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How To Glaze in Classical Oil Painting

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

What is glazing in classical oil painting?

Glazing is a technique used in classical oil painting where a transparent layer of paint is applied on top of an entire painting or in a specific area to modify the color or contrast. This method can be used to achieve a range of effects, such as increasing harmony between colors, creating a color or contrast shift, or adding depth and luminosity to a painting.

The glaze is typically created by mixing a small amount of oil color or pigment with a large amount of oil medium, creating a thin, translucent layer that allows the colors underneath to show through. Glazing requires careful control and patience, as it often requires multiple layers to achieve the desired effect. It is a technique that has been used by painters for centuries and is still used widely today.

How to glaze in classical oil painting:

Be Strategic

When you glaze you should consider what you want the end result to be. There are many ways to glaze. You could think of it like applying a color filter over the entire painting or a small area in the painting.

Know Your Goal

Typically the goal is to increase contrast and unity simultaneously. In this case you may want to use a brown glaze. That would unify the entire painting and bring together any shadows or midtones that are not working together. In addition it would make it easier to adjust the overall contrast. However, you need to consider the goal of your glaze and the color shift that you are hoping to achieve.

1. Prepare Your Surface

To ensure that the glaze will properly stick to the surface you can sand the entire painting or the area you intend to glaze using 120 grit paper. This will help the glaze to adhere better to the surface and sink into the areas that are prepared by the sandpaper.

2. Thin Your Paint

First you need to thin your paint. Most commonly it is thinned using oil and/or solvent. The amount that you thin your paint will depend on your desired result. Obviously, the more medium you use, the more transparent your glaze will be.

3. Apply

Using a brush and/or rag apply the thinned oil paint to the entire surface you want to cover ensuring that it is placed on in a transparent layer. You should be able to see through it and already have a clear idea about the effect it is having on the painting.

4. Remove Excess

Using your rag pull across the glaze to remove paint where you want even more transparency. Typically you want to remove the glaze entirely from highlights. This will make them pop and increase the glow of the painting. Other areas can be adjusted according to the desired effect you want to achieve. The harder you press with a rag, the more glaze you will remove.

5. Smooth Out

Use your rag to smooth out any irregularities and leave a soft finish. You can also add in additional colors delicately with a brush to adjust the color and final finish of your glaze.

6. Move Quickly

Keep in mind that you have a time limit because the paint is actively drying and will become less easy to manipulate as it dries.

Local Glazing 101 - Everything You Need to Know Via Nic Thurman on Youtube - This demonstration will show you everything you need to know about how to glaze in classical oil painting for a local or small area.

Why Glaze a Classical Oil Painting?

Glazing is a powerful technique used in classical oil painting to achieve specific effects that may be difficult to achieve with other techniques. The goal of glazing can vary depending on intent, whether it is to enhance the color, contrast or overall harmony of the painting. By layering transparent paint over previously painted areas, glazing can unify the painting and create a harmonious balance of color and tone. Additionally, glazing can create a luminous quality by enhancing the contrast between delicate mid-tones and the brightest highlights, resulting in an almost ethereal effect. Glazing is a versatile technique that can be used to achieve a variety of effects, from subtle color shifts to dramatic contrasts and is an essential tool for any painter who seeks to create a compelling and lifelike painting.

Want To Learn More Classical Oil Painting Techniques?

Are you passionate about classical oil painting and want to take your skills to the next level? Join our Patreon community at to learn more in depth about classical oil painting techniques and the craft of oil painting. With exclusive access to in-depth tutorials, painting philosophy, and personalized feedback, you'll be able to develop your skills and create more lifelike paintings. Don't miss out on this opportunity to master the craft. Join us on Patreon today!

Watch a free Patreon demonstration of a complete glaze in order to increase contrast and harmony:

Glazing For Contrast Via Nic Thurman on Youtube - In this demonstration you can learn how to apply a complete or total glaze that covers your entire painting in order to create a drastic contrast shift.


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