View Full Version : Layering "look"

04-24-2004, 02:39 PM
There is a technique with layering acrylics - or maybe a couple techniques - that leads to a kind of "distressed" look. Unfortunately, I can't describe it that well, and I didn't find many examples in acrylic. Here are some links to the "look" I'm talking about, although most were done in oil.


What I like is the layers, but not glazes over the entire thing. There is a kind of "play" between the layers for me, and a feeling of time.

If anyone can give me examples in acrylic or suggestions about how to achieve that look (or even better, ideas about how to experiment with it), I'd greatly appreciate it. Thanks.

Richard Saylor
04-24-2004, 08:41 PM
Give this a try. Brush on the first layer and let it dry thoroughly. For the glaze, apply unthinned paint and scrape it off with a palette knife until the layer underneath shows through to the extent which you desire. This can be repeated over and over.

04-25-2004, 05:58 AM
Some of these look to me (and none of them say they are done in acrylics, by the way) like a combination of techniques. Glazing some bits (you don't usually glaze an entire paintings, just areas), scumbling other bits, and probably some thick painting and scraping away. Doing these things with acrylics takes more experimentation so you can figure out the best mediums to use for both the effect and the open time you need with the paint. My advice would be to get a basic techniques book like the 'Encyclopedia of Acrylic Techniques' - lots of pictures to demonstration. For what it's worth the oils version of that book is essentially the same if you find that instead. :)


04-25-2004, 07:28 PM
hi everybody,this is my first question on here and it may seem quite basic,but here goes,when you talk about glazing what exactly do you use ,do you use thinned paint, if so to what extent do you thin it and how is it applied
kind regards
ps great site

Richard Saylor
04-25-2004, 08:05 PM
when you talk about glazing what exactly do you use ,do you use thinned paint, if so to what extent do you thin it and how is it applied

The answer to that question depends on whom you ask.

Classically, a glaze is the application of a darker, transparent color over a lighter underpainting. (However, see final paragraph below.) It may be highly diluted, like a watercolor wash, but not necessarily. However, it is usually applied thinly. Extremely thin applications are possible with a palette knife or a rag, regardless of the viscosity of the paint. If you dilute the paint, the amount depends on the effect desired. Dilute it a lot, and the glaze becomes very transparent, but the color will be weak. The lustre of this kind of glaze comes from light reflecting from the underpainting through the glaze layer.

A scumble is usually thought of as a kind of dry brush application. The paint is scrubbed over the underpainting, but this is not the only way. Traditionally, a scumble is the application of a lighter, opaque color over a darker underpainting in such a way that the underpainting shows through. This can be done by dry brush scrubbing, scraping with a knife, or diluting the opaque color until it becomes translucent. The effect of a scumble is to veil the underpainting, as if enveloped in a haze or otherwise obscured by atmospheric conditions.

These are the basic ideas, and they are certainly subject to modification depending on the effect desired. I don't believe in being too dogmatic and narrow minded about these techniques. My ideas are based mostly on Frederic Taubes' _The Mastery of Oil Painting_.

Richard Saylor
04-26-2004, 12:41 AM
do you use thinned paint, if so to what extent do you thin it and how is it applied
Most people probably thin the paint and apply it with a soft brush. With oils, you generally thin the paint enough so that no brush strokes are visible. With acrylics, there are gel mediums which allow you to paint thick glazes, but I think a thin layer is more effective.

04-26-2004, 07:14 PM
thanks very much for the reply,it is most helpful,i shall start to put it to good use

04-27-2004, 11:41 AM
I typically use a small amount of paint with a glazing or fluid medium. Though I do know artists who say technically glazing is the process of applying paint and then removing it until only a thin transparent layer is left. :) Either way works, with acrylics the latter is difficult unless you're using a retarder or medium that includes retarder. (A fluid medium doesn't usually increase open time.)


Richard Saylor
04-28-2004, 01:44 PM
I typically use a small amount of paint with a glazing or fluid medium.
So do I.

I'm just wondering how to get a distressed look. I'm thinking the glaze should be uneven and maybe streaky or spotty (exactly what one generally wishes to avoid, :) ). I can get a pretty 'bad' glaze with the knife if I try hard enough (actually I don't need to try too hard :D ). Maybe applying the glaze with a 'dry brush' technique, using a medium which dilutes the paint without thinning it too much?

04-28-2004, 06:42 PM
hi timelady,i have to order some materials from a mail order company this week so i'll get some glazing medium as i can't seem to get it locally,and will give it a try
many thanks welshman

05-05-2004, 04:26 PM
One way to get various distressed looks on canvas or watercolor paper with acrylic is to paint one layer, let it dry. Then paint another layer and place either WAX Paper OR plastic wrap (both kitchen products) into the paint and let it dry there (or partially dry -play and see which you like best- or use both ways) Then you peel the wrap off and get loads of texture. i use this method a lot.

I do use mostly liquid acrylics (Golden or tube acrylics that I have mixed with water and acrylic glazing liquid -roughly equal parts)

HRH Goldie
05-06-2004, 06:06 AM
I have attached a piece of work that I have just completed. Although it isn't abstract I have used the techniques you have been asking about after following a couple of WIPs.
I watered the paint down using purely water on its own and painstakingly built up the layers. I have found that the lighter colours eg the blues work best in this technique when using a higher quality acrylic as it has more pigment in it than the cheaper ones. I got away with using 'student quality' for the darker tones eg burnt umber as they are intense anyway.
I took it to my art class and the tutor thought initially that it had been done in oil so I chalk this one up as a success. I haven't varnished it but I stuck it in a frame so you could see the result. It is painted on sheet canvas.
Hope this helps