Layering paint: the underlying principles

This Post provides a link to “Colour mixing by layering”, Chapter 15 of my book “Painting with Light and Colour”. It is the last and longest of the five chapters devoted to colour mixing. Below is a slightly edited reprise of the “Introductory” to the chapter. If its contents make you want to find out more, click on the link beneath to obtain a .PDF version of the whole chapter.





This long and important chapter deals with the practical problems and opportunities that arise when coats or washes of one pigment colour are layered or otherwise superimposed on coats or washes of other pigment colours. In particular it is about how outcomes are influenced by the degree of translucency or opacity of the pigment-colours used. An important conclusion is that many of the same factors that are at play in colour mixing by layering are also at play in colour mixing by stirring.

The chapter starts by using the example of oil paints to illustrate general principles that apply to all colour mixing. It progresses to an analysis of ways in which colour superimpositions play out in the cases of watercolour, gouache, acrylic and dry pastel. The chapter concludes with some supplementary remarks on the use of scumbling and glazing in oil paints and acrylics.




The five colour mixing chapters

Other chapters from “Painting with Light and Colour”

Other Posts on colour and light in painting:

Chapters from “What Scientists can Learn from Artists”

These deal in greater depth with subjects that feature in the other volumes


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Go to list of all other contents


3 thoughts on “Layering paint: the underlying principles”

  1. This is a wonderfully illustrated and fantastic education in layering with colours of varying mediums. You offer a rare and thorough insight into an important world of colour use that would benefit any painter regardless of the type of work they do. Thank you again Francis for sharing your understandings so generously.

  2. I wish I could read and read again in french all the content of your posts, would make it quicker. Merci Francis

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