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Blending Acrylic Paint on Canvas, How to Techniques
How to Blend Acrylic Paint on Canvas
Acrylic Paint is a quick drying paint, for artists, that is easy to clean up with soap and water. It comes in a variety of colors and consistencies. Most colors are rated non-toxic.
I like that this paint is very versatile; one can do various blending techniques to achieve a sharp edge, to a very wide and soft edge. You can make it look more like watercolors or oils.
Read below to find ways to blend two different colors or shades, right on the canvas.
There's also a fun quiz that you can take at the end.
Image credit for the blended circle design, is to Cheryl Paton, the author of this page.
On blending acrylic paints...
Are you brand new to learning about acrylic painting?
There are three basic types of canvas to paint on: - Stretched wrapped canvas, canvas sheets, and canvas boards.
The canvas can come sheets on a pad, or as a roll. Either of these can be cut to the size that you need.
- The stretched wrapped canvas is stretched and stapled around a wooden frame.
- When painting on a canvas sheet, one must also consider the size, i.e. will the painting be framed, and how big will the opening be. Will you be using a mat?
For me, I usually make paintings that I will scan into my computer, so I need to keep the size of the scanner bed in mind.
I also leave enough room to tape the edges flat. I usually buy larger pads of the canvas sheets, and usually cut them in half. Then I use painter's tape to tape the edges flat to a smooth flat cardboard. I usually re-use the board at the back of the pad.
- On the boards, the canvas is pre-glued to the board, with finished edges. It provides a hard surface for painting on.
- With any of the above, you can draw first, base coat if you like, or just begin painting. A base coat can help to fill in the texture on the canvas, so that the painting part will go on smoother. The paint will also look less grainy if you're going to scan it.
Choose your canvas - Stretched, flat on pads, and/or panel boards
The boards, also known as panels, provide a hard surface that can be hung on the wall. The boards can be framed but doesn't need to be.
Your final use will help you determine which is the best surface for you.
Canvas can also come on hard panels. These have already been primed with acrylic gesso and provide a sturdy surface.
There is a texture to these boards.
There are edges to consider on wrapped canvas.
When painting on a stretched canvas, one must consider if they want the edges to be part of the painting, or to be a solid color to compliment the painting, or left white.
If you plan to frame your art, or want to scan it to your computer,
then I recommend the canvas pads.
The canvas lays flat, can be matted behind glass, and more easily fits on the scanner bed, when cut to the appropriate size.
Tip: Save the smooth cardboard at the back of the pad; it can be used to tape your smaller canvas to, to hold it flat, and in place while you paint.
Choose the paint thickness. Acrylic Paint comes in a variety of consistencies. - The paint in tubes will be thicker, and the paint in a bottle will be thinner
The thinner paint will be easier to blend than the thicker paint.
The thicker paint works well for a more impasto affect.
Sometimes I mix my own colors, and sometimes I like reaching for pre-mixed shades for consistency.
The paint in bottle is thinner than in tubes.
The primary colors can be used as they are or mixed to make secondary colors, and more. You can find primary colors by visiting this link and searching for America primary in the Arts and Crafts category.
Americana has become my paint of choice.
Most of the designs that I make (CherylsArt on Zazzle) are painted using Americana acrylic paint.
There are lots of colors to choose from, and they're also easy to mix up your own combinations.
The thicker paint consistency offers more dimension.
You can still blend the thicker paints, it's just that more of the brushstroke texture will be seen, and it also go on thicker.
The thicker paint will give it more of an impasto look. The thicker paint will also take longer to dry.
This set has a wide variety of colors, and is a full body paint, retaining the brushstrokes and peaks.
The paint in tubes is thicker than the paint in bottles.
This paint set offers a variety of colors, different shades, and also has some metallic.
For a wide area that you want a gradual change of color.
It can be different shades of the same color or two different colors.
First I would recommend base coating your canvas and letting that dry. This step may also be a matter of preference. If you want a solid background to work with, then this step is important. You can also experiment to see what works best with the colors and or paint brand that you're using. Some colors start out being more opaque than others, so again, it's all in the look you want to achieve.
The second step, if you did the first, is to coat your canvas with your base color, and while it is still wet, load up your brush with the second color, and make sweeping strokes across the area, working back and forth across the canvas to the other side of the area. You will notice that the color on the area where you started will be darker and will gradually change to shades of the first color, as you work your way across.
An example of this technique is shown on the two red feathers wedding invitation. I started with a white base that was still wet, then added red with a clean brush and worked my way across the area. When I needed to add more paint, I made sure to go back and darken the beginning area, as I wanted a gradual blending affect as opposed to an alternating one.
Two Red Feathers on a blended background.
For the sand in the beach scene, I wanted more of an alternating affect: See the soft edge blends in the sand.
For the textured areas in the sand, I used multiple shades and painted it with a Sea Sponge. I then touched it up with brushstrokes.
Beach scene with sunglasses
Blending - Using multiple colors on the brush - One way to get a nice blending or mix is to work wet on wet,
and just adding the next color to the same brush.
Sometimes I find it helpful to basecoat first, let that dry, then re-wet the basecoat again before adding in another color or shade. Base coating first, and letting that dry, gives a more solid color foundation to work on, meaning the canvas won't show through.
Painting of the baby.
Blending a small edge area with a more distinct line.
Perhaps for some distinction, but also with a little softness or blurred affect.
Prepare your canvas with any base colors that may be required for your painting. If you need the colors to be opaque, you might also need to base coat the two colors that you will be working with for this technique.
After the base coats are done, add both colors to your paint brush side by side. Do some strokes on your mixing area to help thin out the paint and re-coat if necessary. Then blend in mixing area again so that you'll have a smoother edge on your canvas.
Then paint the lined area on your canvas. You'll have a soft edge. The edge will be softer if you paint over a one color area; it will be more distinct if you paint over two colors that you had already painted side by side.
An example of this technique is where I did the skin highlights on the baby's face. I had painted both colors having the edge meet, let them dry, then went back over it with the two different colors on the paint brush.
p.s. Some people find it easier to paint a face when it is placed upside down.
For adding a highlight or darker shade of the same color.
A blending medium next to the paint on the brush, gives a more gradual look.
When I want to highlight or darken and area that has already been painted, I usually add floating medium to one side of my brush. First I let the original area dry. Then I add the highlighting or darkening paint to one side of my brush and the floating medium to the other side. Then I make some strokes in my mixing area on the palette, add more paint and or medium, make more strokes on the mixing area, then paint it on the picture.
An example of this technique was when I darkened the red area around the center of the tulips. The darker red was towards the center of the tulip and the side with the floating medium was towards the outside. I worked from the center out, giving a gradual change of color. I worked on one petal at a time so that each one would be distinct.
Red tulips painting.
Floating medium is a good choice for blending;
both for side by side blending on the paint brush, and for coating the surface before painting, for a watercolor look.
The floating medium is thicker than water. You can apply it directly on your canvas and paint on top of it while it is still wet, and/or you can mix it in the paint, or layer it side by side next to paint on the brush.
This floating medium is a clear gel.
Clean up is with soap and water.
Another type of blending that I have used to achieve a watercolor look with acrylic paints.
With this technique I started with the floating medium as my base coat. Then I painted on top of that while it was still wet, giving the acrylic paint a clearer, more transparent affect.
When painting first with the floating medium, you won't need as much paint on your brush when you start to add color. A little goes a long way.
An example of this blending technique is shown on the yellow sunshine flower, green leaves, and background, of the painting on this card.
Bright sunshine flower
I learned from other artists myself.
Donna Dewberry does a lot of blending with two colors of paint side by side on the brush.
Flowers A to Z
A quick and easy way to blend is to dip each corner of the brush into a different color or shade of paint, then proceed with painting.
You'll find lots of illustrations demonstrating this technique throughout Dewberry's book, Flowers A to Z.
I learned new ways of using Floating medium from Priscilla Hauser.
The floating medium, shown above, is a quick and easy method to make the acrylics look like watercolors. You can place a layer of this gel on your canvas and then paint on top of it while both are still wet. It will give your colors a translucent effect.
Also, instead of placing two colors next to each other on the brush, you can dip one corner of the brush in paint, and the other corner in the Floating medium gel. It will make a gradual blend of whatever color it is paired with.
Find tips on decorative painting.
Hauser also includes a lot of illustrations and step by step instructions. She also includes information about surface preparation and finishes.
I learned how to do more gradual blending techniques
when I did the exercises in Paint People in Acrylic with Lee Hammond.
Find tips on painting people and skin.
When you start blending on faces, you may need to rethink some of the strategies. Blending along an edge is pretty straight forward and simple. However, when you are considering the contours of a face, you may need to have some practice on blending in a spherical shape.
Lee Hammond covers this and more, and gives you sphere exercises to do, and also various people's portraits to do.
You may want the acrylic paint to have a longer drying time, to give you more working time. Extenders can help with this.
To help acrylic paint have a longer drying time,
extenders can be added. It also increases the transparency.
Extenders prolong the drying time for acrylic paints and also thin the color somewhat, which can make them look more like watercolor.
Acrylic paints themselves come in different thicknesses. The acrylic paint in tubes is thicker and more paste like. The overall effect of the paste like acrylic paint can look more like oil paint. Extenders would need to be added however, if you wanted to extend the drying time.
An extender prolongs the drying time, allowing a longer time to work with the acrylic paint. You can mix it with the paint, or place is as a base layer.
Take the quiz on blending acrylic paint, if you like.
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How well did you do on the quiz?
Amazon has more acrylic painting products to peruse.
© 2012 Cheryl Paton