Glazing with Acrylic Paints


Glazing with acrylics is a technique I use in all my paintings now.  I guess it may be leftover from my experience as a watercolor artist. In the three paintings below, I’ve used the glazing technique in the “vases”.  They were created with lots of colorful layers between drying sessions to give a richer tone of color and depth.  

What is “Glazing”?

Acrylic glazes are super thin layers of paint that act like colored stained glass over your painting. When you paint with layers of transparent or semi-transparent paint colors, you can still see the color underneath. It is a great way to add depth and dimension to your paintings and bring out the colors or form underneath. 

As a watercolor artist originally, I’ve alwaysI loved the look of the different layers of colors that show through.  With transparent acrylic colors, you can do this same technique with some added benefits of alternating between them and opaque colors. Transparent colors are always my first paints I reach for when creating the underpainting.  They allow the white of the canvas to show through, creating a really rich bright color. But, once white paint is mixed in,  the color is not so transparent and not so vibrant. So to add more vibrancy, another touch of glazing is added here and there.  It is important to remember however, to always allow each layer to dry completely before applying the next. 

What is the best transparent paint brand?  

Golden acrylics are so expensive but I absolutely love the clarity and boldness of the pigments there.  Arteza and Liquitex colors can be transparent as well, but they are still somewhat muted in my own opinion compared to Golden.

How can you tell what colors are transparent and which are opaque?  Some acrylic manufacturers like Golden, make it easier to tell opacity levels by having a swatch of the color painted on the label over a series of printed black bars.  If you can see the bars clearly, it’s transparent. For Liquitex and Arteza paint, there is a small square box on the label.  If it is filled in with a solid black or white, it is an opaque color.  A clear square means it is a transparent color and a half filled is semi-transparent.    

What if you don’t have good quality transparent paint colors in your area?  If you can’t find certain transparent colors in your area, you can create your own with a glazing medium. Mix about half and half or more of the medium with your paint to make a more translucent color.  It’s better than water because it has a binder in it that will help adhere better to your canvas.  I’ve taken a couple of workshops and one leading artist recommended using matte medium, which is a little thicker.  The other teacher used Golden Satin Glazing Liquid. The only thing I didn’t like about mixing the medium into my paint was it went on thick and it was harder to lift or wipe off to show more of the color underneath.  

Other options:  I’ve used acrylic inks as a transparent paint as well.  Recently I did a commissioned painting of a wedding barn.  The reference image was captured around sunset.  The colors were bluer/cooler around the outer edge of the picture but were more of a warm yellow near the door entrance, where the party was happening.  It was very difficult to shift colors in that area so I used acrylic inks to gently overlay the blue ink on the outer areas and left the warm colored focal area alone.  It was so easy and saved me quite a bit of time.  So try out some acrylic inks.  They are affordable and easy to find.