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Learn A Simple Watercolor Glazing Technique

By Mary Ann Boysen

This watercolor glazing technique is a wonderful method of creating a glow to your backgrounds. It is actually many layers of thin paint (called watercolor washes) laid down one at a time on top of the previous wash. I usually start with a yellow/gold like Quinacridone Gold for landscapes, then I can decide if I want to paint another color immediately while the gold is still wet (called wet glazing), or let it dry and then apply another color (called dry glazing).


For smoother washes it's best to use very transparent pigments (ones that don’t “settle” on the paper and cause textures to appear).

These are just a sample of how to build dark color that you can actually see through; meaning that you can see the previously glazed colors.

Watercolor Glazed Wash 1

Watercolor Glazed Wash 2

Watercolor Glazed Wash 3

The colors I most frequently use are: Quinacridone Gold (Winsor Newton or Daniel Smith), (Holbein), Opera Cobalt Blue Hue (Holbein), Permanent Sap Green, and I am sure that there are many others. These are the ones that I use almost exclusively.

Ones that settle and create textures: French Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue (sometimes). Then there are the opaque colors that can become heavy looking and not allow other colors to shine through them; like all the Cadmium colors, Yellow Ochre, Naples Yellow, Olive Green, and many more.

I have used as many as 50 washes or glazes on a painting to create a dark, but luminous background. It is time consuming, but the effect is glorious.

Many times when I am in a hurry, I will use the wet glazing technique applying one color over another color while it is wet. However, the effect is not as dramatic, nor can you achieve a dark color when doing this unless you use thicker pigment. The result is just not the same.

Watercolor Glazed Wash 4Here I began with Q-Gold, then Opera, and Cobalt Blue Hue; one right after the other so that they blended on the page without further brushing. This is called Wet-Glazing.

It is difficult to get very dark results this way unless you allow some drying between each three colors. Wet glazing is another form of the wet-in-wet technique, but on a larger scale; usually creating the background colors.

Here is a completed example using my watercolor glazing technique. This is a painting with many background glazes to create a very early morning scene just as the sun is coming up. I wanted a luminous sky, not just a dark one. If you look closely, you can see the different colors ...golds, reds, and blues.

Watercolor Glazed Wash 5

Return to Watercolor Techniques from Watercolor Glazing Technique

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