How to Glaze an Oil Portrait for Beginners Course

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£79.99 GBP / $99.92 USD / 94 EURO / $134 CAD / $135 AUS

(exchange rates may vary slightly)

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Do you know your Couche from your Scumble?

If you’re new to oil painting you might have heard about the magical effects of ‘glazing’ and how using secret Old Master recipes could take your paintings to new heights. You find yourself nodding along but inside thinking, ‘What is everyone talking about? What even is a ‘glaze recipe’?

Maybe you’ve overheard someone mention a ‘Scumble’ or read about a ‘Velatura’. What gives with all these Italian phrases! and what difference do they actually make?

Glazing can seem like the missing link to your portrait paintings.

And sometimes, it is.

Thin layers of Mistakes

Safe in the privacy of your studio, you decide to have a little experiment.

This glazing thing can’t be that hard, it’s just like painting a watercolour … isn’t it?

Thin colours over opaque.

This is going to be it, this is going to capture those lovely translucent skin tones and as the colours go on, you’re feeling a bit like Rembrandt.


This doesn’t look right, I hope I’m doing it right.

You step back to see your results.


It looks like a stained black and white photograph. The skin tones look flat, not translucent at all, and come to think of it the portrait itself doesn’t look three-dimensional. Where did it go wrong?

Don’t fret, you’re not alone. This is exactly how my first foray into oil glazing started too!

Discovering a successful method has taken me to the Ateliers in Florence, Italy, I’ve searched through long forgotten manuscripts in libraries and distilled the complicated art of glazing into a simple, repeatable process.

Thinking through the layers of transparency, building up of the painting structure and keeping the freshness to the finished painting is down to layers of clear sparkling jewel-like transparent final colour glazes and semi-transparent veils of paint called Velatura.

A velatura is a thin layer of opaque paint, spread out so it creates a milky or foggy haze that obscures some of what’s beneath it, but not all. It’s like a glaze, but created using an opaque or semi-opaque pigment rather than a transparent one.

What does ‘How to Glaze an Oil Portrait for Beginners’ course cover?

We study 2 different portraits using 2 different colour palettes based in the studio working on reference images.

Each portrait tutorial looks at a different complexion and builds progressively so by the end of this course, you’ll be creating realistic luminous portraits and have a really great understanding of how to utilise glazing in your own portrait practice.

The course is split into 18 downloadable video lessons, with each lesson made up of separate chapters that follow on sequentially.

I’ve taken care to film everything from my perspective so I could ensure you can see exactly what I’m doing as we go through the entire portrait process in real time giving nearly 6 hours of video instruction, alongside full-colour photographs and drawing guides.

Imogen – First Glazing Portrait

glazing oil portraits

Lesson 1 – Shadow Lines, Features & Establishing the Drawing

Materials – A visual introduction to paints, brushes & mediums.
A Tonal Ground – Mixing a muted green using acrylics.
Drawing Out – 3B pencil & compressed paper to draw out the basic shadow lines and features with pencil and smoking in the shadow line with a paper stump.
Feature Details – Using an acrylic marker to highlight the ‘darkest darks’ around the eyes and lips.

glazing over underpainting

Lesson 2 – The Underpainting

Mixing Mediums & Recipes – How to mix ratios of medium to build up the layers of the painting to keep it technically sound and allow the paint layers to adhere to each other and cure over time.
Blocking In – Using Burnt Umber, I use alkyd (quick drying) oils for this layer so you can work on the next layer quicker than using traditional oils.

grisaille before glazing

Lesson 3 – Grisaille

Mixing Greys – Using a black & white we mix a tonal string for the underpainting.
Planes of the Face – Painting the structure in a geometric mosaic of grey tones. This is where the oils really come into their own, the extra drying time compared with acrylics gives us the luxury to apply our grey tones clean and sharp safe in the knowledge we will still have the working time to blend the edges.

glazing oil painting demonstration

Lesson 4 – Tuning your Eye to Colour

Softening the Edges – Working with a soft filbert brush to model the form.

fleshtones in portraits

Lesson 5 – Mixing Skin Tones

Limited palette – Introducing a limited colour palette, mixed with the Ivory Black and Titanium White to create a great range of skin tones.

Oil Glazing Techniques

Lesson 6 – First Painting

Adding Warmth to the Shadows – Introducing a warmer brown into the shadows to get that balance between warm and cools.
Adding a Base Skin Tone – Once our colours are mixed we can move onto our next medium and start to look for the first base layer of the flesh tone.

How to Glaze oil Painting

Lesson 7 – First Painting

Building up the Colours – We start to add blushes of colour to the lips and cheek and increase the colour intensity.
Colour Contrast in the Background – Using thicker paint mixes, we can push the complementary colour scheme in the painting by enhancing the colours in the background. Once this is established it will affect our perception of the skin tones.

Couche in Oil PaintingLesson 8 – Second Painting

Finishing Glazes – Working with the same limited palette we can explore how much you can get out of one colour by using it thickly or transparently.
Laying Down a Couche – We now work on top of a wet medium to apply the final glazes, this method is called ‘laying down a couche’.

Grace – Second Glaze Portrait

How to thin oil paint for glazing

Lesson 1 – Drawing Out & Blocking In

Materials – A visual introduction to paints, brushes & mediums.
A Tonal Ground – Mixing a cool grey tonal ground with acrylics.
Drawing Out – 3B pencil & compressed paper, drawing out the basic shadow lines and features with pencil and smoking in the shadow line with a paper stump.
Feature Details – Using an acrylic marker to draw in the features of the portrait.
The Underpainting – Blocking in the shadow tone using Raw Umber.

Oil Paint glazing tutorial

Lesson 2 – Grisaille

Using Raw Umber – For the tonal underpainting, I use an alkyd white oil and an alkyd Raw Umber oil which means they’re both fast drying. The cool green/grey tones of the Raw Umber is a colour halfway between a Verdaccio (tones of green) and a Grisaille (tones of grey) to compliment the orange/pink complexion of Grace.
Planes of the Face – Painting the structure in a geometric mosaic to add the form to the portrait.
Softening the Edges – Softening the wet oil paint to give us a solid base for the glazes.

transparent glazing skin tones

Lesson 3 – Mixing Skin Tones

We use a different skin tone palette for this painting using a warm brown and a cool purple.

oil glaze recipe

Lesson 4 – First Painting

Adding a Base Skin Tone – We blush on the base layer using cool and warm skin tones.
Extending the Palette – Once the base is painted in we can then push the range of the palette to incorporate the stronger tones from the hair.

glazing techniques for oil painting

Lesson 5 – First Painting

Adding Warmth – We build up the warmth on the shade side of the face and harmonise the colours from the skin tones and the hair by warming the flesh tones.

glazing oil painting tutorial

Lesson 6 – Second Painting

Now we’ve established the cools and warms to the muted underlayer of the face, we can add in pink to the cheeks and lips.

oil paint glazing recipe

Lesson 7 – Glazing

Transparent – With Grace’s complexion we have the luxury to really push the different transparent pigments we can use, working with translucent veils we can add a glow of blue to the eyes, cool greens into the shadows and purples around the face.

glazing and scumbling

Lesson 8 – Final Glazes

For the final stages, we go back to the start, reassessing the drawing, adding areas of thicker paint and scumbling the lights to bring the painting to a finish.

How is the Course Delivered?

  • 18 Downloadable Step-by-Step Video Lessons – over 6 hours of video instruction that once downloaded – you have anytime, anywhere access.
  • A ‘Getting Started & Materials List PDF‘ – which includes your materials list.
  • JPEG reference images used throughout the course, Including the photo reference I demo with, black and white copies for the Grisaille and a copy of my pencil sketch for the line drawing ( 7 separate images per portrait to guide you through each stage)

Requirements for the Course

  • A broadband internet connection – the files sizes for the video lessons are quite large (5GB in total) so can take a while to initially download (depending on your internet speed.) Once downloaded, they are yours to keep forever, watch without buffering or take to the forest and watch away from an internet connection!
  • Enough free space on your computer or iPad – the video files are quite large (5GB in total) You can download the files to a separate USB stick.
  • A Colour Printer – to print out the reference images.
  • Glossy Photo Printer Paper – I use Epson Photo Glossy.
  • 30 mins – 2hr per session, You’ll need to be able to dedicate between 30 minutes to 2 hrs for each section, for example, the blocking in might take 10 minutes to paint but 12 hrs to dry.
  • Patience and a week of contemplation – although some of the stages are very quick to complete, you then need to leave that layer to dry before applying the next layer. We work the early stages with quick drying oils (called Alykds) so the process is quicker than using traditional oils for the entire process.
  • Some experience of drawing portraits – the biggest issues you’ll have if you’re new to painting portraits will be the drawing of the portraits. You can work from my line drawing to help out as a guide but as the painting progresses and the line drawing has been painted over, you have to rely on your observation skills for making corrections. Tweaking and changing your painting is all part of the process.
  • A basic knowledge of colour mixing – we work extensively with mixes for accurate skin tones but the course doesn’t cover basic principles of colour mixing.
  • A love of multilayered biscuits! imagine pink wafers, mille-feuille, if you think in layers you’ll achieve some great results!

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.”
Vincent Van Gogh, Artist

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is there a time limit to the course? how many times can I watch it?

The course is delivered by downloadable video links, that once downloaded are yours to keep forever. You can watch them as many times as you like. If you change computer in the future just drop me an email and I’ll send you some fresh links through.

I paint with Acrylics, can this course be applied to Acrylics?

Mmm, it’s a tricky one. In theory, yes.
Although in practice, I wouldn’t recommend this particular course with acrylics.
It’s all about a balance between having enough time to soften and blend the modelling of the face without feeling like your glazing layers are taking weeks and weeks to complete.
Due to the speed of the drying of the acrylics, they could appear to be the perfect choice of paints for glazing, however, when you’re first starting portraiture it’s easier to have more blending time to model the Grisaille underpainting accurately.
That’s not to say I don’t use acrylics at all on the course, on the coloured ground and for some sections of the hair I demonstrate how you can incorporate acrylics into your underpainting, but sticking to oils for the Grisaille of the face will give you the best results.

If you work small and paint quickly, you could adapt the techniques to acrylics, but if you’re new to portraits you would get more realistic results, more easily with oils.

For acrylic portrait techniques have a look at my Acrylic Colour Portrait Course

“It’s been 40 years since I last painted so over the last year I have been looking for resources to help me reacclimate to painting. I looked at and read over thirty sources most of which contradicted each other. Then I came across you on the web. Your courses are hands down the best I’ve come across and I’m looking forward to the journey. Thank you”

What about adapting it to OPEN Acrylics, aren’t they slower drying?

Yes, they are slower drying, but if you paint a thick layer of OPEN acrylics for the underpainting (we want this to be opaque) you might actually have to wait longer than if working with the Alkyd quick drying oils before applying the next layers. And if you painted the underpainting with OPEN acrylics and then applied standard acrylics on top, you run the risk of the upper paint layers drying before the OPEN acrylics underneath.

I paint with Water-Mixable Oils like Cobra, can the course be adapted to those?

You couldn’t just use water and water mixable paints for the whole of the course. You would have to add a linseed oil or a medium that contains oil. You would then have to use a thinner for diluting/cleaning brushes. If you added a water-mixable medium (that contains oil) or a linseed oil you could adapt the mixes. You would then have to use a thinner for diluting/cleaning brushes.

This is from Cobra paints:

“The first layer must be applied lean. For this the paint is thinned with water. During the drying of this layer no compact film of paint is formed, but rather a porous one. Oil from a following layer will therefore be absorbed by the underlying lean layer and so when drying will adhere within the numerous pores.

This helps to create good adhesion between these two layers. As an underlying (lean) layer abstracts oil from the top layer, it has to be ensured during painting that the underlying layer has relatively more oil. If this is not the case this will affect the quality of the painting.

As of this point there are various possibilities for continuing further:

  1. Thin each subsequent layer with increasingly less water; each subsequent layer therefore contains relatively more oil. You can eventually end up with pure paint.
  1. Thin the paint for the following layer with painting medium.

I’m new to oil painting, would this course be suitable for learning how to glaze other subjects like still life’s and landscapes?

Although the techniques could be adapted to other subjects 90% of the lessons are focused on colours and techniques for skin tones and portraits, so I wouldn’t recommend it as a general oil glazing course.

I get impatient with my painting, how long do I have to wait in between each layer?

If you like to work quickly, this is not an Alla-Prima technique.

It’s more of a slow and steady build up. There isn’t a time limit for the course, once you’ve downloaded they are yours to keep forever, so see it more as a meditative approach. Most layers will be dry within 24hrs, the first layers quicker than that.

I work in a confined space and am worried about the smell of Turpentine.

For this course, I demonstrate with Odourless Mineral Spirits, which aren’t as strong smelling as Turpentine, but having access to an open window/door when you paint is still advisable.

Who is the course for?

Beginners to oil painting who want to learn about how to use coloured glazes with oil paint for portraiture. Working in multiple layers from a black and white (Grisaille) underpainting to a full-colour portrait.

Save time

To discover these painting techniques have taken me many years of failed paintings, searching for long forgotten manuscripts and trying to distil the complicated art of portraiture into a simple, repeatable process. You can save time by shortening the learning curve!

Reduce costs

To study these techniques at a painting Atelier can cost over $1,000 a week in fees (not including travel & accommodation) being able to study at your own pace in your own studio can save thousands of pounds in your education.

The Artists Eye

Having studied film and cinematography, I’ve tried to create a video course that will give you the best results, as if I’m in the studio with you.

  • High-Quality Full HD Video Recording, filmed in 1080p
  • Recorded in pristine 24/96 kHz audio which has been digitally mastered using the latest audio software, so you can hear me clearly (no more audio hiss)

Edited by the Artist

I filmed it, edited it, and coloured it myself (with a little help from Vanessa!) rather than working with a production company.

Artists have different needs than editors so I wanted to cut the course like an artist, showing you exactly what I wanted to see when I was learning. I show all the real-time brushstrokes for the portraits so you don’t miss a step.

What will you achieve by the end of the course?

Imagine yourself in your studio two weeks from now staring at two portrait paintings that you can’t quite believe ‘you’ painted.
That’s what I want you to achieve.
Not to watch a demonstration a glean a few extra ‘secret tips’ but to actually put these methods into action and create your own portraits.
Then you can start to paint family, friends & Grandchildren your conversation starters will be, ‘Wow, you have a great face, can I paint it?’

Click the add to cart button below to get started on the course!

Add to Cart

£79.99 GBP / $99.92 USD / 94 EURO / $134 CAD / $135 AUS

(exchange rates may vary slightly)

“This video course is packed full of useful tips for portrait painting, that could actually be used for any medium.  For example, I found the advice on identifying skin tones and mixing colour strings particularly useful.  I liked the way this course covers 2 portraits of faces with different skin tones and hair colours.  The techniques are slightly different with each portrait, so you can choose which approach you prefer when you paint portraits of your own. 

I loved learning how to blend, which is so well-suited to oils, as they don’t dry too quickly.  And the glazing part of the course was very interesting and helpful. This course has been very inspiring, and I can’t wait to try some portraits of my family members!  Thank you, Will, for an excellent and informative course!”


Technical Download Questions

So how does it work?

After clicking ‘Add to Cart’ you will see a page with a ‘Check out with Paypal’ button


Click the ‘Check out with PayPal’ even if you don’t have a Paypal account.

Don’t have a Paypal Account?

In most countries, Paypal offers an option for you to pay using Paypal, without opening a Paypal account.
Here is a screenshot from UK Paypal.


Once you’ve paid, after a few seconds you’ll be redirected to a download page containing all the video links and Information (see image example below)



You will also be emailed your download link as a backup.
If you ever update your computer or can’t track down the downloads just drop me an email and I’ll send through fresh links.

How big are the video files?

To download the course you ideally need a broadband connection as the video files are quite large (Total 5GB) – you do not receive a DVD.

You then have to Download and Save the video tutorials onto your home computer.

This can take up to 20 minutes for each file depending on your internet speed.

(Please Note: If you want to watch the videos using an iPad, you need a free app called ‘Documents’ this will allow you to download and save the files – you can read more about Downloading to an iPad here)

Do you have a DVD version of the course available?

No, the course is only available as a digital download.

Do I need a special program to watch the videos on my computer?

No, the video files are MP4 ‘s and 95% of computers/laptops will have a media player on them.

If you have earlier software that doesn’t have a media player, you can download one for free.

Apple Quicktime

or VLC media player (also free) VLC Media Player

To view the PDF files, you need Adobe Reader (also free to download)

How do I download the videos onto my Computer/iPad?



Download Page example

On a P.C

Hover the mouse over the orange ‘Click here’ link and ‘right-click’ your mouse. There will be an option that says ‘Save Link as’

Click this option and a box should come up saying where do you want to say the files (eg, desktop, whatever your files names are called) decide where to save them and then the file should start to download, it might take 10 minutes before it downloads fully (depending on internet speed.)

On a Mac

Click the ‘click here’ link.
It will give you the option to ‘Open with’ or ‘Save file’
You want to click ‘Save as’ and the file will download into your downloads.

Can I download the videos to my iPad?

Firstly, I would download the files onto a desktop or laptop if you have one, just so you have a copy of the files.

Then you have a couple of options, either to transfer via iTunes or to purchase an app on the iPad.

Use a separate app

If you have an iPad you can use a free app called ‘Documents’ to be able to download the video files onto your iPad.

Please note: Without the app, you won’t be able to download and save the videos directly to your iPad. here is a more in-depth tutorial on how to download the lessons to an iPad.

Transferring files via iTunes

If you have a Mac you can:
1. Download the files to your desktop (or find the ones you’ve already saved)
2. Plug in iPad to Mac
3. Open iTunes
4. Drag MP4′s (video files of the course) on the Mac into TV shows or Movies
5. To Play on iPad open the Videos App then look under TV shows or Movies
6. The MP4 video files from the course should play fine.
If you’re on a PC you can download iTunes here and go through the same process.

Can I download onto my Tablet?

Not directly – to download the videos onto your tablet you need to download them to your main computer first and that transfer to your tablet via USB. Here are the instructions from one of my students:

“Here is what I did to get the files onto my Android tablet from a PC.

1. From your link I downloaded the files to my Download folder on my PC. From there I moved them to my Video folder. (which is part of the Libraries folder on Windows 7)
2.I connected my tablet via USB cable to my PC
3.Using Windows Explorer, I copied the files from the PC Video folder, to a folder on my Acer Aconia tablet called Videos.
4. To view the course on my tablet. I click on the App called Multi- media and use the Acer media video app.’

Windows explorer is a graphical file manager in the Windows operating system that displays the contents of Libraries, folders and files. I do not know if this would affect the routine or not, but my tablet is 2 years old and for newer tablets there might be an easier routine.”

Can I download the video files and put them onto my own DVD or USB flash drive to watch on a DVD player/TV?

Yes, you can download the files onto a DVD or USB flash drive.

Downloading to a USB Flash Drive

USB-SAN-DISK-3.0You can download the files directly to a USB flash drive that will give you portability and extra storage.

Downloading to a DVD

Not all DVD players will playback Mp4 files.

There are a couple of options:

1. DVD playback on another computer:

If you burn the MP4 files onto a DVD and then play the DVD on another computer or laptop it should play without a problem if you have an up to date media player that supports MP4s.

(If you need an up to date media Player you can download one here: VLC media player (also free) VLC Media Player

2. DVD playback on a DVD player with a file Converter

It depends on if your DVD player supports MP4 video files.

Many DVD players will say MP4 on the front tray, for example, ‘DVD/Audio CD/DivX/MP4/MP3/’

Some older DVD player do not support MP4 because MP4 is a format with different decodes.

If you have an older DVD player you will have to convert the files using free software.

The MP4 to DVD converter from is a good choice.