A glaze is simply a thin, transparent layer of paint and glazing is simply building up color by applying thin, transparent layers one of top of another, dry layer. Each glaze tints or modifies those beneath it. So why is glazing something that can trouble, and even threaten, artists so much? Well, while the theory may be simple, putting it into practice takes patience and persistence to master.
If you’re a painter who needs instant gratification, glazing is probably not for you. But if you’re a painter wanting to take your paintings up a notch, glazing will give you colors with a luminosity, richness, and depth you cannot get by mixing colors on a palette. Why is this? In very basic terms, it’s because light travels through all the transparent layers (glazes), bounces off the canvas, and reflects back at you.
Painting Glazes Tip No. 1: Get to Know Your Transparent Colors
Take the time to learn which pigments are transparent, semi-transparent, or opaque. Some manufacturers state this on their paint tubes.
Painting Glazes Tip No. 2: Be Extremely Patient
If you apply a glaze onto paint that isn’t totally dry, the layers of paint will mix together, which is just what you don’t want to happen. Be patient rather than sorry. If you’re working in acrylics, you can speed up things up by using a hair drier to dry a glaze. How soon an oil glaze will be dry depends on the climate you live in and your studio condition; do some sample glazes to find out. The paint must be dry to the touch, not sticky. Work on several paintings at once so you can move from one to another while you wait for a glaze to dry.
Painting Glazes Tip No. 3: Glazes Like Smooth Surfaces
A glaze is a thin layer of paint which should lie smoothly on top of the previous layers. You don’t want it to collect or puddle on any roughness on your support, or rather not when you first start glazing. (It’s something to experiment with once you’ve mastered the basics of glazing.) A smooth hardboard panel or fine-weave canvas is ideal to start with.
Painting Glazes Tip No. 4: Use a Light Ground
Use a light-colored or white ground, which helps reflect light, rather than a dark one, which helps absorb light. If you’re not convinced, do a test by painting exactly the same glazes on a white ground and a black or dark brown one.
Painting Glazes Tip No. 5: Glazing Mediums
Glazing mediums thin the paint you’re using to the right constituency for glazing and, if you buy a fast-drying formula, speed up the rate at which the paint dries. They also solve any possible adhesion problems arising from diluting the paint too much, particularly with acrylics .Experiment with the ratio of medium to paint to get a feel for how much to add; too much and you sometimes get a glassy, excessively glossy effect.
Painting Glazes Tip No. 6: Use a Soft Brush
Glazes want to be painted smoothly, without visible brush marks. Use a soft brush with rounded edges, such as a filbert brush. You can glaze with a stiff, hog-hair brush, but it’s not ideal if you’re new to glazing. Flicking over the top of the paint with a dry fan or hake brush is useful way to eliminate visible brush marks.
Painting Glazes Tip No. 7: Unify a Painting With a Final Glaze
When the painting is finished, apply one final glaze over the whole painting. This helps unify all the parts of the painting. An alternative is to apply a final unifying glaze to just the elements in the focal point.
Creating Flued Paint
Fluid paints can be used like watercolors, or for glazing and washes. To create a more fluid texture, water is added to the paint. The ratio of paint to water depends on how thick the glaze is expected to be. An opaque glaze or paint consists of more paint than water, and will give a more solid color. A translucent glaze or paint will be the opposite, consisting of slightly more water than the opaque version, and will have a smoother texture. Translucent glazes show more of the colors underneath the paint compared to opaque glazes. Artist Keri Ippolito advises that the paint should be watered no more than 50 percent or the paint will not stick to the canvas . After mixing the paints, allow time for the air bubbles to rise to the surface. This will be crucial in many techniques, especially in pouring paints.
The Two Secrets to Glazing
The first secret to glazing is to use extremely thin paint. The second secret to glazing is patience, don't go too fast. (How simple is that?!)
Build your colors and tones slowly. Leave the painting to dry between each coat or layer of paint (glaze). This way, if you make an error you can correct it easily by wiping the new paint off. Or, if you put down a color and find it’s too strong, wipe off any surplus. If you want to even out your colors, I find the best thing to use is a mop brush.
How Many Glazes Should I Use?
Remember the first secret of glazing: to use extremely thin paint. So to build up a color to the proper intensity, think about using as many as nine glazes. If you think that’s going to take forever, remember the second rule -- be patient -- and that the more thinly you paint, the faster it will dry.
What Colors Are Suitable for Glazing?
Remember when you paint really thin your opaque colours will appear translucent, almost like your transparent colours. I use my opaque colors in the first glazing layers.
Do I Have to Use Glazing for the Whole Painting?
No, glazing can be just a part of your painting. You can paint as usual and make your last corrections or give more depth to your colors with one or two layers of glazing. What’s fun about glazing is that you can add special effects so discretely that the spectator will appreciate your painting without knowing exactly why.
Is That Really All There Is to Glazing?
Yup. Glazing really is this simple. Anyone can glaze with success. You probably do it already without noticing….