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Glazing With Watercolor

So many beginning artists are afraid to put color on the paper. We all want to jump right in and paint a subject before we think about what is going on around it. We don’t think of colors as they can impact the final subject, so we just pick up a pencil, draw the subject, then paint in the details. This creates a problem because once the subject is painted, we have to worry about what should go in the background.

Applying colors to the paper before we begin helps to get rid of the “frightening” white of the paper. It creates a glow, a mood, and colors that will permeate the entire painting without us having to think again about painting “around” the subject. We have already painted “through” the subject.

I have created a video of one of the ways that I prefer to glaze. The layers of color are very pale and transparent so that each underlying color glows through the upper layers. Even though I did not continue glazing to make dark luminous colors, it is entirely possible to do so by just repeating the steps in the video, over and over. If you only apply a few layers of transparent color, the paper can be thought of as still “white”! And you can then draw a subject, whether it be a flower, an architectural scene, a landscape, etc. and begin to paint the details.

You will find that as you add more color (also called glazes) in the smaller spaces of your design, the original glazes will appear lighter. If you add heavy darks, the original glazes will almost appear white. It is quite amazing. Remember that every little area of paint applied to your work is a glaze. As you reach the detail area of the painting, the glazes will be darker simply from the overlays of color.

In the painting below, I continued glazing with thin coats of the triad that I usually use, until there were about 50 layers of paint. If you look closely, you can still see the individual colors. After the glazes were dry I added textures of darker pigments for the trees. By applying color to the dry paper, there could be hard edges to look like limbs and leaves. The lighter color through the center of the painting was actually added on top of the original glazes. The paint was a bit more opaque, like Hansa Yellow or Cadmium Lemon, and perhaps a Gold Metallic. It has been a while since I painted this scene and I did not document the process at that time.

When every layer of paint was dry, I painted the geese. I lifted out their breasts so that they would appear light. If that does not work for you, a layer of gesso can be added to brighten them. This is a sunrise scene as the geese take flight in the morning, so nothing is bright white. Everything has a golden glow.

To see the glazing process, check out the video I took on this subject.

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