Glazing in Paintings

FAQs, Tips and Techniques, Artist Secrets, and a Step-by-Step

Painting watercolor
Guido Mieth/Getty Images

Glazing is the term used for the technique of painting thin layer upon thin layer, and a glaze is a single layer of paint that's thin enough to allow the colors beneath it to show through. Each new layer builds up the depth of the color and modifies what it's being painted over. As you practice this process, you’ll discover how to add multiple layers of color to produce a new color.

Practice and Patience

Glazing takes patience to master. Besides waiting for one layer of paint to thoroughly dry before adding another layer, what takes the most time is learning best practices in thinning paint and just what the change in a color will be so that you can predict the results and use the technique to your advantage.  As with mastering any new skill, the key is practice, practice, practice (and patience, patience, patience). 

Troubleshooting

If you are working on a painting with glaze layers but building up the colors isn't working, there are two things to check. First: Are you glazing onto paint that is utterly, totally, and completely dry so that the colors aren't mixing? Second: Are your colors thin and transparent, so the layer below each shows through? 

This compilation of articles on glazing will help you on your way to using the technique successfully in your paintings, no matter whether you use oils, watercolors, or acrylics.

Check out a frequently asked questions list of info related to being successful with glazing in both oils and acrylics.  

The pigments used in our paints have different properties. Some are transparent, others are opaque and hide what they're painted over, and others are semitransparent. Glazing works best with transparent pigments. The paint tube label may tell you what type of pigment it is, but it's simple to test for yourself.

Glazing a painting
Photo © Katie Lee

Use the experience of other artists to help you master glazing, whether you're using oils, acrylics, or watercolors, with this article of seven useful tips. Find out info on the type of brush to use and mediums, what to do if you're having trouble with edges or ridges on your glazes and if the paint doesn't seem thick enough, and how to make the finished work look unified. 

Artist Brian Rice shares the things he's learned about glazing by trial and error over several years as well as the secrets of his success with this painting technique, including base layers, mediums, and color opacity.

Canadian artist Gerald Dextraze believes glazing is an extremely forgiving painting technique and that it can be reduced down to two secrets, and he has other advice, too.

Painting glazes in watercolor
Image © Katie Lee

Botanical artist Katie Lee demonstrates how to build up color by glazing with primary colors only in a step-by-step demo of painting an oak leaf using watercolor. Who needs a kit with a bazillion different colors if you have primaries and neutrals?