When to Use a Painting Glaze

by | Jul 19, 2007 | Blog | 1 comment

A glaze can be considered to be a delicate layer of color. Delicate because it is usually very subtle and transparent. Therefore, a glaze is best used on top of a stronger base color.

A common Old Master’s Technique called a grisaille, meaning grays, is an underpainting composed of dark and light paint colors using combinations of grays or neutrals. This “gray” underpainting allows the artist to concentrate on patterns of dark and light and general composition concepts, without thinking of color just yet.

When this grisaille, or first layer of paint is dry, the artist applies glazes of color over the grays. The color can be applied bright letting the gray underneath shift the hue to be a bit more muted. In this way the gray underpainting turns into a colored painting containing a variety of values or tones.

There are many ways to create underpaintings, and the use of grisaille is a great way to add the look of an Old Master’s realism.

As an abstract artist, I like to apply bright opaque areas of color as my underpainting and then use glazes over those to shift them in tone and hue. This contemporary use of glazing has many advantages, including creating the illusion of solid form from the previously flat underpainted color shapes.

Additional Resources on Glazing

Painting with Glazes

Glazing on Gold Leaf

Transparent Layers – Glazing vs. Washes

Article from Golden Artist Colors, Inc

Glazing with Acrylics, Oils & Watercolors

Nancy Reyner, painter, author and instructor offers assistance to artists in a variety of ways. Click here for more info.

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1 Comment

  1. Lynn Hennessy

    Thank you for the Brain Gym exercises. It is so hard to get centered in the life styles most of us have. A wonderful tool. I also enjoyed the videos on Glazing and am currently using a glaze on a fluid painting I am working on. I am using a very thin glaze of Interference Violet over a dried layer of mixed Quinacridone Crimson/Q. Violet. I hope it works well.


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Nancy Reyner is a professional fine-art painter with over 30 years experience using a variety of mediums including oil, acrylic, watercolor and mixed media. She has appeared on television for HGTV’s “That’s Clever,” and authored several best-selling painting books with F&W Media. She currently lives in Santa Fe, NM. Read more.
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