw It:

The artist plans out his or her masterpiece by drawing an original design on paper.

Punch It:

The artist pricks tiny holes along the original design’s outline. The holes follow the lines of the drawing.

Set It:

The artist lays the design––now covered with tiny holes—on top of a blank canvas. The canvas is the same size as the design.

Pounce It:

Fine charcoal dust is placed in a cloth sack. (Clay or chalk dust can also be used.) The artist gently bounces the cloth sack over the tiny holes in the paper. The holes act like a stencil over the canvas. Dust falls through the holes. It marks the canvas with the outline of the original drawing. Applying dust this way is called “pouncing.”

Check It:

The artist removes the original drawing from the canvas. Charcoal lines on the canvas line up exactly with the paper drawing.

Paint It:

The canvas is ready to become a masterpiece. The artist paints colors over the charcoal sketch lines on the canvas.

Tweak It:

The artist might make changes to the original drawing as the masterpiece takes shape. Even great artists tweak their ideas as they work.

Reveal It:

When the masterpiece is finished, the artist shares his or her work. No one will see the charcoal lines that outlined the original drawing. That’s okay. They served an important purpose. They helped the artist turn an original design into a finished painting.