Canonical Painting Modes of the Renaissance - 4 Styles of Painting All Their Own


Odd Nugget Social-done

The art of the Renaissance holds considerable sway on the development of fine arts to this day.

Artists of the era developed their crafts to an incredible degree - drastically furthering the arts as a whole in a short span of time.

Four definitive modes or styles of painting were developed at the time that would go on to change the discipline forever and each involved the mastery of unique skills in the craft.


This, the smokiest of painting techniques developed during the Renaissance era, involves the delicate blending of tones.


Sfumato translates to blurred and is derived from "fumo" which means smoke or fume. The technique is exactly what you might imagine upon learning the meaning of its name.

Sfumato is the subtlest of Renaissance painting techniques to come to prominence. The following techniques build up in boldness and visual dramatics.


"Art exists only to communicate a spiritual message." - Alphonse Mucha


Next in line after Sfumato is Unione, which provides a more defined method for separating colors. Unione translates to "union" and is all about the in-between.


Transitions between colors are subtler in Unione art than Cangiante art, but not as subtle as artwork done in Sfumato.



This one translates to "to change" and involves the use of entirely different colors for highlights and lowlights.

Much bolder than Unione and Sfumato, Cangiante accentuates changes in color as opposed to toning them down. You'll notice greens as "blue" shadows and reds as "skin" shadows in this type of painting style.



“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.” - Michelangelo

This is the most dramatic of all, a style meant to emphasize and exaggerate the play of light on dark and vice versa.

Figures and faces done in the style of Chiaroscuro appear to sink into and emerge out of pitch black darkness. Its high-contrast look is immediately recognizable and has found a foothold in the photography community as well.


Knowing the four basic styles of painting to have originated during the Renaissance era sheds light on the vast influence that artwork from the time has had on later painters.

Read our article on the art of Grandma Moses...


This article may contain affiliate links. We earn a commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support!