- The earliest American publication on scene-painting, according to Warren C. Lounsbury (xvii), was A Practical Guide to Scene Painting and Painting in Distemper (ca. 1883) by F. Lloyds, who described techniques, equipment, and scene design elements. Most colors had to be purchased as lumps to be crushed or else ground down with a palette knife in water. Some form of glue or "size" had to be mixed with the water as a binder.A good summary of the art of the scene painter appears in Claude Bragdon's More Lives Than One (1938, 205): "First, the linen- or canvas-covered flats are arranged vertically on the paint-frame, a gigantic easel, sliding up and down through a slit running the entire length of the floor. The design is then drawn in charcoal, enlarged from the scenic designer's sketch. The paint (opaque water-color with an admixture of liquid glue) is laid on rapidly with broad, flat brushes. To give tone, texture, 'life,' the painted surfaces are either spattered with a brush, stippled with a sponge, or rolled with a tightly twisted damp cloth. Sometimes the flats are laid out horizontally, free of the floor, and drenched with dashed-on pails of water, or paint of a different colour, causing the pigments to mingle and deposit themselves in delightful, sometimes unpremeditated ways. Silver or bronze powder, sparingly sprinkled on the still wet canvas, relieves the deadness of dark hues. For curtains and cycloramas dye is used instead of paint, which would stiffen the canvas and flake off. Effects of extraordinary richness are obtained by the use of so-called broken colour, where the mixing takes place in the eye of the beholder, instead of on the surface seen."
The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. James Fisher.