How to use watercolor: every watercolor artist needs to know how to glaze

  • Glazing is a basic technique of how to use watercolor.

Glazing may be used with any type of paint - oil, acrylic or watercolor.

what is glazing?

Glazing with watercolor, it is often called laying down a wash. A layer of transparent color is washed over a previous dry layer of paint.

The viewer sees both layers of paint and their eye visually mixes the color. The colors are more luminous than when the colors are mixed on the palette.

Learn how to use watercolor with glazing by artist Carol MayLuscious Mangoes Painted With Glazes

glazing is done in several steps

Many oil paintings are painted alla prima. The colors are premixed on the palette and applied to the painting in one layer.

Watercolors may also have their colors premixed on the palette and painted in one application.

However, glazing mixes the colors on the painting, not on the palette.

Step-by-step glazing applies the paint in several individual layers of paint. This is an excellent technique of how to use watercolor.

how to use watercolor

We will be painting with Winsor & Newton professional watercolors.

  • Lemon Yellow, New Gamboge, Raw Sienna, Ultramarine Blue and Winsor Red

Whatever brand you use make sure the colors are transparent or at least semi-transparent. Glazing won't work well with opaque colors.

Winsor & Newton marks their paint tubes, a white square is for transparent paints and a black square means opaque.

step 1

Initial watercolor washes for glazingInitial Washes
  • Use a soft flat watercolor brush to wet the area you will be working on.

This is basic of how to use watercolor. Then the paint can be applied without forming hard edges.

Paint the lower mango with the cool yellow, Lemon Yellow.

This mango is behind and farther back than the top mango.

The cool yellow sets it farther back in the painting.

Paint the top mango with the warm yellow, New Gamboge.

Let these colors dry thoroughly. Using a hair dryer will speed up the drying.

step 2

After the painting is dry add a second glaze of watercolorSecond Wash = Glazing
  • When you are glazing with watercolor the initial wash must be completely dry. Then when you apply more colors, they will not mix together.

Clean your brush of any paint from the previous layer before adding a new layer of paint.

Make a wash of the Winsor Red and water. Winsor Red is a transparent color. If you don't have Winsor Red, use Permanent Rose which is a transparent color.

The Cadmium colors are opaque and do not work well for glazing.

Let each layer dry thoroughly before you add another glaze layer.

step 3

Continue glazing watercolor on the mangoes.The glaze of blue makes green.
  • When the underlying colors are thoroughly dry, add the next glaze.

This time we use Ultramarine Blue.

Ultramarine Blue has the characteristic of granulating when it is applied.

The granulation portrays the color variation and texture of the mango.

Ultramarine works for this application instead of other blues because of its granulating characteristic.

apply a shadow

Paint the shadow between the mangoes.Shadow the overlapping mango.
  • This time, do not pre-wet the area.

Use the same blue where the top mango overlaps the bottom mango.

Apply a line of blue with a round brush.

Immediately come back with some clear water to feather in the bottom edge of the shadow.

Also, softly apply some blue around the outside edge of the mango.

This makes the mango edge turn away from the viewer and gives it a rounded appearance.

continue glazing

Finish glazing the mangoes.Finish glazing the mangoes.
  • Glazing with watercolor takes multiple layers.

This is how to use watercolor.

It took more than one glaze of the red to achieve the mango color.

The viewer's eye sees down thru the multiple transparent layers.

Add more glazes of yellow to intensify the color.

Continue to use the warm yellow on the top mango.

The cool yellow on the bottom mango will set it behind the top mango.

Continue glazing until you are satisfied with the colors.

paint The leaves

Put a wet wash on the leavesDo the lower leaves first.
  • Do the lower leaves first that are set behind the fruit.

Paint the leaves with yellow.

We used Raw Sienna close to the fruit for the shadow area and Lemon Yellow farther away from the fruit.

Raw Sienna made an earthy colored leaf. If you want a cleaner green use Lemon Yellow all the way.

Use the paper for white when you learn how to use watercolor. Some white on the leaves gives added interest.

After the yellow is dry glaze on some blue to make the leaves green.

If you used Lemon Yellow for the entire leaf, then darken the shadow area with extra blue.

paint the first layer on the upper leaves

Paint the leaves with yellow.Paint the leaves with yellow and let it dry.

Start glazing on blue

Glaze on blue to create green leaves.Start glazing on blue to create green leaves.

how to correct a watercolor mistake

You may paint outside of the leaf area.

While the paint is still wet, blot it up with a tissue or a paper towel.

If the paint is already dry, use a wet brush to dampen it and scrub it a bit. Then lift off the color with your tissue.

direct painting

  • There is a freedom when one color is painted directly into another moist color.

It is pure joy watching the beauty of the way the moist colors flow and blend together. This is the joy of learning how to use watercolor.

Paint the stem with New GambogePaint stems with New Gamboge.


Add Raw Sienna on the shadow sideAdd Raw Sienna on one side.

While the yellow is still moist, add a bit of Raw Sienna on the shadow side of the stems.

Paint blue in some areas on the shadow side of the stems. The colors blend together.

now paint your mangoes!

Glazing with watercolor is easy. The only hard part is waiting for the layers to dry. A hair dryer speeds up the process.

Glazing some mangoes with watercolorNow it's your turn!

enjoy learning how to use watercolor!



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