Your Go-To Guide on How to Blend Pigments for Beginners

Subtle color tone transitions, fine edges, blurred lines, soft endings, and a harmonious symphony of hues– are some of the characteristics of a well-blended artwork. Blending is considered one of the most fundamental skills a painter should have. It has been a major artistic concept since the period of the Renaissance. Thus, different techniques have emerged since then to achieve the ideal of artistic perfection– realistic, contrast between light and dark, as well as soft and subtle color shifts and side edges. Some of the popular techniques include chiaroscuro, sfumato, and scumbling which were employed by the Old Masters themselves such as da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Raphael. In this article, let’s take a look at the basic things you need to remember when you’re blending your paint in this short guide on how to blend pigments for beginners. Continue reading this article to take your blending game to the next level!

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 The blending technique has spanned for centuries now and it is done by intermingling two tones to create shifts of color, avoiding streaks and lines that most artists do not want. Thus, this technique is usually achieved while the painting is still wet which is why it is commonly used when you’re using oils since acrylics tend to dry quickly, making it difficult to blend the colors. Even though this has been used over and over again as blending appeared to be the main goal of a realistic painting, this technique should be used sparingly because “too much” blending wouldn’t result in an aesthetic finish. Rather, the painting will just look overworked and muddy. Hence, this guide on how to blend pigments for beginners will help you control your brushwork as well as learn tips and tricks to achieve a good-looking painting utilizing this beloved method.

Which Medium Should I Use to Practice My Blending Skills?

Before we get on to the main topic which is how to blend pigments for beginners, let us take a look at the different mediums you can use first. To fully understand how to blend pigments, you need to know your chosen medium first as well as its basic characteristics so that you can know which technique is best for you to employ with your canvas. Accordingly, we have two types of medium– primary and secondary medium. Primary medium refers to the pigments that we use while secondary mediums are the additives we can put in our pigments to achieve a different characteristic or finish appropriate for the texture/s style we desire.

Primary Medium

    1.  Oil paint:

Considered the most ideal medium to work with if you want to achieve a realistic painting and well-blended artwork. While many beginners find this medium intimidating, the slow-drying property of oils is an advantage when utilizing this blending technique. Since oils are very slow to dry, it gives you time to blend your pigments and undo the somewhat reversible mistakes. Moreover, the colors are rich, and once it's fully dried, the quality of the pigments does not change as much as compared to acrylics. 

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    2.  Acrylic paint: 

Many beginners resort to this medium because it’s versatile, more affordable, and less intimidating to use. Even though it dries quickly, several additives will slow down the drying time of acrylics. Not only do they make the drying time more flexible, but they also change the characteristics of the pigments which can make the finish seem like it’s another medium.

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    3.  Watercolor:

Opaqueness, Transparency, Granulation, either Staining or Liftable, and Lightfastness are all characteristics of an Artist's Quality Watercolors. Some may exhibit a variety of traits, while others (depending on the brand) may exhibit all the traits mentioned. Painting with watercolors, on the other hand, might be challenging. It is a difficult medium to handle, due to its unpredictable nature. It is tough to repair errors, and its watery nature makes it challenging to regulate. Blending can also be difficult to grasp but it can be learned through constant practice.

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Secondary Medium

    1.  Acrylic retarders:

Slows down the drying time of acrylics by 50%.

    2.  Molding paste:

Thickens the consistency of acrylics while slowing down their drying time the same time.

  3.  Liquin: 

Speeds up the drying time of oils.

    4.  Mineral spirits and solvents:

Though this should be used sparingly and with caution, these additives help thin out the consistency of your oil paints.

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Tips and Tricks on How to Blend Pigments for Beginners

The best way to learn how to blend pigments for beginners is by learning the different blending methods you can use in your painting canvas such as the following:

    1.  Sfumato:

Sfumato, or “to one down” or “evaporate” or “vanish” in English, is considered as the canon of all painting techniques during the Renaissance, as utilized by Da Vinci and other Master Painters. It aims to soften the color shift and tonal transitions to produce a hazy form or an out-of-focus plane, creating a smooth surface without lines or harsh borders in the image.

 A historical Mona Lisa painting

    2.  Chiaroscuro:

This technique is highly similar to sfumato; however, it focuses more on the transition between the play on light and dark tones to create depth and dimension, which are two important aspects to achieve realism. Thus, the use of light and dark to contrast each other aims to create an emphasis on important aspects of the overall image to give an illuminating effect.

    3.  Scumbling:

Similar to the glazing technique, this versatile blending technique can be employed using either oils, acrylics, or watercolor. Scumbling is achieved through brushing a light and thin layer of paint over a dry paint layer to achieve opacity and a somewhat translucent effect. 

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    4.  Alla prima:

Commonly referred to as the wet-on-wet technique, it is the most common blending method wherein two layers of colors are intermingled with each other while both of them are still wet or fluid on the canvas. When using this technique, make sure to control your brushwork so that the results on your canvas won’t end up sloppy and muddy.

    5.  Wet on dry:

This technique is used if you want to have a blended finish but with a more defined and crisp edge. This technique is used for watercolor painting where you don’t wet your paper before you apply a wet brush with loaded pigment on it. 

Pink and white flower painting

    6.  Cangiante: 

First introduced by Giotto, this is considered as one of the four canonical painting modes of the Renaissance. Cangiante is a blending technique of rendering shadows by smooth switching of colors on the canvas. Thus, this technique aims to achieve a drapery effect when painting fabrics in paintings as well as create a wide color variety. 

    7.  Unione:

Unione connects the curves, borders, and lines of elements and space in a way that is neither hazy nor excessively harsh. It creates edges in a painting by using gradient color transitions, delicate blurring along the edges, and an overall vibrant and cohesive image.

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Key Takeaways

We hope that this article provides the basic things that you should know about how to blend pigments for beginners. While the concept of blending may be difficult to grasp at first, constant practice will help you develop this skill. Don’t be intimidated by this technique and don’t be ashamed if the results turn out shabby at first; it’s all part of the process. Just don’t forget to learn from your mistakes. Happy painting!

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