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Oil Paint Glazing "Technique Guide"

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Glazing is the art of applying a thin layer of translucent pigment over the primary paint layer.

Traditionally, glazing was mainly useful to reduce the amount of expensive translucent pigments, thanks to glazing, artists only need a thin layer of translucent pigments to obtain the required color.

Generally, painters glaze a painting to create a kind of glow. That’s where the science comes in, Light travels through the transparent layer and is reflected by the opaque layer.

oil paint glazing , oil painting technique
Oil Paint Glazing

The painter first paints the subject in grisaille (greyscale) with all shapes defined using shading and highlights, Once the primary grisaille is dry, the process of glazing starts, applying a thin layer of translucent pigment over the grisaille layer, This process allows the artist to separate the color from modeling the form by shades and highlights.

The primary layer has to be completely dry before applying the translucent pigment.

The time required for oil paints to dry is related to many factors mainly, the temperature degree of the studio the artwork is stored in, and the type of paint and oils used, For glazing, “dry to the touch” is sufficient, the underlying opaque color will lift and the glaze will no longer be translucent if the underlying opaque paints are not dry enough.

Glazing with multiple layers of transparent color is required for best results, of course, the process of glazing is time-consuming since each layer must be dry before applying the next.

In Glazing, The "fat over lean" rule is key, the primary layer is to be leaner in terms of oil than the successive layer above, notice, Fat over Lean refers to the oil painting principle that applying paint with a higher ratio of oil to color pigments over paint with a lower ratio of oil to color pigments can ensure a more flexible paint film that will not crack later.

Thin paint mainly with turpentine for the primary grisaille layer, in case the fumes of turpentine are intolerable, you still have the choice of diluting the grisaille layer with clove oil (notice, clove oil delays the dryness of oil paints), but such a lean mixture cannot be used to glaze. Layers applied after the primary monotone layer (grisaille) must be oily.

To thin pigment for glazing layers, we increase the percentage of the oil in the paint diluent. This can be linseed(tend to be more yellowish), poppy, walnut, or safflower oil(transparent oil that takes more time to dry).

Those were quick tips about the Glazing technique, for more in-depth technique instructions follow us by subscribing to our Art Blog updates.

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