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Oil Technique: Mixing Glazes and Washes

A favoured technique of the masters, oil glazes are transparent layers of paint used to enhance colours and add luminosity. Oil washes are used for underpaintings and even backgrounds. Learn how to mix and use glazes and washes to your advantage.
Materials:
  • Oil paints
  • Canvas
  • Linseed oil or stand oil
  • Dammar varnish
  • Odourless solvent or turpentine
  • Paintbrushes
  • Palette
  • Jar with a lid
Instructions:

How to mix a glaze and a wash for oil painting

Step 1: Using a palette with wells or a shallow container, mix your oil paint to a fluid consistency by adding solvent.

 

Step 2: Saturate a wide paintbrush with solvent, dip it in your mixed paint and brush on your colour wash. Washes are a great way to start your painting and cover the white of the canvas quickly and evenly, staining it with colour. They can also be used to sketch out your composition and create an underpainting. Because of the high concentration of solvent, the paint will dry quickly and can be painted over sooner.

 

Step 3: Glazes are used over top of paint that has dried completely. To mix a basic glaze combine 2 parts solvent, 1 part linseed oil or stand oil, and 1 part Dammar varnish together in a jar that can be sealed. Stir it well with a stir stick or paintbrush end. Do not shake it as this will add bubbles.

 

Step 4: On a palette add a few drops of your glazing medium to your paint and mix it well until it’s transparent and thin. Apply this mixture to your painting. The more glazing medium you use the paler and more translucent the paint will become. For darker glazes, add more paint or layer multiple glazes. Glazes dry slower than washes because of the higher concentration of oil used.

  • Practice glazes and washes by painting over black and white photos to build up colour
  • Always paint oily paint over less oily paint. This is called painting “fat over lean”
  • Glazing works best with transparent pigments
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