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


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