Glazing Techniques for Oil Painting

Applying oil paint in translucent layers is known as “glazing,” and is a great oil painting technique for the artist who wishes to venture further from painting alla prima. All that is required, apart from the usual oil painting equipment, is an oil painting medium, most commonly linseed oil, or for accelerating the drying time, Liquin.


Oil Painting Glazing


An oil paint glaze is a layer of oil paint that is see-through, and which will modify the hue of the paint beneath. For instance, a bright red colour will appear more sullen if a thin layer of blue or brown is applied on top. It must be noted that the under layer of paint must be thoroughly dry before the oil painting glaze is applied on top.


Interesting Oil Painting Techniques


The odd thing about glazing with oil paints is that that the appearance of the colours when glazed one on top of the other, is different to when the colours are mixed together. For instance, the mixture of ultramarine blue and cadmium red will produce a muddy purple. But if a thin layer of ultramarine were applied over the cadmium red, the result would be a different kind of purple, one that is richer and deeper in appearance.

Glazing with Oil Paints
Applying oil paint glazes can produce delicate and subtle shifts in colour, and will unify a painting. The more glazes applied, the richer the colour. Some old masters used to apply ten or even twenty glazes over their oil paintings before they were satisfied with the result. However, the beginner need not go to such measures. Usually, three, or even two layers will suffice.



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Fat over Lean

The term fat over lean will have relevance when glazing with oils. This means that with every layer applied, a little more oil should be introduced to the paint mix. This is necessary because oil paint dries more slowly when linseed oil is applied. Working the other way round could cause the upper layers to dry before the lower ones, causing the paint to crack.


Subject Matter for Glazing with Oils


Because the oil paint glaze is rather like tinted glass, it will produce smooth textures and shifts in colour, which is ideal for flesh tones in portraits, floral art, and for giving an air-brushed finish to oil paintings, such as underwater scenes and skies. The technique is quite simple, but requires patience.

How to Apply an Oil Paint Glaze


Glazing with oils requires the following steps:

  1. Begin the oil painting, using the visual resources as necessary, but do so as though the painting were going to be complete in one layer.
  2. Once completely dry, after a week or so, begin the next layer of paint. Don’t worry if the painting looks harsh, for the glazes will soften the colours and deepen the tones.
  3. By introducing a little linseed oil into the oil paint, a translucent colour will result.
  4. With a soft sable brush, gently apply the oil paint glaze onto selected areas. If a blue needs darkening, for instance, a second layer of slightly darker blue or purple will deepen the colour without changing it completely.

Oil Mediums for Glazing


Other oils can be added to oil paints for glazing. Liquin is an alkyd based medium that acts like linseed oil in that it adds transparency to the oil paint, but it dries quickly and leaves a matt finish. Raw linseed oil, spike of lavender and poppy oil can also be used for glazing techniques.

This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my 2 art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon.


© Rachel Shirley 2010


© Rachel Shirley 2010