Painting Tips- Glazing: Finishing a Painting with Transparent Oil Paint





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Uploaded on Nov 2, 2009

What is Glazing? The technical answer is 1.) multiple thin layers of transparent oil paint (applied at the end of a painting)....but what I want YOU to remember is 2.) Glazing is pure magic 3.) Knowing how to glaze will take your painting abilities to the next level.

1.) Why glazing is an important painting strategy
2.) (We will touch a little bit on) The science of refracted light
3.) Which paints to use. (How can you tell if a paint is a glazing color?)
4.) Which brushes to use for glazing
5.) How to do it! (The technique of glazing oil paint)

Glaze layers happen at the final stages of a painting, so lets take you to the end of the painting that you just saw right now. I am going to keep things concise and to the point. Give me your full attention for the next few minutes and you will acquire a solid understanding of glazing.

1- Why is glazing an important painting strategy?

Think about the last time that you had a sunburn. When sunburns heal, a layer of skin usually peels off your body. Take a second to remember what that skin looks like. The peel of skin is very thin, smooth and it is possible to see light through it.

Our outermost layers of skin, the epidermis, is comprised of multiple layers of skin similar to the peeled layer of skin that you just imagined. Glazing, the application of multiple, thin, transparent to translucent layers, is like the epidermis of a painting and it is important for an artist to know how to glaze so that he or she can get a more life like effect to their work.

2- The Science of Refracted Light
Light refracts through the transparent and translucent layers of a painting. In other words, it penetrates these layers and picks up any color that these layers contain. A good analogy for this concept is a seashell on the beach. Think of how the color of a seashell seems to change when it is covered with ocean water. The shell seems to change color, but in actuality, all physical characteristics of the shell remain the same. The sunlight refracting through the water alters the shells appearance just as glaze layers affect the final appearance of a painting.

3- Which paints to use
Paint colors have different characteristics. For instance, red, is not just red when it comes to painting. Cadmium red, the color on the left, is extremely opaque and has a great covering power. The color on the right, alizarin crimson is extremely transparent with a lesser covering power. Notice how you can see the blue line through the alizarin crimson, but not the cadmium red.

Most paint companies label the outside of their paint tubes to communicate these differences. Usually a box or circle is used to say if a paint is transparent, translucent or opaque. A filled box or circle is a symbol stating that a color is opaque while the opposite is true if a paint is transparent.

When you glaze, you would add painting medium such as liquin to the paint. It is easy to glaze with transparent colors such as alizarin crimson but it is also possible to glaze with the cadmium red. In order to glaze with an opaque color, use a little bit of paint and a lot of painting medium. I would advise any beginner or novice painter to stick with transparent and translucent paints.

4.) Which brushes to use

When you glaze, have multiple soft tipped brushes within reach. A variety of sizes and shapes including round tip and fan brushes are ideal. Now we are ready for the demonstration

I did the glazing in three sittings over 21 days. It is important to let the paint thoroughly dry between glazes. If it doesnt, you will start picing up some of the previous layer. Notice that I am starting off by using two brushes. One to apply paint and the other to move the paint around. This is called dry brush technique and it is your most important glazing strategy. Dry brush gives you a smooth untextured finish......

I wouldnt recommend this for anyone trying glazing for the first time, but I am actually using titanium white when I create a highlight.....that is a white with extreme covering power....equal to what you saw with cadmium red. I use that only in the brighter highlight areas and when I use it, I use a ton of painting medium with it. ........

The shadows get a little tricky, I try to look at my reference photo to match the shape but I am very aware of their edges as well. If there is a soft edge, I soften it with another dry brush....This is VERY IMPORTANT....Do not clean your brush in mineral spirits or turpenoid. Instead, just wipe your brush on a paper towel because those paint thinners will dissolve the entire glaze.....If a brush becomes unworkable, put it aside and use another soft tipped brush.


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