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Acrylic Painting Technique, Glazing with Acrylic Paint. Why and how!

Acrylic painting Art Blog glazing how to improve your painting how to paint

What is glazing? Why would I want to use it? When would I use glazing? How would I do it?

Art Blog, How Glazing can improve your painting. By Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

Some examples of paintings that I have used glazing on.


If you have ever wondered about this technique or even if you have never heard of it before. Read on to add an awesome technique to your painting toolbox.

What is Glazing?
Glazing is basically a thin layer of paint that is very translucent that allows the underneath colour to show through. The glaze subtly transforms the colour under it allowing for depth and glowing colour as layers are built up.
Glazing was a technique used by the old masters in oil paint. First, they would paint a tonal painting then using glazing add the colour over the top.

tonal painting of apples before glazing is applied. Art Blog about how and why to learn glazing techniques with acrylic paint by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura WilsonGlaze added to make red apples. Art Blog about how and why to learn glazing techniques with acrylic paint by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

                            Before and after glazing the apples
With the invention of mediums for acrylic paints, we can now take advantage of this method for our paintings in acrylic.

Art Blog, How glazing can add depth of colour and glow to your painting. Pink Swirl Galaxy girl by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

After the base coat colours, the depth and glowing colours were added using glazing on this Pink Swirl Galaxy Girl.

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Why would I use Glazing?
Ever done a painting that just needs warming up? Maybe you just need a subtle shift in colour. Maybe you added so much white that your painting has ended up looking chalky and kind of dull.
Glazing over with a thin layer of colour can solve that for you.
You can improve the light and life in your paintings by glazing. You can alter the colour in subtle ways. You can increase the drama of the colour. You can add a glow to colour that is difficult to achieve without glazing.

orange sunrise at the beach. That glowing colour was made with glazing. Art blog, how and why to glaze with acrylic paints by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

Orange Sunrise was painted over with an orange glaze for glowing colour.

Glazing allows light to travel through to the surface underneath and bounce back through the pigment creating a wonderful brightness and lustre.
Being a good painter means you have skills, but it also means having a range of techniques to recover from any mistakes.
Glazing is not just for fixing mistakes though, it is also a way to create a whole artwork.

When would I use glazing?
Well, I kind of answered that above but I will give you a couple of practical ideas here before we get into the how to...
If you are painting a sunset and have found that in the process of getting your colours light enough you have lost the brightness of the colours. You can add a glaze over the sunset in the colour you want to be bright and there you have it. A bright and glowing sky.
Or you have found you haven't made your shadows dark enough but you don't want to lose all the shadow colour that you have carefully put in. Just glaze over with a dark glaze and all the colour will still shine through but now be darker.
One of my favourite ways of using glazing is to make bright and glowing flowers. I use this method when I paint my poppy flowers to get a really bright red flower with lots of depth and subtle shifts of colour.

Art Blog. How and why you show learn about glazing to improve your acrylic painting. By Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

The colours on this poppy painting were built using glazing techniques.


Glazing to make translucent water for river paintings is the easiest method I have found.

Art Blog, How Glazing can improve your painting. Making translucent water By Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

After the dought. River water is easy with Glazing.


Space the final frontier, glazing makes doing those space paintings with coloured nebulas easy and northern lights are a breeze with glazing. 

Four northern lights paintings done with glazing. Art Blog on how and why you should learn glazing technique for your acrylic paintings. By Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

Four northern light paintings done using glazing


Have I convinced you to give glazing a try yet? Or have you tried it before and just not got the results you wanted. I hope these tips will help you.

How do I glaze with acrylic paint?

First off I first started glazing with watercolours. In watercolour, it is a common practice to use glazes of thin colour diluted with water to build up colour and depth. Starting with the white paper and building up the glazes from light to dark. So when I shifted to acrylic paint this wasn't a new concept for me, but I had never used mediums before. I still find that method of building up the glazes from light to dark works well for me. It is easy to go to dark in the beginning and not be able to get that lightness back.

What medium do I use? 

Well, you can use any glazing medium. I personally use Atelier clear painting medium. This just keeps my different painting mediums down to a minimum. Why buy more if I don't need them right! 

clear painting medium by Atelier Interactive

Clear painting medium

I haven't actually used the Atelier glazing medium, because I find for what I do, the clear painting medium works just fine. I understand that the glazing medium has a better self-levelling quality so you don't see any brush strokes. 

I just use a soft brush and I haven't noticed any problem with this.

You need good quality paints. This is because you will be diluting them. The better quality paints have a higher pigment ratio in them. This means as you dilute the paint with the painting medium you will get a better colour pay off than with a cheaper paint.

I use the Atelier Interactive acrylic paints. They have a good colour pay off when glazing.

Now a side note: If you use an interactive paint as soon as you add painting medium to your interactive paints they will no longer be interactive and will perform the same as any acrylic paint.

Why do I use them for glazing then? Well, why have more than one paint if you don't need it? As long as I remember to do any blending before I add glazing it's not a problem. Also if I paint on top of the medium then, that paint will be interactive but the layer with the medium will stay put. 

Now you can glaze with water but the more water you add the more chance you have of the paint braking up on you. I also feel you don't get the depth of colour and luminous glow you get with using a medium.

The painting medium will give your painting a satin type of finish to it. Which may be different from the parts of the painting without glazing on it. But I always varnish my paintings, so for me, this doesn't matter. The varnish will go over the painting giving it all the same finish. 

Another side note:  If you use atelier interactive paints you should varnish your paintings anyway.

How much medium should I use?

I have seen the recommended rate being 10/1 medium to paint. I think it depends on how transparent you want the colour to be. Thin layers built up, in my opinion, work better than thick layers for building glowing colour and depth. 

My medium to paint ratio will change depending on how much colour I want and also the colour I am using.

Speaking of colours to use: Have you noticed that some paints are more transparent than others? Well, you are not imagining that it is true.

Some colours are opaque and others are transparent and some are even semi-transparent.

This is important. Having a good understanding of what your colours will do, will make a big impact on your choices when it comes to glazing. This is especially important if you want your glaze to be transparent and show the colours underneath. How can you tell which colours are transparent?

It will tell you on the tube. Every paint brand has a different system for this. With the Atelier interactive paints, they have a circle on the front that is just an outline for transparent or filled in for opaque, Half and half for semi-transparent.

You don't always have to use transparent colours to glaze with. It just depends on what effect you are going for. All colours will become more transparent as you dilute them with glazing medium. But some will never be completely transparent if they are opaque colours to begin with. 

Here is a handy exercise you can do to find out how transparent your colours are.

Get some watercolour or canvas sheet of paper and paint a black strip down the paper.  Let this dry completely. Then paint lines of colour across the strip using straight paint. Make sure to label the colours for future reference. When the paint is dry you will be able to see which colours you can see the black paint through and which you can't. 

Colour chart blue paints for glazing from art blog. How and why to glaze with acrylic paints by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura WilsonColour chart red paints for glazing from art blog. How and why to glaze with acrylic paints by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura WilsonColour chart yellow paints for glazing from art blog. How and why to glaze with acrylic paints by Goldstarwork, Artist Laura Wilson

               Colour Charts to make to help you with choosing glazing colours

 Sometimes just looking at the tube doesn't give you enough information on how the colour proforms. I do this with all my colours and make a colour chart for each colour. So I will have a red colour chart, a blue colour chart etc. 

In the video below I will show you some practical demonstrations on how I use glazing in my painting.

Other Blogs you might find interesting are:

How To Apply New Techniques To Your Painting.

How to Improve your Painting by Studying a Favourite Artist and Glazing for Glowing Colour in Acrylic Paint.

 Thanks for visiting and Happy Painting everyone.

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