Blending With Oil Paints

Using Oil Paints for Blending

One thing that always brings me back to using oil paints is the way that you can get the oil paint to blend together in really smooth color transitions. The reason for this is that oil paints take quite a while to dry and so while they are still wet you can manipulate them together on your canvas, creating beautiful blends.

It seems that even if you choose colors that may not immediately seem to go together, you can blend them into a transition of colors that actually works so you can pretty much choose any colors you like to blend.

What I tend to do first when blending oil paints is to choose which colours I want to use and do my base coat as if I was doing the top coat but using a different medium. i.e. I will use turps or low odour thinners as my medium on my base coat so ensure I am doing layers that are 'fat over thin'.

The background on this painting is a soft blend of oil colours.
The background on this painting is a soft blend of oil colours.
This abstract landscape in oils used a lot of blending.
This abstract landscape in oils used a lot of blending.

First Layer Blend

The reason i use the colours on the first layer as if it was my end painting is that then I can see how the colours work together and whether they make a nice blend. If I don't like the blend or mix of colours that I have chosen then I can soon go over it with my next coat, and so on until I find the effect and the colours that I was looking for.

Squeeze a small amount of the first colour onto your palette and add some thinners to 'water' the paint down. Do not add too much as you will get the paint splitting up on the canvas and running too much. Add just enough to make the paint slightly more liquid. Use a biggish brush and add the paint by sweeping backwards and forwards a few times. Add a small amount of the next colour and overlap the bit that you have just painted. Continue to add paint and turps for this first layer. Make sure you brush backwards and forwards quite a few time so that each slightly different colour blends with the one before. Continue slowly changing colours until you move to the next one.

Obviously with this kind of painting and when using oil paints you need to wait for each layer to dry before starting on the next one so the more layers you have the longer it will take for the painting to be finished. I usually try and allow a day or two between coats (assuming the oil paint has dried in that time).

Next Layers

So if I find colors that I like and I have created enough of a base coat with my first layer then I will use the next layer as my to layer, otherwise I will have an intermediate layer with a medium of thinners and linseed oil (half and half).

For my top layer I will use a little linseed oil or else i will use liquin if I need the painting to dry quickly.

When blending paint colours it is important to have a gentle graduation of colors, otherwise it will end up looking like stripes. In order to do this you need to very slowly add a little of your next color to your existing one and keep doing this until you have graduated completely to the new color.

Once you have gradually added the small amounts of color so that the paint changes as you go, and once you have finished painting the whole graduation, I will also use a soft brush to even out the blend. You can pretty much keep going over the oil paint with the soft brush and perhaps even cross brush the two layers so that the paint is mixed more. Keep wiping the soft brush on a tissue to get rid of excess oil paint and then keep brushing until the blends are smooth.

This painting 'Spectrum' is a graduation of oil colours from one end to the other with the colours blended with a soft brush. (c) Azure11
This painting 'Spectrum' is a graduation of oil colours from one end to the other with the colours blended with a soft brush. (c) Azure11

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Comments 7 comments

Faithful Daughter profile image

Faithful Daughter 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

Great tips! I love working with oil colors. One reason I like them is because I've found they are very forgiving. As you said, they take a while to dry. I have done a whole section of my canvas, come back the next day and scraped it all way because I didn't like the blend; you can't do that with water colors or acrylics. Thanks for the tips.


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Faithful, yes you are right about scraping away - I have done that too and then rubbed all the rest of it off with a cloth! Great to be able to start again from scratch.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Great information on your hub....being a complete amateur I can use all the help I can get....my daughter has just gotten into painting...and has already passed my skill level...maybe your advice can help me get back on track...voted up and useful.


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Cogerson and good luck on the painting - I do love blending with oils and am really getting back into it right now so definitely give it a try!


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

What an interesting process! You've made me want to start experimenting with oil paints!


jenubouka 5 years ago

Great tips agreed! I do like how you can return to a painting with some time on your hands, though sometimes I should of just stopped with what I had...


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 5 years ago from UK Author

Yes, that is the big question jen, knowing when you are done!

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