Sunday, February 7, 2010


Glazing- transparent layer of bright color spread over the top of a lighter, opaque underpainting that is dry to the touch. Light travels through the glaze and is reflected back off of the underpainting. This causes a glowing effect similar to looking at a brightly lit white wall behind a film of colored cellophane. The thin oily layers of a glaze are easy to manipulate, facilitating the rendering of detail.

(Wiki again ;)

I want to add that glazing is also incredibly important for deepening shadows. While most people turn to glazing to achieve a “glowing” effect it is equally important in deepening shadows. Developing our shadow areas is really going to allow our brighter areas and highlights to “sing.” Viridian, Sap Green, Prussian Blue and Magenta are just a few of my favorite colors to use when I need to darken an area.

A glaze can be applied and then left “as is” to dry. Some artist even have “glaze days” where all they do is apply a few glazes and leave the piece to dry and be worked on at a later date.

Glazes can also be applied and then worked into while still wet. Experimentation and trial and error are so important as to finding what works for you. (I’ll demonstrate in class on how to “leave a glaze” and how to work into a wet glaze this Thursday.)

Working with oil glazes requires some planning ahead. Any glaze, regardless of how “bright” the color being glazed is, will bring your painting down in value. Keep this in mind while making your underpainting. Going to dark in your shadows early on will limit your use of glazes and may force you to opaquely paint over an area to brighten it up. (There’s nothing wrong with this, I do it all the time...just be conscious of this while working. Oil’s are wonderful and we can abuse them to our hearts content. Just be prepared to go back and forth adjusting values until you’ve reached your desired effect.) Paintings can be completed in two minutes or two decades, (some longer) so don’t try to rush things, and make sure you have more than one painting to work on at a time.

Questions? Comments? Feel free to add your opinion. This is a place to share and learn from each other.


  1. That gives me a much better understanding of glazing, which I just started experimenting with. Thank you.
    Isn't it true that glazing will only be most effective when the underpainting is structured to support it?
    Also, how long should a painting have dried before glazes can be applied?

  2. Greg thanks for the question... I'm gonna have to do more research now thanks. ;) Yes glazing is most effective when the underpainting is structured in a way to support it. I try to keep my underpaintings on the lighter side of the value scale. (I have a tendency to go to dark to quick and I'm constantly fighting with this.) I don't however believe in committing 100% to an underpainting. Paintings have needs and if through the process of the painting those needs change don't be afraid to wipe out or repaint an area.

    see also- "the venetian method" and "grisaille" for more underpainting/ glazing techniques

    Second question in regards to drying. I'll be honest I'm a "Liquin" addict. I though Liquin over everything... I don't know how good or bad this is but so far so good. (Look up Stephen Brown from Forum Gallery NY... my mentor...he's the one that got me spitting Liquin on everything.) I only return to a painting after it has dried which can take a few days or more even with the Liquin. Glazing over paint that is still wet or tacky can lead to peeling and other kinds of stuff that won't be helpful to your painting.

    I do however love playing with new stuff and just ordered some Walnut oil the other day and am gonna mess around with that soon. Greg what kind of medium do you use? How do you use it? I know you've been using a lot of underpainting and glazing techniques in your work and would like to hear what you think.

  3. wow i didn't realize how long I ran on. Sorry I'm a little over tired.

  4. This is in regard to glazing. My medium is a 50/50 mix of mineral spirits and damar varnish.
    I use this on multilayered painting such as Flemish technique and I allow each layer to dry for a week to a month depending on what I did in the current layer.
    I allow it to dry so that if my ideas go south on me while glazing I can wipe it off and start over. It helps when your unsure of the true effects that your ideas may have as well.
    So here's the basic idea. A principle I follow is that you make the previous layer to facilitate work in the next layer thus making your work easier as it goes.
    Doing all of my tonal work in mostly halftones. The next layers will get easier and easier by following the next principle...More light and color in the lights and more dark and color in the shadows. Then on to some final glaze work.
    If I am doing a multilayered painting...between each layer I will coat the canvas with Linseed oil and wipe it off what remains is enough. I also do this on my palette. From there I use a 50/50 mix of mineral spirits and damar as my working medium. It makes the areas I glaze a sinch. And if I make a mistake I wipe it off with a rag and start over.
    If I paint alla prima I mix 1pt mineral spirits 1pt damar and 1pt linseed oil. I dont treat my palette or canvas I just dive right in.

  5. Nice information! I also layer my opaque areas, sometimes a beautiful pearly opalescent effect occurs as the light bounces off the paint instead of travelling through like a glaze. I believe that occurs because anytime we add medium to paint it becomes somewhat more transparent--even white can be semi-transparent so scumbling will result in the underpainting showing through a little bit. I'm a liquin addict as well! Though I experimented with traditional mediums a bit too. I just discovered your site and I know I'll be visiting often--can't wait to read more entries!

  6. Great information about a sometimes complex technique. I too work in layers, combining thin glazes and opaque areas, often alternating warm colors against cooler versions of the same hue. I find this lends a beautiful and rich depth to the color. I went and looked at your website and love your work. Your landscapes remind me of George Inness (one of my favorites), and your portrait work is quite impressive. I look forward to viewing more of your work.

    Mark Nesmith