Glazing in watercolour

I love working wet-in-wet so much that I tend to forget about the fun of glazing. So I thought it might be worth revisiting it as a technique. Yesterday’s class rose to the challenge and produced some fab and varied work. Here’s a taster:


If you think about it, there are three ways of mixing colours. First of all you can pre mix in the palette. A big advantage is total control and consistency of colour; the downside being boredom! Alternatively you can mix your colours on the paper surface – using the transparent nature of watercolour to your advantage. You can mix wet in wet, so that the individual colours shine through – downside being the unpredictability (just look at that nasty hard edge!). The final way is glazing, so that you get optical mixing on the paper. The downside is the patience and planning required, while the upside is the control of the final hue and the glowing colour you can achieve.


Glazing gives a beautiful luminescence to the final picture. To keep the transparency, I would suggest sticking to no more than three layers, making sure each is totally dry before the next is applied. Apply the top layers with a light soft hand to avoid muddling the lower ones. Get in, get out, leave it alone! Select your colours carefully. Transparent non-staining colours work well, but staining or more opaque have a role to play if you are trying to perk up a dull dark area, or tone down something strident.

This was my reference photo – I am sorry but I do not know who took it, so if it is yours, please let me know so I can credit you.


It seems sensible to start with your lightest, yellow wash. You can do washes flat or variegated as you like. In this little demo, I did the background with three variegated washes: quin yellow, quin rose and French ultramarine. The paper was a scrap of Khadi, so very rough and you can see how the brush skipped areas. By varying the strength of washes I avoided green sky – phew!


Once dry I painted the far hills and trees and then the near trees were painted wet in wet. You don’t have to stick to one technique, after all!


If you were planning to paint exclusively in glazing, or even more restrictively by glazing in three primaries, you need to think like a screen printer or visualise your washes to be stained glass. Strict planning is needed. But if you mix it up, you will find it brings a new light and a glow to your paintings.

Happy glazing! And if you fancy coming on a workshop to learn different techniques, please look at

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