There are numerous acrylic mediums on the market and it can be difficult to keep up with all of them. In this post, I explain the top 8 uses for acrylic glazing medium. It includes a glazing color chart, and I answer some of the common questions related to using glazing medium. Click the following link to download the free acrylic glazing chart or click on the image above.
What does acrylic glazing medium do? Adding glazing medium to acrylic paint will have the following effects:
- Thins out the paint
- Increases transparency
- Maintains the vibrancy of the color
- Increases gloss
- Extends the paint
- Alters the drying times, depending on the brand
- Allows you to tint previously painted areas
- Helps with blending and creating soft edges
1 Thins Out Acrylic Paint
Heavy body acrylics are probably the most common form of acrylic paint. They are about as thick as oil paint which is great for creating texture in your paintings. However, there are times when you’ll want a thinner paint.
Acrylic glazing medium has a thin consistency that’s similar to honey. When you add the glazing medium to the heavy body acrylic, it will make the paint thinner. This makes it easier to brush the paint onto the canvas.
If you’re using fluid acrylics, then adding the glazing medium won’t affect the consistency of the paint very much.
On the other hand, if you’re using Liquitex acrylic ink, then the glazing medium will thicken the paint.
2 Increases Transparency Without Weakening the Paint Film
Glazes are thin applications of transparent paint. You probably already use glazing in your paintings. If you thin acrylic paint with water to make it more transparent, then you’re using glazing. So, if you can use water for glazing, then what is glazing medium for?
The problem with using water for glazing is that it dilutes the acrylic binder that makes the paint adhere to the canvas. If you add too much water to the paint, it can weaken the paint film. This can lead to adhesion problems.
Manufacturers generally recommend that you don’t dilute acrylic paint with more than 25-30% water by volume. There are some circumstances where you can exceed this amount, such as when you’re painting with acrylics on watercolor paper. The pigment will settle into the fibers of the paper and this helps with adhesion.
You can add as much acrylic glazing medium to your paint because it’s consists primarily of acrylic binder. This is useful for when you want to create very subtle and transparent glazes. To create very subtle glazes, you can paint with glazing medium that contains a very small amount of color. For instance, the glaze of Carbon Black is a light gray because it’s mostly glazing medium with a tiny amount of black.
3 Lighten Colors While Maintaining the Vibrancy
Glazing is a way to lighten a color while still maintaining the saturation. The brilliant colors that you can achieve with glazing are often described as “jewel like.” They have a vibrancy to them that you can’t achieve by adding white.
Adding white to the purple makes it more of a pastel color. The sample with the glazing medium at the top of the photograph is more vibrant. This effect is more obvious in person than it is in the photograph.
Watercolor paintings consist almost entirely of glazes which is why they have such brilliant colors.
I often use acrylics like watercolors. If you want your acrylic paints to flow like watercolors, then you want them to be almost as thin as water. Golden makes a very thin High Flow Acrylics that work well for this technique. Here’s a link to a 10 color set of transparent High flow Acrylics on Amazon.
It’s best to use thin acrylic paint so that you don’t have to add too much water to the paint. I share my acrylic watercolor techniques in my post How to Make Acrylics Look Like Watercolor. You’ll also want to read my post How to Make Acrylics More Vibrant.
4. Increases Gloss
Glazing medium dries to a glossy surface. So when you add it to acrylic paint, it increase the glossiness of the paint.
You may think that acrylic paint is already glossy, but different brands have different levels of sheen.
Liquitex Basics dry to a satin surface, as do their professional lines of acrylics. Their line of acrylic gouache dries with a very matte surface. Click on the following link to read my full review of Liquitex Acrylic Gouache, it includes a video. I also have a review of Liquitex Basics.
Adding glazing medium to any of the Liquitex paints should make them glossier.
The sheen of Golden acrylics vary depending upon the pigment. Some of the colors dry to a satin sheen while others are glossy. They made this decision so they could offer a line of paints that don’t contain any fillers. You can read more about this on Golden’s technical page on Heavy Body Acrylics. To summarize, once you add fillers you can’t remove them. They leave them out so that it doesn’t alter the clarity of the pigments.
5. Extends the Paint
You can use glazing medium, or any other acrylic medium, to extend your paint. While it’s true that adding mediums to your paints will make them more transparent, you have to add quite a bit to make them truly transparent.
Adding small amounts of glazing medium to your paint will allow you to get more coverage out of it. This will save you money since professional paints are rather expensive. In my post, 17 Tips for Saving Money on Art Supplies, I crunch the numbers and the results are astounding. The most expensive colors can cost up to $960 per gallon.
So, extending your colors with glazing medium is an easy way save money on art supplies.
6. Alters the Drying Times, Depending on the Brand
Different brands of glazing medium have slightly different characteristics. It’s important to choose the one that works best with your techniques. If you choose a glazing medium that contains retarder and you like to paint quickly, then you’re working against the properties of your materials.
Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid Dries Slower
According to Golden, their acrylic glazing liquid contains acrylic polymers, retarder and water (Source). They also add acrylic flow release to help with blending and to improve how the paint flows.
They claim that adding the glazing medium to your paint can double the drying times. This will give you more time for blending. According to their MSDS sheets, the retarder they use is propylene glycol (Source). They also add leveling agents to make the paint easier to brush on. It also helps the paint to dry to a smooth surface.
Liquitex Glazing Medium Dries Faster
A customer service representative told me that their glazing medium is fast drying and that it dries faster than their gloss medium. This will allow you to quickly apply numerous glazes to a painting without having to wait too long for it to dry.
If you prefer more working time, you can add some of their slow dry blending medium to help increase the working time.
7. Glazing Allows You to Tint Previously Painted Areas
Painting strictly with opaque colors can be quite challenging because every brushstroke covers over the previous layer. The advantage of using transparent glazes is that you can alter the color of an existing part of your painting without covering it up.
The chart at the top of this post contains transparent glazes on top of stripes of opaque color. The glazes alter the color beneath it. Most of the glazes are rather transparent, but you can use less glazing medium to have a stronger effect. For example, the second yellow from the bottom of the chart is more vibrant that the yellow beneath it.
The yellow glaze makes the two blues shift more towards green. This is a very useful trick to have in your arsenal of acrylic painting techniques.
For example, if you’re working on a landscape painting and you want the area of the sky near the horizon to contain magenta, you can easily glaze over it with a transparent magenta glaze. This is much easier than having to repaint the entire area again with opaque colors.
It’s important to wait for the previous layers to dry before applying glazes over the top of it. If the previous layer isn’t totally dry, it may lift when you paint over it. The time that it takes for acrylic paint to dry varies depending upon the weather, the brand of the paint, and other factors. I discuss this in at length in my post How Long Does It Take for Acrylic Paint to Dry.
You can use glazing to your advantage when you paint with acrylics. Since, acrylics dry quickly, you can create numerous glazes in the same painting. Glazing is much quicker with acrylics than with any other medium.
8 Blending With Glazing Medium
Since it’s difficult to create soft edges and smooth blending with acrylics, many artists use glazing to create these effects. You can use these transparent layers to build up gradients and complex textures that are difficult to paint with opaque paints.
In my post, 9 Acrylic Blending Techniques, I use glazing medium to create a gradient.
I also used glazing in my still life painting of the wood blocks. I began the painting by painting by working with mostly opaque colors. Some of the final touches were put in with transparent glazes. For example, I used glazing to create the soft edges on the white highlight on the sphere. I started with opaque white and then mixed in more medium to make it more transparent.
Creating smooth gradients and soft edges with acrylics is normally difficult, but glazing will help you to create these effects without a problem.
Some Tips for Glazing With Acrylics
Use Transparent Colors
Some pigments are more transparent than others. If you want to create glazes that are as transparent as possible, then you should select colors that are transparent. The color charts from the manufacturers will help you to identify which colors are transparent. Some brands even list this information on the tube.
The modern organic pigments are the most transparent. Some examples of modern pigments include Pthalo Blue, Phthalo Green, Quinacridone Magenta, and Hansa Yellow Medium. Here’s my brief explanation of the difference between organic and non oraganic pigments.
If you add enough glazing medium to the more opaque colors, they will eventually become somewhat transparent too.
The Recommended Ratio of Glazing Medium to Paint
Unfortunately, there’s no ratio that I can give you for how much glazing medium you need to add to a color to achieve a specific transparency. That’s because the tinting strength of each color varies.
Here’s my brief definition of tinting strength. Basically, every color varies in its ability to tint a color mixture. Some colors are so strong that a small amount will overpower a color mixture.
My post about the differences between mars black and ivory black has a visual demonstration of tinting strength.
Acrylics Dry Darker
Most acrylic mediums are milky when they’re wet, but dry totally clear. When you add the medium to the acrylic paint, it will lighten the color slightly. However, this lightening effect is temporary because the medium will clarify as it dries. This is something that you have to account for when mixing glazes. It’s subtle, so you may not notice it very much.
Regular acrylic paints also dry darker, even if you don’t add medium to them. I wrote an entire post about why acrylics dry darker if you’re interested in reading more about this.
What’s the Difference Between Gloss Medium and Glazing Medium?
Glazing medium and gloss medium are almost identical except for some additives such as retarder and leveling agents. This varies by the brand. For example, Golden adds retarder to their glazing medium so that it will dry slower and allow more time for blending.
Leveling agents makes it easier to brush onto the canvas and helps it dry to a smooth surface.
Liquitex told me that their glazing medium is thinner than the gloss medium. They also said that it will dry faster than regular glazing medium.
What’s a Good Substitute for Acrylic Glazing Medium?
Almost any acrylic medium can be used for glazing. Acrylic gloss medium is probably the closest substitute for glazing medium. If you want a matte surface, then you can use acrylic matte medium.
Most of these acrylic mediums have a fluid consistency. For thicker glazes you can try using an acrylic gel.