Why use the watercolor glazing technique?
Watercolor glazing is a technique in watercolor painting that gives painters – especially beginners – more control over this beautifully fluid medium. The white of the paper in watercolors is equivalent to a light source, illuminating the pigments from underneath. To avoid muddy watercolor paintings, the paper’s brightness has to be preserved under your paint to “shine through” in the lighter passages of your painting’s design. You can do this by layering transparent washes, one at a time, so you can gage when to stop adding more color. Watercolors are different from opaque paints like oils and acrylics, because you can’t fix a dark color by adding a lighter color. The pigments are sheer, so the dark color underneath dominates any lighter layers you try to cover it with. Imagine transparent, colored cellophane: If you have a sheet of transparent black, and you tried to lighten it by laying a sheet of transparent pink on top, you’d still have a very dark color.
Watercolor Glazing Technique Process
When you approach painting a watercolor with the glazing technique, colors are applied in thin, transparent layers, one at a time, letting each one dry before adding another layer. The thin washes of transparent pigment are ‘glazes’ of color, so it’s called Watercolor Glazing. Each additional layer of pigment darkens that passage, and the more layers you add – even in different colors – the darker that area will become. These glazed layers will increase saturation, and they’ll help you get more accurate values. Waiting for each layer of added pigment to dry really helps with accurate values in your overall painting, because watercolor dries much lighter than it looks when it’s wet, which makes it challenging to know when to stop adding more color.
Watercolor Glazing Technique Demonstration Videos
Here is a brief tutorial video (above) introducing the process to show you watercolor glazing techniques. I use this method frequently, and I find many folks new to watercolor haven’t heard about it yet. The loosey-juicy, spill-it-on-the-paper method of watercolor painting leaves many beginners frustrated with the lack of control. That can be discouraging, and may even push a beginner to move towards other media. But if you try watercolor glazing techniques, you’re much more in the driver’s seat of your paintings. You’ll have less frustration, and more of a deliberate accumulation towards your goals for color and saturation in your watercolor paintings.
Relax into Watercolors
Controlling your application of watercolor to your paper will build a bridge between your reference photo, and the way your completed painting comes out. If frustration sounds familiar, maybe glazing is worth exploring on your next painting project. The video above is 4 minutes long. It’s an introduction to watercolor glazing, and another video (below) is longer and more in-depth. I hope the voiceover in each video demonstration explaining the basic premise of watercolor glazing technique is helpful. You can also watch the video and others like it on my youtube channel here.
Helpful Watercolor Resources for you
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- If you’re uncertain about which watercolor paper to buy, I’ve written a three-page watercolor paper introduction you can download (free) right here. The primer explains weights of paper, surfaces (hot press, cold press and rough, etc.), avoiding rippled paper, manufacturers of watercolor paper, student vs professional grade papers, etc.
- Are you having trouble making time to paint? Have a look at this free mini-course. It’s called Six Tips to Painting More Often. Share the link with friends and family who could use a little nudge to get back to their art supplies.
- Titles for your art – beyond subject based painting titles (example, titling a painting of a red barn ‘The Red Barn’) can be challenging. The viewer already knows it’s a red barn, so give them more. Imaginative art titles add depth to the art, and help patrons connect to your work. Check out this class: How to Title Your Art. It’s a step-by-step course relaying a solid, works-every-time system, in three flavors. After you’ve completed the course, you can select and roll out the method that works best for you. Pinky-Promise!
Watercolor Supplies on the Go
Watercolor is a beautiful medium. It’s also very accessible, in that you don’t need solvents, thinners or canvas mounted to wooden frames in order to paint. A small travel palette, a block of watercolor paper, a few brushes, a pencil and a shallow cup will all fit in a zippered pouch you can take with you on walks, or out in the garden, or to a friend’s house for art-night. You can travel to far off places with a simple set up like this to practice your newfound skills with watercolor glazing too!
Posts that feature Watercolor Glazing Techniques for you
- A watercolor portrait painted in transparent glazes, using the sight-size method of drawing
- A small still life of fruit in a bowl painted in transparent glazes
- A simple interior with windows and a chair done in graphite and then transparent watercolor glazes
- A petite portrait, inspired by the art of Pierre Bonnard – done in graphite and then layers of watercolor glazing
Do you have questions about Watercolor Glazing techniques? Have you ever tried painting with glazes in watercolor? You’re welcome to get in touch if you’re looking for more details that aren’t covered here.
Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post!