Part 4 : Multiple Glaze Layers

So we're finally here, the final part of my repainting of Clayton Crain's original art piece, from his Ghost Rider series. I've painted the whole painting primarily in oil, somewhat like the Venetian style of painting, which I felt would most emulate the effect of Clayton Crain's technique using Photoshop.

Completed Painting with some areas
having more than 15 glaze layers.

Here I will be explaining how I executed the multiple glaze layers to achieve the depth of colour and 3D quality associated with this style of painting.
Check out the preliminary steps taken for this painting here..

This was quite a learning experience for me,.... until you actually try the technique it's difficult to actually appreciate what other painters are really going on about when it comes to the actual application of the glazes. Please feel free to call me out on anything, what matters is that our ability to learn and share information for free on the net is done so as accurately as possible.


A common analogy of the glaze technique are coloured transparent plastic sheets laid over each other i.e. yellow sheet over red sheet that would then create an orange hue. As it's an optical mixture of light rather than a physical mix of the actual pigment, the hue is an amazingly rich luminous combination of depth and hue, the light reverberating throughout the varying layers.... 

When it comes to painting, it's imperative that each layer is completely dry between each layer to avoid any intermixing which would thus defeat the purpose...

A few useful things to keep in mind...
  • Thicker transparent glazes create darker values thus one can adjust the tone by adjusting the thickness of the paint.
  • Glazing retains the intense chroma of a hue, for example if a hue were to be mixed with white, it's chroma would be reduced and become what some describe as chalky. Glazing the pure colour over a white underpainting though, lightens the hue while still retaining it's intense chroma.
  • Although transparent paints like Permanent Rose or Winsor Yellow are inherently suited for glazing, opaque paint can be made transparent too if applied thinly enough.
  • Pure glazing (that is without any white or opaque paint added) need not be carried throughout the whole painting... An artist can model the depth of feel in a painting by utilizing the tendency of pure transparent glazes that gives depth and a mixture of opaque passages for areas where one wishes the subject to advance... It can be as subtle or as bold as one likes... Instead of a tinted picture one will achieve a more solid 3 dimensionality to the painting.


Oil Paints with Griffin Alkyds

1. Oil Paint and Alkyds (fast drying oil paints)

  • Titanium White (Alkyd)
  • Mixing White (Alkyd) (although Titanium based and marked as opaque, it's tinting strength is lower and is good for more transparent milky glazes)
  • Lemon Yellow (Oil Paint)
  • Winsor Yellow (Alkyd)
  • Yellow Ocher (Oil Paint)
  • Burnt Sienna (Alkyd)
  • Cadmium Red (Oil Paint)
  • Raw Umber (Oil Paint)
  • Ultramarine (Green Shade) (Alkyd)
  • Phthlo Blue (Alkyd) (used briefly in the beginning as I was experimenting with colour but ultimately was replaced completely with ultramarine)

Liquin Fine Detail, Distilled Turpentine
and Refined Linseed Oil.
2. Medium

  • Liquin (Liquin Fine Detail)
  • Refined Linseed Oil (Used this because I've just got a load in stock. However I think it prudent to try out or research some others like Stand or Thickened Linseed oil which may suit your working method better...)
  • Distilled Turpentine

Artists medium recipes for glazing are numerous,... mine is pretty basic but I'll be definitely trying out some others when I can, and will post the results when I do!..

3. Dropper - helps keep better track and control of how much medium is put in the medium mixture.  (this came with an ink bottle, but I think you can buy them individually too... )


4. Brushes

  • Round synthetic brushes (around size 1) for painting, I used as many as 5 or 6 at times, using each for a certain hue or tone of a hue... keeps the colours clean without time spent on cleaning brushes between applications.
  • Usually 1 soft bright brush (sometimes 2 if the other got too dirty with an apposing colour) for dry brush scumbling, picking up access paint and smoothening. 
  • Fan Brush, soft sable (size 6)- used to lightly smoothen areas you've just finished painting. It's lighter touch hardly disturbs the wet paint other than to smoothen the surface.

Fan Brush

5. Soft lint free Cloth (for wiping brushes of excess paint)

6. Dust cover (any sort of boxed cover ( nothing should touch the paint surface) that will keep off all dust from the paint surface as the painting dries between sessions).. Leaning the painting upside down is not enough in my opinion, or maybe I just have a dusty studio :D. I did not use anything and greatly regret not taking more precautions. It's virtually impossible to lift off any dust that has settled and suck on the paint surface without hurting the paint film. Dust not only minutely effects how subsequent glaze layers disperse over the surface but can be clearly seen in certain light, ruining the paintings effect.

Starting To Paint

I will first outline the basic technique I found to work best throughout the glaze process, and of which I will probably hone in future works of my own. For a more in depth look, a brief summary of particular changes I made to the medium or in the manner in which I executed the technique will be provided after, according to their corresponding stages (included are close up pictures).

Just to rehash some important points made in my previous post about medium...

  • Add as little medium as possible to the paint.
  • Try to add as little extra linseed (or drying oil) as possible when increasing the fattiness of each successive layer. This is so drying time is not too extended when you finally arrive at the final glazes. Liquin cuts drying time in half but also yellows in time like Linseed. Check out how Liquin applies to the Fat over Lean principle here.
  • It's o.k for successive layers to be equally fatty just Never leaner...
All oil paintings will yellow and crack in time. This is because of the drying oils added as a binder in the manufacturing of the paints (linseed oil being the most favoured and prevalent vehicle since the 12th century).... These characteristics are well known, and can be controlled in various ways, such as adding as little extra medium as possible when painting, (of course sticking to the fat over lean principle) and using a rigid support like mine.

Only a tiny amount of paint was needed for each painting session.
Also shown, metal pan holding the prepared medium and brushes used.

Basic Method

Couch (click here for more details) : I applied Liquin Fine Detail (which I rubbed off as much as possible) then a normal couch with Refined Linseed Oil only on the area to be painted.

Technique :
How do you apply the paint?
The Dilution Glaze?
This method which is probably what most think of (I did) when first introduced to the concept of glazing is a method whereby the paint is diluted with a lot of medium to achieve a transparent tint of colour. This may be fine for Acrylics but many advise (and I concur) against this method when it comes to oil paint as too much medium (resin/oil vehicle) will yellow in time, ruining the artists intended effect. Instead add as little medium as possible while maintaining the fat over lean principle, manipulating and reducing the paint layer with dry brushes after to achieve the desired modulation of tonality and chroma strength... This method from what I gather is called the reduction glaze..

The Reduction Glaze!
After applying the paint thickly and evenly over the surface, one simply begins to reduce it's thickness, modulating the glaze according to the desired opacity and value, at times blending a gradation of one colour to another. I usually used a dry soft brush to lift off and give varying gradations to the thickness of the paint film (gradations of colour (intensity) and tone can be created depending on the glazes thickness). Further modifications can be done after you have the glaze spread to the right thickness by applying wet on wet a colour adjustment or even highlights, reducing the thickness again as before...
I used a Short Bright (no.12) synthetic brush to lightly go over the surface which gave the paint a more even finish. After completing an area thoroughly a Fan brush was lightly swept across the surface further smoothening (this was done as soon as the area was completed so that the paint had not dried too much) 

If you find that an area does not have the intensity you desire, yet further applications of the same glaze would make the value too dark, just apply an opaque modulated glaze of pure white to the area, then when dry continue applying the coloured glazes till the desired intensity and value is achieved. This helps create a larger range of value and 3 dimensionality which is more visually satisfying while still maintaining the high chromatic intensity desired.

Though not shown, somewhere around the 4th - 5th layer
I brightened the lightest parts with pure titanium white to make the fire within really pop.
After which I glazed over with the appropriate colours.

How do you choose the rights colours for each layer?...
In the beginning I wasn't so sure.. do I lay just pure burnt sienna and then Cad Red the next to achieve the redder sienna desired?,.. can I mix complementary colours together for a glaze or must I wait and split them in to separate glazes?... For me that would seem like an infinite amount of glazes to achieve the final exact hue and tone wanted in the final.

I'm sure each artist finds their own way but for me one way I found worked well was to mix my colours exactly how I would for a realistic alla prima painting... However this time one had to be aware of several other factors.
Each layer, being transparent are effected by the tones and hues of the layers underneath, thus trying to get the exact final hue and tone was a mixture of several factors....

  • Approximation of the overall painting process for each layer
    • Decide on the most prevalent colour of the mid tones in the area to be painted, and paint those first. (1 brush)
    • Then the lighter colours (mixed with white) are painted, the ratio of the mixed colour was adjusted as I went along. (1 brush)
    • The darkest tones were then painted in (usually clarifying edges). (1 brush)
    • At this point I painted in colours that were completely different that had yet to be done. (1 brush)
    • A soft dry clean brush was then used to gently tap the top of the painted area to either pick up excess paint or to soften edges.
    • Further adjustments was done by using the used brushes with closest hue needed , slightly adjusting with other hues to get the exact colours required.
    • Working and reworking the area till satisfied, while maintaining the desired transparency and smoothness.
  • Modulate the paint to the right transparency according to the colours interaction with the lower layers (remember the thicker the paint the darker the tone). 
  • Carefully adjust colours hue according to it's interaction with the colours underneath it on the canvas. What I found suited me was to straight away, from the very first layer, to try and achieve the exact hue I wished but still keep the layer transparent and smooth (unless your going for a particular textured effect)
  • Stop short only when any further application of paint would not be transparent enough to reveal the under layers of glaze,..
  • Thus each layer just builds up the intensity of colour, an interplay of interwoven colours reverberating throughout each layer of glaze to merge in to the exact hue/tone wanted for the final.

Glazing by Layer...
This is a more detailed look at the steps taken (including missteps) for those who may be interested. I've included close ups of two parts of the painting to help you see the visual progression clearly.

Couch : Applied Liquin first (rubbed off as much as possible) then Refined Linseed (rubbed off leaving a slight sheen) to the area to be painted. This was applied each time at the beginning of each painting session for all layers.

Initially I rubbed a mixture of Liquin and Linseed which was too tacky, then tried Linseed alone which was fine but did not have as smooth a feeling as when  Liquin was applied first.


1st Glaze

Medium : Ratio of = Linseed (1) : Liquin (2) : Turpentine (2) (hardly any was used as I applied the paint thickly pushing the paint around with the brush rather than with help from the medium, then reduced as explained above)

On the left is the Dead Layer before any glaze had been applied. The right is my initial timid glaze application. Soon I learnt how boldly one could apply the paint instead of the feeble tint I began with.

I was careful not to make the dead layer too defined as subsequent glazing would make edges too sharp. Even while glazing I was careful to define without making the edges too stark.
The sky at the bottom was applied more boldly.

Some points...
  • I tried to choose the simplest combination of colours for the most accurate mix. Colours used at this stage were Phthlo Blue + Burnt Sienna = Dark Background (Mixing white for mist and milky glazes), Titanium White + Winsor Yellow = Fire highlights (Burnt Sienna reddish parts)
  • All paints used for this layer were Alkyds.
  • I already started to use titanium white for places I needed more opaque white since it was an Alkyd oil paint (normal oil paint titanium white is usually not recommended for the lower layers because of it's slow drying rate)
  • Applied paint a little too thickly in parts (the underpainting was completely obscured) however I removed some of it the next day by rubbing off with turpentine with a cloth, making the layer more transparent.

Keep in mind that oil paint has a tendency to become more transparent with age as well, so under layers underneath will become more visible in time.

2nd Glaze

Medium : Same as 1st layer

Started to introduce Oil paint in to the mix : 
Raw Umber = perfect match for bone and  brownish parts. 
Yellow Ocher = used in varying degrees all over, good for darker yellow fire parts.
Lemon yellow = it's cool contrast makes it perfect for making the brightest yellows of the fire really pop.

Some Points...
  • At this point the the lights were looking a bit darker than I would have liked (not enough contrast) but this was rectified in subsequent layers.

3rd - 4th Glaze

Medium : Ratio of = Linseed (1) : Liquin (2 1/4) : Turpentine (2)

Some Points...
  • As mentioned earlier the lights (the bright fiery parts) were not as vividly bright as they should be so titanium white was painted over these parts. Sensitive to the underlying modulations of value and hue while still being transparent enough to reveal the lower layers, though still quite opaque in the brightest parts. 
  • Some areas required several layers of this whitening. Dried between layers and still kept a smooth finish.
  • Colour (a mix of lemon yellow (brightest parts), Winsor yellow and Burnt Sienna (in varying degrees of the darker yellows), and yellow ocher) was then glazed over when completely dry or at times blended in after while the white was still wet in the same painting session.
  • The mist in the background sky was not painted until the under layers had attained enough intensity. Then a mixture of Raw Umber, Yellow Ocher, a touch of Cad Red, Burnt Sienna and Mixing White were used like a Velatura to give a misty effect. This misty effect had to be done in several glazes to achieve the translucent opacity wanted.
Velatura - is a light opaque glaze done with thinner paint than a scumble. A somewhat milky translucent glaze.

You might be able to see some tiny details picked out in titanium white above that will be glazed over with colour in subsequent layers.

5th - 10th Glaze

Medium : Ratio of = Linseed (1) : Liquin (3) : Turpentine (2)

Using a mixture with titanium white for the horses skull gave a 3D quality to the painting as it helped give solidity to the subject and made it advance, which contrasted with the multiple layers of intense chromatic darks (a mixture of pure colour only with no white or opaque paint) that receded back in to the background.
Some Points...
  • Besides deepening the intensity of the colours (adjusting the mixtures according to their interactions with the lower layers for the ultimate accurate hue and tone wanted), I also continued the misty velatura glazes for the background sky, sometimes applying a thin glaze of pure colour without white for a slightly higher chromatic effect.
  • I started to use just a little more medium with my glazes.
Details are defined further

Completed Painting (after more than 15 glazes)

Medium for the Final Misty Velatura Glazes : 
Ratio of = Linseed (1 1/2) : Liquin (3) : Turpentine (2)
(all previous glazes were done with the same medium as stated in the 5th - 10th Glaze)

More highlighting and detailing was done all over, making the 3D effect pop even more.

Some Points...
  • The values were adjusted further, making some darks darker and lights lighter.
  • Further intensified the colours till there came a point that any further work was not improving the look of the painting. That is when I knew it was time to stop and finish up with the final misty haze in the foreground.
  • I used a mixture of titanium white (so I could apply the mist really thinly and softly while still having enough covering strength to complete the mist in a few glazes) with all colours but the blue in varying ratios for the mist.
  • The mist was completed in about 5 glazes

Only after the whole 'underpainting' had been finished did I start on the final glaze
 for the mist/steam (which was something between a scumble and a velatura) of the horses breath.

Oiling out - if you find an area looking somewhat duller than the rest of the painting you can try oiling it out (Thickened Linseed oil is the preferred choice usually, mixed with 50% Artists white spirit and rubbed sparingly over sunken areas). Some artists find this helpful in assessing the overall tonality of the painting accurately while painting.

The End

So that was it, by the time I was laying in the final glazes it was taking approximately a week for each glaze to dry between sessions.

Hopefully you've found these posts helpful and informative.
I've tried to give an honest depiction of my working method (fumbles and all) instead of the cookie cutter perfectly executed steps usually found in books. Hopefully it does not suffer in it's clarity. I often find it rather motivational and helpful to get a true idea of how other artists work, which isn't always so perfect while still creating amazing works of art!.. Makes me feel like I'm not so much a klutz after all... :)

Now all thats left is a final varnish in 6months time.. :)

Thanks for visiting! :)

p.s. Check out a work in progress done in this same technique on my website at 'on the easel...'.


  1. Thank you for teaching me more about painting technique than all those years sitting in art classes at school and college :-) bird of thyme

    1. Your most welcome!.. Thanks for your comment, it's nice to know it's been helpful... :)

  2. Thank you for a detailed technique. I am a self learner, did pick information from artists like you. I always had doubts about how much medium to use. Most of the mediums are not available in the part of the world I live. I previoully used 2 to 3 drops of damar pictur varnish to rectified turpentine on linseed oiled and wiped canvas, to my flemish layers. Some of them are 7 years old still looking fine. After going thru your site I am thinking of using stand oil and turpentine only. Since liquin is very expensive.

    1. Hi Anonymous, Thank you for you comment! I'm glad my posts could help. My rule of thumb is to use as little medium as possible while sticking to the fat over lean principle. Though stand oil with turp will take a lot longer to dry than if mixed with a bit of liquin, it is a good tested and true combination. Might I suggest starting the earlier layers with refined linseed oil and then progressing with the more concentrated stand oil for the successive layers? Of course using stand oil all the way through, would work fine too... :) All the best on your painting adventures!..

    2. Thank you for a speedy answer. My paint supplier is getting me liquin. I am eagerly waiting to try the combination you suggested. Drying is not much of a problem. since I live in tropical surroundings. The dead layer paint mix I use are a combination of lamp black, burnt umber, yellow ochre, touch of prussian blue, small amount of red ochre/venetian red(optional). In my latest epic painting I am trying your ghost rider combination though I added burnt umber to it. Because of my umber under layer.. More or less the same as my mixes. I decided to use liquin in my color layers, so that I can do more glazing. As you suggested I would try to use less medium. But the problem is while doing minute details on fabric and ornaments I need to use more medium. Thanks again for your prompt reply and suggestion.

    3. Your most welcome!.. All the best with your next amazing painting!.. :D


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