As you sit in front of your canvas, staring at the colors and shapes before you, you feel a sense of frustration creeping in.
You’ve been working on this painting for hours, but something just doesn’t feel right. That’s when you remember the concept of blending, the technique of softening and merging colors together to create a seamless transition.
Blending is a fundamental technique in painting and drawing that is often overlooked by beginners, but it plays a crucial role in creating realistic and visually appealing artwork.
By mastering the art of blending, you can take your artwork to the next level and bring your vision to life. In this article, we’ll explore what blending is, why it’s important, and how you can improve your blending skills.
We’ll be covering the following topics:
What is Blending?
Blending is using two paint colors to produce a different color (i.e. blue+yellow makes green) or to achieve a subtle gradation or transition in elements of a painting.
Blending is commonly used in painting and drawing to add subtlety of color and form. It is a beginner-level skill, but hard to master and to use effectively.
The technique is widely used in the second context more than in the first.
Think of your school years and how you used to paint then. For example, you would build a house, a track leading up to the house, some bushes and trees here and there, and maybe a full moon up in the night sky.
The difference between a kindergartener’s painting and a master’s is the subtlety with which each of the elements merges into a realistic scene.
The gradations of light emanating from the moon would create a realistic scene of how the moon is supposed to look on a full-moon night.
Similarly, all the other elements are fused in varying degrees of gradations so that hard contours, that give the painting a child-like quality, disappear.
Also, it is important to remember that in making the different elements in a painting come together, the artist will use blending techniques to dim the potency and vibrancy of some colors.
The blending techniques are discussed in detail in one of the following sections.
Difference Between Blending in Paint and Blending in Drawing?
In paintings, the blending is achieved through the application of either acrylics or oil paints.
Acrylic paints are plasticized to improve consistency, but it dries quickly, which means if you aren’t an expert you’d find painting with acrylics harder than oil paintings.
If you want to show more realism in your paintings then you can’t ignore blending because the technique allows adjusting the finer details like color transitions, color vibrancy and dimness, and softening hard lines.
The blending effect is achieved by crisscrossing colors with a help of a dry brush that produces varying shades with every stroke.
Colors are also usually blended right on the canvas or on the palette.
On the other hand, blending in the drawing is achieved in a completely different way.
A special tool, tortillon or a blending stump, is used for smudging the lighter shades of grey.
The blending stump is made of a tightly wrung piece of paper with a short stub to smudge and smear the pencil particles.
To learn how to make your own blending stump, check out this video by RapidFireArt:
Is Paint Blending Necessary?
Blending enables an artist to depict intensely realistic colors and values.
The transitions seem more realistic and pleasing if blending is used, making for an effortless gradation in the painting.
Admittedly, however, it should be pointed out that a little subtlety goes a long way when it comes to blending.
Used in excess, blending can make certain scenes look stale, artificial, and plastic.
Blending may be an extremely useful tool for a novice to learn, but like with all the good things in life, moderation is the key here.
The fact that blending can water down the potency of your colors and make the scene look washed out should be a reminder enough to ease down on too much mixing.
Why Do We Blend Color?
Artists use color blending for a variety of reasons.
For example, if an artist wishes to remove flowers from the foreground of a painting to improve composition, she can simply blend the colors of the background into the foreground, thus, making them disappear as if by magic.
Blending is also used to increase the range of color.
For example, with the help of blending, we can depict the variety of green in a scene from dull and light green to dark green, thereby, enabling the painter to have greater control over the visual appeal of a painting.
How Do You Properly Blend Colors?
Open acrylics are slow-drying acrylics, but you need to move fast when working with acrylic paints.
You can blend on the palette or directly on the surface of the canvas. Blending on the canvas is usually done with the help of a dry brush, flicking and stroking the paint until the desired effect is achieved.
As previously noted, blending involves the mixing of two colors to produce another. The subtlety or potency of color can be controlled via measured brush strokes.
Another way to blend colors is to apply dollops of paint straight onto a dry brush and splotch and spread it on the canvas until you are satisfied with the gradation.
To learn more about how to blend acrylics, we recommend checking out this in-depth video by Rinske Douna:
What is the History of Blending?
The blending of different colors has been around since the time of the ancient Greeks.
With the identification of the three primary colors, it was not reasonable or even realistic to portray everything in red, blue, or yellow.
In fact, the limitation of pigments and the artistic endeavor to paint ever more realistic scenes gave rise to blending. Tempera, a medium used in the pre-renaissance period was semi-transparent and needed to be applied in many strokes to achieve the desired results.
The adoption of the oil medium in the fifteenth century made it easier to blend colors and create smoother transitions.
Blending is an essential painting skill, one which you will be made to learn as a novice, but it will take a lifetime to master well.
The problem with blending is that it is easy to overdo it, which unwittingly makes a painting look amateurish. The key to blending is moderation; a little blending goes a long way.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the benefits of blending in art?
Blending in art allows for the creation of smooth transitions between colors and tones, resulting in a more realistic and cohesive appearance. It also allows for the creation of a variety of textures, from soft and subtle to bold and dramatic, depending on the artist’s intended effect.
Should artists always blend their colors?
There is no right or wrong answer to whether artists should always blend their colors. The decision to blend or not should be based on the artist’s style, technique, and intended effect, as well as the specific medium being used.
Harriet Maher a freelance writer based in Otautahi New Zealand, where she grew up. After completing an Honours degree in Art History at the University of Canterbury in 2014, she was awarded a full scholarship for a Masters in Art History at the University of Melbourne, which she completed in 2017. She has a lifelong desire to learn, so she’s passionate about new and innovative art practices, and she’s always seeking out new ways to look at and understand art. Her writing attempts to make the invisible seen, and the unsayable said. You can find more of my writing on my website https://www.harrietmaher.com/