Much of the luminous quality seen in oil paintings by the Old Masters was achieved through a process known as glazing. In this style, one creates a monochromatic underpainting which is then glazed over with translucent paint layers in different colors. In oil painting, the two most important elements to glazing are, first, the addition of a medium to thin the paint and make it more fluid, and second, a high-quality, soft-bristled brush to achieve a smooth layer of color without heavy brushstrokes. Today artists can use glazes in oil, acrylic, and mixed-media paintings. With watercolors, glazing involves separate washes of translucent or semi-translucent colors for a coveted stained-glass effect. Whatever your medium, finding the right glazing brush is key to achieving the right polish. We’ve rounded up five of our favorites below.
1. Winsor & Newton Eclipse Brush
When glazing with oil paint, you want to find that sweet spot between soft and sturdy. English company Winsor & Newton’s Eclipse line strikes just the right balance. While most brushes are made with natural or synthetic hog hair, which is quite stiff, these are much softer while still being designed for heavy oil paints rather than water-based media. The double-bodied handle is sculpted with an easel painter in mind, but the brush is also comfortable to hold by the ferrule for detailed work. For glazing larger paintings and for broad washes of color, we recommend the 2-inch brush.
2. Silver Brush Limited Black Velvet Square Brush
When glazing with watercolors, it’s imperative to have a brush that can lay down an even wash without distributing too much water and thereby disturbing the first layer of paint. The ¼-inch Black Velvet brush has a 7½-inch handle that makes it easy to control the amount of pressure you exert. Among the softest brushes available from Silver Brush Limited, it can be used with media like watercolors, gouache, and fluid acrylics but may be too soft to use with oil paints.
3. Royal & Langnickel Royal Brush
Since these sturdy workhorse brushes can be used not only for glazing but for a variety of other techniques, they are a great addition to any art classroom. They are intended for acrylics and watercolors but can be used with oil paint as well. The synthetic bristles have excellent snap, hold their shape well, and clean up without issue. And we like the soft grip, which makes this paintbrush easy and comfortable to handle, even for long painting sessions.
4. Sterling Edwards Blend/Glazing Brush
Sometimes glazing requires precision; sometimes it requires broad strokes. For the latter, this 1-inch brush can handle the job. The white nylon bristles, which are even softer than Golden Taklon, are strong and won’t split or splay. Best for use with watercolors, this plastic-handled brush will last for years.
5. Winsor & Newton Monarch Flat Brush
Historically, mongoose hair was highly sought-after for use in paintbrushes. The filaments are very resilient and slightly stiffer than sable while being flexible enough for glazing, and they naturally taper to a fine point. Today the Indian mongoose population is dwindling and the country has outlawed the making of mongoose hair brushes. Fortunately, viable synthetic alternatives exist, including this one from Winsor & Newton. Like many synthetics, this brush is even more resilient than natural mongoose hair.