OCAD Studio: Glazing and Scumbling

Both scumbling and glazing are indirect methods of painting, which means that they are applied transparently over a dry layer of paint. They were often used by the old masters because they can make for paintings with great deal of luminosity, depth and lustre without requiring a lot of expensive colourful pigments. The traditional way to use glazes and scumbles was to produce a grisaille monochrome underlayer in browns or greys which would describe the forms of the subjects, before allowing this layer to dry and thinly applying  transparent colours over the top.


Glazes are applied by diluting the paint with a medium to make it easier to spread over the surface and leave a thin film of transparent colour. A glaze can be used to change the colour of a paint layer without affecting the drawing or thickness of the paint layer below. As such, they are very useful for adding colour to monochrome underpaintings as well as altering colours in paintings.

For instance, you may be painting a figure wearing a yellow coat and decide you would prefer it to be green. It is possible to achieve this by applying a transparent layer of blue paint over the yellow coat, the blue and yellow layer will mix visually and produce a green. The advantage of taking this approach rather than repainting it in green, is that you will retain the original shape and form of the coat, saving you time and paint.

Another common use of a glaze is to subtly change flesh tones in a figure or portrait. The colours in skin vary from browns to creams to greys to reds with many shifts occurring over the surface of the skin. For instance, cheeks are often more red than the rest of the face, so you may find it helpful to apply a thin layer of red over the cheeks to give a portrait more life and variety.

Glazing can be used extensively when working in a traditional manner. You can quickly produce a complex coloured image by painting a detailed image in monochrome before adding colours with glazes once this underpainting has dried. However, you must make sure you are aware of the glaze will alter the values and temperature of the layers below. If a glaze is a darker value than the layer below it will produce a darker and warmer effect when painted over. Sometimes this can result in unwanted lurid oranges, so it is recommended to experiment with glazing to see how much it can affect colours.


Scumbling is slightly different to glazing: it refers to a lighter colour applied over a darker layer and it usually uses thicker paint rubbed over the surface rather than paint thinned with medium. The result is often more textured (as it only catches the raised portions of the canvas, paper or panel) and cooler. The same effect can be seen when smoke rises from a chimney; when the smoke passes in front of a darker object (like a tree) is looks cool and blue, whereas when it passes in front of a lighter object (like a white cloud) it looks dark yellow.


Most artists use glazing and scumbling at some point when painting, even if they aren’t away that they’re doing it. So now that you know a bit more about the technique, I recommend trying it out and taking notice of how your glazes and scumbles affect your paintings.

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART

Task 7: Self-Portrait in Charcoal

Drawing self-portraits can be a great way to practice sketching techniques as-let’s face-it-there is no shortage of material when you draw yourself! Sketching or drawing yourself can be a great way to learn a lot about sketching, shading and proportions- this exercise will teach you a lot about art and yourself.

Task 7 comes in 2 parts:

Part 1: Get a tonal black and white photograph to work from

Part 2: Produce a tonal self-portrait using charcoal


The following resource will help you get started on this task:

Self Portrait


Part 1 allows you to get creative as well as to give yourself a great foundation on which to practice your drawing techniques. Adding meaning to your artwork makes it personal and you connect better with what you are doing.  Have fun getting your photograph just right. Some portraits will be of just the face of the artist, and other portraits will be of the whole body. The artist decides how he wants to portray himself… this is the experimental bit 🙂

Then it is on to Part 2. Everyone thinks they know the proportions of a face, but when you really study the human face, it’s easy to realise that the eyes are not near the top of the head, they are more about half-way between the crown of the head and your chin. See the previous task to learn more about these proportions 🙂

Get the major features first, lightly, to create a foundation so you can add in your details later. This way, if you make a mistake, you can easily erase it and it won’t affect the minute details you will spend more time creating later on.

Bring together the work we have done so far on charcoal techniques and observational skills. Turn the photo upside down to really ‘see’ what is in front of you to get accurate proportions.

When you are done you can ask yourself- does my portrait look exactly like the source photo? Your answer will be, No, and I don’t want it to! This is YOUR representation of the original photo. Remember, you don’t need to make an exact copy of the source, that’s what photocopies are for! Be expressive whilst following simple proportion rules to create a personal and unique work of art.



Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and friendly art community – see you there 🙂

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART