Glaze art definition: Glazing is a technique used by artists to create depth and color in their work. Glazing art involves applying a thin layer of paint or other medium over a dry layer of paint.
This creates an optical effect where the glaze appears to be floating on top of the underlying paint layer.
Why do we glaze art? – When should you glaze art
Glazing is often used to create depth and dimension in paintings. It can also be used to add color, luminosity, or transparency to a painting.
What do you need when glazing art
You don’t need any additional materials when glazing art. Most of what you have should suffice.
- Medium (blending and glazing medium or linseed oil for oil painting)
- Glazing brush
Quick video showing how to glaze art
I will show you a quick video from Winsor & Newton (part of their Masterclass series of videos which I highly recommend) that explains the process of glazing art and I will follow it up with a series of common questions and answers regarding glazing art.
Mediums that use glazing – Is it difficult to make a glaze?
There are many different mediums that can be used for glazing. Some common ones include oil paints, gouache, watercolors, and acrylic paints.
One is not better than the other, it comes down to artist preference.
Also, making a glaze is not difficult, but there are some things to keep in mind.
First, you need to make sure that the glaze is the right consistency. It should be thin enough to spread easily, but not so thin that it runs off the surface of your painting.
Second, you need to make sure that the glaze is applied evenly.
If it’s not, it can create an uneven finish. It should also not be grainy or lumpy.
When glazing, you also need to be careful about the colors you use. You want to make sure that the glaze is a color that will complement the colors beneath it. If the glaze is too dark, it can make the colors beneath it appear muddy.
If the glaze is too light, it can make the colors beneath it appear washed out.
The best way to test out a glaze color is to do a trial run on a scrap piece of paper or canvas that has a base paint applied to it before applying the glazing to your painting.
How to glaze Gouache
Gouache dries very quickly and is can be transparent enough to apply layers of glazing.
Water-based paint may be mixed with dry paint to produce a richer tone or develop a new hue by thinning it down.
Just do not over-do it with the watered-down gouache paint as dry gouache paint can actually be reactivated with water – that is, it can become workable again.
How to glaze Watercolors
When glazing a watercolor, you need to ensure the watercolor paints are applied in thin, transparent layers one at a time, allowing each layer to dry before adding another.
How to glaze Oil paints
To glaze an oil painting, you must first have an opaque foundation. This may be a white ground or an imprimatur.
Once this is in place, glazes are built up in layers using paint mixed with a medium and applied as thin coats of color.
Can you glaze oil paints with linseed oil?
They are made by mixing linseed oil with color pigments to create a glaze.
Linseed oil glazes have a number of advantages, including their transparency, which allows light to pass through and reflect off the underlying layers of paint.
This creates a luminous effect.
Linseed oil glazes are also easy to work with and can be applied in thin layers, build up slowly over time, and create a smooth, even finish.
What are the disadvantages of glazing oil paintings with linseed oil?
Linseed oil glazes do have a few disadvantages. They can yellow over time, especially if they are not applied correctly.
They can also be difficult to remove once they have been applied, so it is important to be sure of the final result before glazing.
How to glaze Acrylic paints
Unlike oil paints and other mediums, once acrylic paints are dry the polymer (plastics) in the medium will dry solid, and applying a thin glaze is actually quite easy.
As acrylic paints are too thick to be used as glazes on their own (similarly to oil paints), you need to add water to thin the acrylic paint.
Acrylic Mediums are not required to make a glaze. just add water to the paint and this will make an effective glaze.
Can you glaze with mixed media? That is, apply oil over acrylic and the like?
The general rule with oil painting is “fat over lean“. So, in glazing with mixed media, you would glaze with the oil paint first and ensure that all the layers are dried with the appropriate levels of oil on each later.
Once the oil layers are dry you can then glaze over them with acrylic paint.
You can glaze over acrylic with oil paints as well. This does not require any special treatment of the acrylic paint as it can act as an undercoat that easily accepts oil painting and oil paint-based glazes.
You can also apply acrylic glazes over watercolor paintings and also over gouache paintings.
The one thing you need to remember when applying an acrylic glaze over any medium is that once acrylic paint dries, it will become practically waterproof due to the plastic polymers in the paint binder.
This means you will not be able to re-activate any gouache paint and your watercolor paintings will become basically sealed.
I do not recommend applying an oil-based glaze over watercolors or gouache paintings. You can try but the results are too harsh.
Should a glaze be transparent or opaque?
There are both transparent and opaque glazes.
Transparent glazes will allow the colors beneath them to show through, while opaque glazes will cover the colors beneath them. Which one you use will depend on the effect you’re trying to achieve.
An opaque glaze can be used to unify light and dark areas, while a transparent glaze can be used to bring out luminosity in the light areas.
Should a glaze be dark or light?
Dark glazes can create a sense of depth, while light glazes can make colors appear brighter. Again, it depends on the effect you’re going for.
Can you build up layers of glaze?
Yes! You can build up layers of glaze to create different effects. Just be sure to let each layer dry completely before applying the next.
Using a glaze to unify light and dark contrasts
If you have a painting with strong light and dark contrast, you can use a glaze to help unite them.
By glazing over both the light and dark areas with the same color, you can help create a more cohesive look.
Using a glaze to bring luminosity to light areas of your art
You can also use glazing to bring luminosity to light areas of your painting. This is especially effective with yellow, pink, and white glazes.
Should a glaze be dark or light?
Again, this depends on the effect you’re trying to achieve. If you want to create a sense of depth, you might use a darker glaze over a lighter color.
If you want to bring out the brightness of a color, you might use a lighter glaze over a darker color.
What colors work best when glazing art?
There are no set rules for what colors work best when glazing. However, opaque glazes tend to work best with light colors, while transparent glazes can be used with any color.
What mediums work best when glazing art?
Mediums that can be used for glazing include oil paint, acrylic paint, watercolor, and gouache.
Application of a glaze in art – Optically mixing layers
When glazing, it’s important to use a thin layer of paint or other medium. This will create an optical effect where the glaze appears to be floating on top of the underlying paint layer.
- Glazes can also be used to optically mix colors, by applying a glaze over a dry layer of paint. This creates a new color that is a combination of the two colors beneath it.
Is a glaze durable?
Yes, glazes are generally very durable well as durable as the medium you used. Oil paintings tend to have oil paint based glazing and these have been proven to be durable.
The same applies to acrylic paints. Once the glaze has dried, it will be hard and long-lasting as the actual paint used.
Some examples of artists that used glazing
- Da Vinci – The Mona Lisa is a famous example of a painting that uses glazing. Leonardo da Vinci applied thin layers of glaze over the paint to create the famous “sfumato” effect. Learn more about his technique here.
- Rembrandt – Rembrandt is another artist who made use of glazing in his paintings. He would glaze over darker areas to make them appear even darker and glaze over lighter areas to make them appear even lighter.
- Vermeer – Vermeer is another artist who used glazing in his paintings. He would glaze over darker areas to make them appear even darker and glaze over lighter areas to make them appear even lighter.
Rembrandt – An Oriental  by Gandalf’s Gallery
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech).
While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney.
While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts making Art his full time source of income from the age of 18 until 25.
His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia.
He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.