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Don't Get Glazed By Glazing

The colors found in the Atelier Interactive Professional Artists’ Acrylics and Archival Oils paint lines are classified as opaque, semi-transparent or transparent. You may wonder just what opaque, semi-transparent or transparent mean, and why should I care? It’s important to understand what these characteristics of the color are, because how opaque or transparent a color is plays a big part in getting certain effects. And because Atelier Interactive and Archival Oils paints offer more paint in the tube than leading national acrylic or oil brands, you have more paint with which to explore new techniques.

What we see as color, are actually different wavelengths of light. Pigments are what give paint its color, and they absorb and reflect different wavelengths at varying degrees. Pigments also can be varying degrees of opacity. In simplest terms, an opaque color is one that you cannot see through, a transparent color is one that you can see through, and a semi-transparent color is one that you can sort of see through. Chroma makes it easy to tell if a color is classified as opaque, semi-transparent or opaque – just look at the tube, a color chart or the jar! If you see a circle that is filled in, it is opaque. Half and half means it is semi-transparent, and an open circle means – you guessed it! – transparent.

These characteristics might not make themselves immediately apparent if you paint in an impasto, heavy way. For example, this Archival Oils Pthalo Blue is labeled “transparent. But when I apply it at full strength, with just a bit of lean medium to help the paint flow, it still looks pretty dark on this swatch of Arylamide Yellow Light. But if I add a bit more medium, and brush it out a bit – wow. The undertone clearly shows how beautifully transparent this color is. Instead of physically mixing this Pthalo Blue with Arylamide Yellow Light to create green, this transparent color on top optically mixes with the underlying yellow to create green.

As you can see, when you glaze, scumble or apply layers of colors on top of one another, knowing the inherit transparency of a color will help you make good painting choices. Let’s say I want to glaze. In this example, I again have a swatch of Arylamide Yellow Light, but this one has been painted with Atelier Interactive. I have three colors here – Pthalo Blue (transparent), French Ultramarine Blue (semi-transparent), and Pacific Blue (opaque). I’m going to mix up 3 glazes using the Clear Painting Medium, in a ratio of about 90% medium to 10% paint, and then apply each.

See the difference? The Pthalo Blue, the transparent paint, made a great glaze. The French Ultramarine Blue glaze is semi-transparent, but the Pacific Blue is not that good. It covers too much of my underlying color.

However, if I wanted to create an underpainting, cover up part of my painting, or even my surface, then choosing to use an opaque color like Pacific Blue would be a good choice. If I chose a transparent color, than I would have to use a lot of it to get good opacity. This is particularly true for lighter colors, such as yellow.

Personally, I like to have a mix of opaque, semi-transparent and transparent colors on my palette, because it provides me with a range of options. Some of my standard colors include:

Titanium White (opaque)

Cadmium Yellow Light (opaque)

Cadmium Yellow Medium (opaque)

Crimson (semi-transparent)

Quinacridone Magenta (transparent)

Cobalt Blue (semi-transparent)

Cerulean Blue (semi-transparent)

Dioxazine Purple (transparent)

So next time you’re ready to use some Archival Oils or Atelier Interactive, take the time to look at the tube – you may be surprised by what you learn!

There are (4) Comments, Comments are now closed for this discussion?
  1. comment_1_13023

    Penny commented on February 12, 2011, at 6:08 pm.

    Hi Jennifer,

    I enjoy your YouTube segments - I can read instructions but I find I only really understand them when I see them in action so I really appreciate all the Videos Chroma offers. May I put a request in for Chroma to start producing some high quality DVDs from thier artists in interactive and archival - like yourself, Mikel Wintermantel and Castelli Castor - seeing a full (1 hour or more) demonstration in high quality would be great and I'd be happy to spend money on that, especially as I live in a remote area of Australia and can't access tutorials from artists proficient in these paints readily.

    What I'm interested in is using Archival Oils to Glaze over Interactive Acrylics - I'm thinking this would be a nice way to get that final layer to enhance the colours underneath and to give me blends that only oils can offer.

    I have a few questions:

    1. Do I need to wait until the Acrylic has cured and then do I need to apply an isolation coat (2 layers of binding medium) and if so do I need to wait till the Binding Medium cures as well

    2. What Archival Mediums would you recommend for glazing over interactive

    3. If my oil glaze drys with an uneven finish - what can I layer on top to even it out as I've read I can't varnish for 6-9 months - If I want to put my painting in an exhibition with an even sheen do I have to wait till I can varnish it?

    I'm afraid I know very little about oils - I want slow blending but I don't want to wait for weeks to layer

    After the 6-9 month period do you wipe the painting down before you varnish it and if so what with.

    Sorry I've asked a dozen questions. Hope you can help.

    Thanks so much, Penny

  2. comment_2_13023

    Jim Cobb commented on February 15, 2011, at 12:01 pm.

    Hi Penny,

    In Australia we have available a DVD by a British artist, Mitch Waite. This DVD covers the basics of blending and use of the water spray with Atelier Interactive plus a number of skills to assist with painting. If you post us $30 that would cover the DVD plus postage and handling. See the "Contact us" tab and address it to Marketing.

    Mitch Waite has his own tutorials now using Atelier Interactive. This link will take you to more information on our site about them

    Another DVD has been made by an Aussie artist from South Australia called Richard Rogers. We have a preview available on our website News section here

    Before you glaze over Atelier Interactive paints wait until your work is touch dry then paint an isolation coat of Fast Medium Fixer on top. ( Be careful of any thicker paint as this must be solid as well.) This medium is very fast drying. When this is dry you can glaze with oils. Binder medium will also work but remember it is glossy and sticky.

    A great oils medium for glazing is Flow Gel. It brushes out thin and flat but at rest is like a solid, so won't run in an uncontrolled manner down your painting if you are working vertically. You can work back into it and it shouldn't dry with an uneven finish. It is also fast drying so you should be able to layer within a day or two.

    If you want a more liquid glaze try Lean Medium, but this will be very runny on the vertical.

    We hope it all goes well.

  3. comment_3_13023

    lukifer commented on April 10, 2011, at 1:30 am.


    I'm not new to the interactive range, but i am new to a glazing/thinning medium i just bought. Its from atelier but it doesnt have interactive written on it anywhere. Anyhow I have just had a pretty annoying problem with it. I am starting a painting, used this emdium to spread my initial coats out. It has been 24 hours since i first put it on so i thought it would be safe to do a light yellow glaze over this blue sky. But i noticed with only very little pressure the paint is peeling off and exposing the white primer underneath, ouch... I hope someone can help me out with this.

    Thanks very much in advance


  4. comment_4_13023

    Jennifer commented on April 13, 2011, at 3:48 am.

    Hi Luke!

    Could you tell me the exact name of the medium you are using? This will help me understand what is happening better.

    Glazing mediums generally add more open time to paint, and if you are using a medium like this to spread out Interactive, it is going to take longer for it to set up to a point to glaze safely on top. Your surface and environmental conditions are big factors too. If you are in a cool environment, Interactive will become touch dry but remain very easy to reopen.

    If you used a glazing medium with your initial layers, then it might not be adhereing to your surface properly. I would use a hair dryer to set my underlayer better, and then apply 1-2 coats of Fast Meidum Fixer or Binder Medium on top to isolate the layer. This should help!