Glazing with acrylic paints

Glazing with acrylic paints

Glazing with acrylic paints

Acrylic paints are a medium rich with a myriad of techniques, many of which have been borrowed from oil painting and one technique that many artists enjoy using is glazing.

Glazing is a simple enough technique to explain but has a little nuance when it comes to its application. In this article we will explain glazing with acrylic paints, the techniques involved and the products available to make glazing super simple.


What is glazing?

Glazing is a technique that involves applying a thin layer of translucent colour over a dry one. This translucent layer of colour imparts a tint onto the lower layers of the painting. As the number of layers applied increases the tint becomes more and more pronounced.

As such the technique can be used to achieve subtle transitions between colours, increase colour intensity, or tint large areas to shift colours towards a specific mood i.e. adding a red glaze to blue to introduce a warmer purplish tone.

The applications of glazing are broad but it should be noted that it is a slow and methodical technique. Each glazed layer must dry before the next can be applied, or else you risk pulling up previous layers and ruining the technique. The results however are well worth the effort and allow you a very fine degree of control over the tones and hues of your painting.


The issue that you might run into when trying to glaze is getting the correct consistency. Thinning acrylic paint solely with water leads to the paint becoming under-bound, where the pigment separates from the binder. This causes problems such as a chalky or gritty finish and weak paint adhesion. Glaze medium increases the transparency of acrylic paint and lowers the viscosity without reducing the integrity of the binder. This means the paint maintains good adhesion and pigment stability despite the glaze’s dilute nature.

Another issue you may encounter is attempting to glaze with some colours. Glazing relies on transparency when it comes to application and some colours, some pigments, are naturally more opaque or more transparent than others. Reds, blues, purples, greens all tend to glaze well whilst colours that have a higher white content in them tend to become chalky and pastel when thinner to glaze consistency. To avoid ending up with chalky glazes we suggest considering the colours you use, as it is always easier to glaze down, use darker colours to bring down brighter ones and increase the richness and intensity. You can also check the paint you use as most paint tubes will state somewhere in the information the colour's opacity. They will usually be marked as transparent, semi-transparent or opaque. Try glazing with colours which are semi-transparent as the absolute most and transparent colours wherever possible.

Winsor & Newton Professional Glazing Medium 

Glazing mediums slightly increase paint drying time, have self-levelling qualities, increase flow and dry with a smooth finish.

  • Liquitex Profession Glazing Medium - Glossy medium that dries with a clear finish when used neat. Use with acrylic paint to create glazes or acrylic ink to make smooth acrylic washes.
  • GOLDEN Gloss/Satin Glazing Liquid - Highly fluid acrylic glazing medium which can be used to thin acrylic colour without diluting pigment strength. Used to create highly transparent glazes when mixed with acrylic colour and comes in Gloss and Satin finishes.
  • Winsor & Newton Professional Glazing Medium - Acrylic medium which increases flow, maximises transparency whilst maintaining colour strength when used with Winsor & Newton Artist Acrylics. Dries with a glossy lustre.


Winsor & Newton Galeria Short Handled Acrylic Brush

When glazing with acrylic paints you will want a brush which errs on the softer side with good absorbency. This will provide you with a smooth finish whilst allowing you to apply glaze layers without having to reload your brush as often. We suggest considering these brushes as a starting point.

  • System 3 Skyflow Brushes - Wide flat brushes perfectly suited for applying foundation colours, washes, glazes and varnishes with smooth and broad brush strokes. The synthetic bristles have excellent spring and are less firm than hog hair brushes, this makes them excellently suited for smooth application.
  • Pro Arte Polar White Nylon Brushes - These white nylon bristle brushes balance firmness, spring and point superbly to provide an excellent painting experience when utilising acrylic and watercolour. Polar white nylon provides an excellent replacement to natural hair brushes for painters of any medium.
  • Artmaster Pearl Brushes - Made with a robust synthetic bristle these brushes will handle any medium from watercolours to oils. Pearl brushes are available in a variety of styles which allow for a broad variety of brush marks and techniques including riggers and angled flats. Their spring and absorbency provide superb medium carrying capacity and fantastic control.


Liquitex Professional Soft Body Acrylic & Liquitex Glazing Medium

As we have provided some suggestions for the mediums and brushes available we will also suggest some of the ranges of acrylic colour with have available which we think are a great place to start when looking to try your hand with the glazing technique.

  • Winsor & Newton Galeria Acrylic - A student quality paint which is highly pigmented with a smooth consistency. Galeria provides an excellent range of artist acrylic colours, classic artist choices as well as metallics and pastel colours. The consistency of these paints makes them suitable for glazing techniques.
  • Liquitex Acrylic Ink - A highly pigmented fluid acrylic suspension, these inks, whilst not paints are probably the most ideally suited acrylic available for creating glazes with. The intense pigmentation of the inks allows for deep or subtle glazes to be made when used with glaze mediums with comparatively little colour. Combine with the natural transparency inherent to most inks means you have all the ideal qualities to make the perfect glaze.
  • GOLDEN Heavy Body Acrylic Paints - The gold standard for many in terms of heavy bodies acrylic, no agents are added to the pure professional quality pigments used in these paints so each paint is allowed to dry with its own natural finish. As such transparent colours in this range can be combine with glazing mediums to create luscious thick glazes which work well with impasto style works and add additional depth and texture to work. This makes them idea for subjects such as the surf of crashing waves on seascapes for example.
  • Winsor & Newton Professional Acrylic - Winsor & Newton's top quality acrylic paint range features an expansive variety of genuine colours, hues and metallics.
    the high pigment load of these paints makes them an ideal candidate for traditional oil-style glazing techniques and can be layered to create wonderful jewel like layers. 

Ben Platt
Ben Platt

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