One of the most important factors in successful painting with the Flemish method is glazing.

It’s important to know how to paint a glaze properly. This week, we’ll take a look at the traditional method of painting a glaze. Then I’ll show you the method I often use.

How to Glaze Color with Oil Paint

Glaze:

a: to coat with or as if with a glaze <the storm glazed trees with ice>

b :  to apply a glaze to <glaze doughnuts>

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

In artistic terms, a glaze is a thin, transparent or translucent layer of color applied to a painting. It’s generally associated with wet mediums such as oil painting or acrylics, but is also used with colored pencil and other of dry mediums.

When you glaze color over an oil painting, you are changing the appearance of the previous work without concealing the previous work. With the Flemish method of oil painting, glazing generally refers to adding color over the finished dead layer. When you work with any type of under painting (umber, complementary, or monochromatic), you use glazes to add color.

A glaze can be transparent (you see the under painting clearly) or translucent (you see the under painting as if looking through a mist or fog).

How to Glaze Color with Oil Paint

The Traditional Method

Use a small, sable round to apply paint as shown below. Short, almost staccato strokes. It’s important not to cover the painting. If you do, you’ll end up with an opaque layer of paint.

TIP: It’s best to work in small areas that can be completed in a single painting session so that the glazes are consistent. If the painting used in this illustration was an actual painting, I’d apply paint as shown over all of the head, then blend it before moving to the neck, and the rest of the horse.

How to Glaze with Oil Paint Step 1

 

Use a clean, dry brush to spread the paint over the area. Work over the area until the paint is evenly spread.

How to Glaze Color with Oil Paint Step 2

 

The finished glaze should look like this.

How to Glaze Color with Oil Paint Step 3

Glazing Opaque Colors

“Yes,” you say, “but you glazed with a transparent color. What about using an opaque color? Can I make a glaze with white, for example?”

The method I’ve described above works with any color, transparent, semi-transparent, or opaque.

The illustration below shows the same process with Titanium White.

#1: The initial brush strokes

#2: Partially blended brush strokes

#3: Fully blended brush strokes

How to Glaze with Oil Paint 4

 

The glaze isn’t as transparent as the glaze I demonstrated with Yellow Ochre (above), but you don’t want lighter areas to be as transparent as darker areas, anyway.

The secret isn’t the quality of the paint; it’s the thinness of the paint film. You should be able to glaze with any color you have.

The Painting Medium

The painting medium for the color glazes (and all layers except the imprimatura) is a mixture of about two parts turpentine, one part Damar varnish, and one drop of lavender oil (optional).

Lighter colors should be a little thicker than darker colors.

You do not need to use a painting medium at all. I use very little additives for any of my painting. When I need to thin paint, I use either walnut oil or walnut/alkyd medium from M. Graham Oils.

My Adaptation

You can also create excellent, smooth glazes by using a cloth. My preferred cloth for this type of work is an old sock. The exaggerated texture of most socks is ideal for painting glazes. Here’s how I do it.

Fold the sock around the first one or two fingers of your dominant hand as shown below. Use one finger for small areas and two or more fingers for larger areas.

How to Glaze Color with Oil Paint Step 5

 

Touch the cloth to your paint. You don’t want to pick up a large amount of paint. Just enough to tint the painting surface.

How to Glaze Color with Oil Paint Step 6

 

Rub the paint onto the painting. You can use a straight stroke, as shown below, or a circular stroke. It doesn’t matter, so long as you’re getting the paint where you want it.

How to Glaze with Oil Paint 7

 

Spread the paint over the area until you have a thin, transparent glaze.

A glaze painted this way is indistinguishable to one painted with a brush. The reason I prefer this method is that it gives me a little more control over where the paint is going and how thinly it’s spread.

I can also glaze without using a painting medium.

And it’s a little bit faster, especially when I have to glaze large areas.

How Long Should a Glaze Dry?

As with most of the phases in the Flemish method of oil painting, glazes need to be completely dry before you glaze the next color over them.  Earth tone glazes can dry completely in a week or less.

Other, slower drying glazes could take up to four weeks.

You want to be careful in checking the readiness of a glaze for the next glaze. You can use the razor blade method I described previously, but be very careful not to scratch the surface of the paint. At this point in the painting process, it could be difficult to repair such damage.

Tips for Effective Glazing

  1. For small paintings, work on every area that requires a certain color glaze. Then work on areas that require another color but that do not affect the previous work. Do all colors in this manner, then let the painting dry
  2. For larger paintings, try glazing each element to completion, then glazing the next element. When you’ve done as much work as you can without accidentally damaging fresh paint, set the painting aside and let it dry
  3. Have more than one painting going at a time. In fact, this is a great way to produce a lot of work even with a method as slow as the Flemish method.

Conclusion

Whether you use the traditional method, my adaptation, or your own adaptations, it’s important to know how to paint effective glazes. Even if you don’t usually use an under painting method, glazes can improve the look of your work.

Take a little time to experiment on scrap canvas and see just what you can do with the glazing technique.

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