Glazing and Drybrush make a powerful combination

watercolor 11" x 15" (27.94 x 38.10cm)


watercolor 11″ x 15″ (27.94 x 38.10cm)

I get a lot of comments about glazing techniques in watercolor.  From time to time I run across people who are confused or don’t really understand that glazing isn’t a straitjacket.  You don’t have to commit yourself to layers and layers of tedious drudge work. You can, if that is what you think your concept needs.  However, there is no law somewhere that says you have to do it a certain way.  There is ONE rule.  It is very simple, MAKE SURE the previous wash is dry before you apply another layer.  Even that rule has flexibility.  You can charge another color into a wet passage if you desire a particular effect.  As a general rule, however, make sure the paper is dry.  In that way you can be assured of a clean sparkling wash.

Let the white paper work for you

In this little watercolor I made use of the pure white paper to satisfy some highlight areas. My subject was in strong sunlight and with her fair skin the reserving of the white paper was a natural solution.   The execution was straight forward using a limited range of colors.

Paper : 140 lb. cold press …D’Arches

Paints: M. Graham Indian Yellow,  Winsor Blue and Winsor Red

This painting was done before I discovered the virtue of Perylene Maroon.  If I were painting it today I might find myself using it in conjunction with or instead of Winsor Red.  As it stands however,  I modified the red with blue in order to achieve the maroon effect.


The actual painting was executed fairly rapidly.  A pale under wash of Indian Yellow was applied to the shadow side of the nose and cheek with the strongest mixture in the hair. Since I wanted the effect of sunlight to dominate the painting I made sure that key areas of light were left in the form of shapes. As you look at the piece you should be able to see the shapes, not only in the face but in the hair.

In my opinion it is the linkage between those shapes that help form the structure of the image and contribute to the idea that sunlight is beaming down, burning out the color.  We see these effects every sunny day. Why not attempt to capture the effect?

The washes in the face are simple, just an under layer of Indian Yellow followed by a wash of Winsor Red and blue.


The skin is fair and smooth and soft washes help to convey that feeling. The hair is silky and dry brush  helps to create the sense of hair. The yellow under wash helps to provide warmth and light in key areas of highlight.  If you study the hair closely you should be able to see the areas on the crown of the head   where blue helps to convey a sense of reflected light. The dry brushing started at the top of the head and follows a natural path to the tips of the hair. If you are not familiar with dry brush think of it as more paint than moisture in your brush. Practice, at first, on scrap paper.  Squeeze out the excess water from your brush, then swirl the brush  onto your palette. With a little practice you will get the hang of it.


It is easy to get caught up in detail and often lose the sense of the subject. Hopefully, the hair is believable as you view it. However, it may not necessarily be a perfect rendition of the actual hair.  The color is very close, almost perfect in fact. However, the arrangement of the hair has been ordered or simplified into major shapes so that the effect is achieved. One could say that a symbol has been created. Very often this is what we do in the quest to convey a concept.

Closing Comment

I’ve been painting for a lot of years and I have used a lot of different brands of materials. Many are still old favorites.  Every once and a while something special comes along.  In the area of brushes I have spent a LOT of money and still have brushes I purchased over 30 years ago! I really never thought I would ever find a brush that would surpass my Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky sables.  Well,  I still love my Winsor  & Newton brushes but Mary Whyte has developed a brush that is really spectacular.  You have to use it to believe it. It has a longer handle and a different balance. It carries more water but will snap down to a needle point in an instant. You can buy it at ArtExpress.  I bought one and I am delighted that I did.

One very important point; I have no monetary interest in promoting Mary’s brushes, book or videos. However, if you have not seen her work, treat yourself to some magnificent watercolors.

You can find more tutorials of Don Rankin’s work  in Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I, by Dr. Don Rankin  at

About masteringglazingtechniquesinwatercolor

Watercolor painter and author of several watercolor books on painting technique. Recent inductee/recipient of the Marquis Life Time Achievers Award.

Posted on September 4, 2012, in Don Rankin watercolors, Uncategorized, watercolor glazing techniques, Watercolor painting and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Hi Don,

    Thanks for the email with a link to this site. I’m your newest subscriber.


  2. Welcome aboard Vicki. I usually try to visit the site more often but I am currently working on a large report with a short deadline. hopefully, I’ll have anew post very soon.

  3. Hi Don this is some beautiful work, I love the control you have

  4. Arthur Art-Faux Designs

    Hi Don I love the control you have, some beautiful work and can appreciate the instructional part, Great well written content just what Google looks for these days, see ya at the top.

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