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Blending Acrylic Paint on Canvas, How to Techniques

Updated on November 6, 2015
CherylsArt profile image

Cheryl Paton is an artist who believes in creating positive designs. She also likes sharing artistic tips and 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?

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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.

Art Alternatives Canvas Panel (8 X 10) (1-Pack of 12)
Art Alternatives Canvas Panel (8 X 10) (1-Pack of 12)

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.

DecoArt DASK280 Americana Home Décor Sample Pack
DecoArt DASK280 Americana Home Décor Sample Pack

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.

Liquitex Basics 48 Tube Acrylic Paint Set, 22ml, Multicolor
Liquitex Basics 48 Tube Acrylic Paint Set, 22ml, Multicolor

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.

This painting was done as a gift and is not printed on any products. Please do not use.
This painting was done as a gift and is not printed on any products. Please do not use. | Source

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.

FolkArt Floating Medium (2-Ounce), 868
FolkArt Floating Medium (2-Ounce), 868

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

Flowers A-Z with Donna Dewberry: More Than 50 Beautiful Blooms You Can Paint
Flowers A-Z with Donna Dewberry: More Than 50 Beautiful Blooms You Can Paint

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.

Priscilla Hauser's Book of Decorative Painting
Priscilla Hauser's Book of 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.

Paint People in Acrylic with Lee Hammond
Paint People in Acrylic with Lee Hammond

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.

FolkArt Extender (2-Ounce), 947N
FolkArt Extender (2-Ounce), 947N

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.

view quiz statistics

How well did you do on the quiz?

See results

Amazon has more acrylic painting products to peruse.

© 2012 Cheryl Paton

Did you learn a new technique or have one to share? - Additional comments are also welcome.

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Thank you

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      3 years ago from West Virginia

      You're so right onesillybean. Acrylic paints are so versatile and easy to use.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I use craft acrylic paints all the time on canvas as well as clothing. They're cheap, easy to cover and easy to clean up though permanent when dry. I doubt I would ever use anything else because acrylic can be made to look like oil or water color!

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      3 years ago from West Virginia

      The only large containers of acrylic paint that I have purchased was house paint, which is definitely different than the artist acrylic paint. If it is artist acrylic paint that happens to be in a larger container, then it should be consistent with that in smaller containers. The acrylic paint in tubes is normally thicker than what is in bottles.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      thanks for all the information. I never bought the large 1/2 gallons of acrylic paint but would like to know if they have the same consistency as the tubes of paint. can you tell me if they are just as thick?

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      4 years ago from West Virginia

      Cassandra, so glad to have helped. All the best to you with your projects.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This was very informative. I have some projects I've been wanting to do but have been intimidated because I wasn't sure what I am doing. Now I have some extra knowledge

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      4 years ago from West Virginia

      sara0129 Thank you. I'm glad that you know someone who it will help. Feel free to pass it along. You are very welcome.

    • sara0129 profile image

      Shamim Rajabali 

      4 years ago from Texas

      Nicely done. I know someone who would benefit from this. Thanks.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      4 years ago from West Virginia

      @SandyMertens: Glad you found it interesting. Thank you. : )

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      4 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      This is really interesting. Nice artwork too.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      @John Dyhouse: I'm sure you are artyfax. Yes, it would be useful for those new to acrylics.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I enjoyed your inspiring lens, thanks for sharing it.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      5 years ago from UK

      I think I have used acrylics enough to know this basic technique, but it really could be useful to new artists or those new to acrylics.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      @dellgirl: So glad you found it inspiring. Thank you. : ) You are very welcome.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      @flinnie lm: You're welcome flinnie.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 

      5 years ago from Alabama USA

      Thanks for sharing this panting technique with us.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      @nikahexplorer: It's great that you have been inspired. Happy painting. : )

    • nikahexplorer profile image


      5 years ago

      Your lens inspired me.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      @paperfacets: Paperfacets It's great that you found information that you can use. Sounds like you're off to a great start. : )

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      5 years ago from La Verne, CA

      I am still a new student and this had information I could use.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      @anonymous: Way to go. : )

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I learned a few things, thanks to this great lenses!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      You have some great tips here, I've tried acrylics and enjoy painting, when I can.

      Thanks for sharing. Take care :)

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      @Wednesday-Elf: It's great to have an artist in the family. : ) Thank you so much for the share. : )

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      My daughter is an artist and loves to work with acrylics. I'm sending her the link to this page as I know she will find your information interesting to read.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      @OhMe: OhMe, I even tried the water soluble oil paints, and they too had an odor. I really like the acrylics. : )

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      5 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Very interesting. I really enjoy painting with acrylics. When I was a teenager I had to stop using oils because the odor was bothering me so much. I switched to acrylics and have no desire to go back to oils.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      @favored: With practice you can master it. You're very welcome. : )

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 

      5 years ago from USA

      I like using acrylics, but haven't mastered it. Appreciate the tips Cheryl.

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      5 years ago from West Virginia

      @susan369: Thank you Susan. : )

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I love the flower card. So colourful!

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      6 years ago from West Virginia

      @anonymous: No, you can also just use the paint. Read more on these techniques in the sections: For a wide area that you want a gradual change of color, and Blending a small edge area with a more distinct line.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      do u HAVE to use a painting medium for the paint to blend?

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      6 years ago from West Virginia

      @anonymous: I use floating medium for that. Read the Watercolor section right above the bright yellow flower card for more info.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      How do you make acrylic paint look transparent on canvas

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      6 years ago from West Virginia

      @shewins: Thank you SheWins.

    • shewins profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens, I think I need to bookmark this one to revisit.

    • RachelDillin profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks. I learned from this lens.

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 

      7 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I am just now getting back into acrylics. Thanks for sharing your works and techniques with us!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have tried watercolors and acrylics and they both work well depending on the art project. Thanks for the lovely pictures.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 

      7 years ago from Vermont

      I struggle with watercolors ... and enjoy oils and acrylics because I can make changes without muddying the work. Mostly these days I'm creating digital artwork and that's never messy or muddy.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I haven't painted with acrylics since high school art class, reading this made me want to give it another go.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens! Thanks for sharing these tips!

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 

      7 years ago from Topeka, KS

      I like how you did the red flowers. Great article and congrats on your Purple Star and front page feature! :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Congratulations on your purple star!

    • Brandi Bush profile image


      7 years ago from Maryland

      Very nice! Congrats on your Purple Star! :)

    • CherylsArt profile imageAUTHOR

      Cheryl Paton 

      7 years ago from West Virginia

      @SusanDeppner: Thank you Susan. : )

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      7 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I like your examples!


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