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Painting with Transparent Colors

Painting with transparent colors, whether you are painting with water colors, oil, or acrylics, is a means of building up the color on your canvas in layers, rather than mixing colors on a palette. Painting with transparent colors allows you to see through the color to the layer beneath; you can mix your colors by layering colors one atop of another, you can build up the opacity of a color, and you can use the paint's transparent properties as part of your painting.

Glazes Create Depth
Painting with transparent color, also called glazes, is a fantastic way to create real depth in your composition. Layering the colors is up to you; thinner transparent colors allow more of the under layers to show through, and more opaque layers block out more of the layers beneath: the level of transparency is up to you. Each layer will change the color of the layers beneath, so this is worthy of experimentation.

Patience is a Virtue
When you are layering with glazes, you must learn to be patient. Each layer must dry thoroughly before the next layer is applied. Glaze colors mix optically, rather than chemically, to create the color tones and hues. This means that our eyes see the mixed color, rather than the paint itself combining to create the new color. Remember to let each layer dry completely before you apply the next.

Thin, Single Pigment Layers are Best
Glazes work best when applied in a thin, fluid layer. Your color layers will reproduce much more nicely if you use single pigment transparent paints; wet mixing two paints doesn't always give you the glazed results you might be going for, so work with single pigment glazes that dry thoroughly between layers.