Amazing glazing

Amazing glazing

Glazing (or layering) is the term for painting on dry paint. Usually to create darker, richer values or deliberately create shifts in hue. 

Due to the transparent nature of watercolours the colour we apply on top won't completely cover the underlying colour, but will create a mix out of the two. 

If not done with care, this can create

  • unexpected colours
  • dull colours
  • muddy appearance


  • not all colours go well together
  • you're layering opaque colours on top
  • you're brushing too hard and disturbing the underlying colour so pigments mix 

Now, to avoid some of these problems you could learn everything about the theory and pigment properties like transparency, staining quality, colour theory, etc. 

Or as I prefer, through trial and error.

A simple but effective exercise I use to learn about how my colours mix when layered is to paint small glazing swatches :

  1. Paint a square with any colour
  2. Let it completely dry (best to paint a few on a sheet)
  3. Re-wet the top half gently with some clean water
  4. Use a strong mix of a different colour and gently apply into the wet half. Don't rub too hard as not to disturb the dried pigment underneath
  5. Use the same mix to paint on top of the dry bottom half
  6. The top half will dry lighter and with soft edges, the bottom half darker and with hard edges
watercolour glazing

Here I used the same 2 colours and reversed the layers. For example Hansa Yellow first and Ultramarine on top, then the other way round. Depending on which colour goes first the resulting mix will be different. Compare that to the strip underneath which is the colour when the 2 pigments are mixed in the palette.

Choose any combination you like and practice creating secondary colours (purple, orange, green) or some unusual ones, like dark mixes for shadows and earthy colours.

Pro tip: Layering transparent colours (opposed to opaque or semi-opaque colours) will create darker values.

And hopefully you'll avoid muddy colours and ugly mixes in your paintings!