Australian Fine Artist

If you are fairly new to oil paints, you may not have encountered transparency in the various colour yet. Even for those of us who have been painting for a while, remembering which colours are transparent usually means double checking the back of the tube.

To begin with I will talk about what I mean by transparency in oil paints.

Oil paints have a difference in transparency, by that I mean that they allow different amounts of the background colours to show through when applying the paint. If you have used water colours, you will understand this concept.

When you paint a thin layer of one colour over the other dry layer underneath in water colours, you can alter its tint, and you can darken it. This is called glazing.

In oils you can do the same thing if you use transparent paints.

Oils come in three varieties of transparency.

  • Transparent.
  • Semi-Transparent.
  • Opaque.

Transparent colour allows the colour under it to show through, so these colours are excellent for glazing when thinned out using a glazing medium. A nice mix for glazing, that I use, is linseed oil mixed with a small amount of Liquin. (see my blog about glazing)

Semi-transparent colour allows a certain amount of the underneath to show through, but will block or cut it down as well.

Opaque colour will cover the colours underneath. These colours usually have white in them, or have intense pigment, or a mix of both. However, don’t assume that because a colour is dark or has intense pigment that is automatically opaque.

When you understand about how to use these different paints you will discover a lot of ways to enhance your paintings. Layering paints over each other creates depth and texture to paintings, and allowing colours to shine through under and around each other will add to the saturation and intesity.

If you are unsure about the opacity of any oils when purchasing, ask the supplier about the paint. Most good art shops employ artists who know about the products because they use them.

A quick video introducing the concept of transparent paints is available from Winsor & Newton at the following web address:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: