If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Art Terms in Action: Stain

To experiment on your own, take our online studio course Materials and Techniques of Postwar Abstract Painting Created by The Museum of Modern Art.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

Male: A stain is made when you take a paint and you thin it out with a lot of solvent. In the case of oil painting, a lot of turpentine. The paint becomes very, very watery. It becomes very dilute. The color is reduced, and also because it's so watery that stain can actually penetrate into the canvas itself. In the work of Rothko we know that he layered stain over, stain, over stain. We're quite literally seeing through these very, very thin washes, if you will, of paint.