What is Blending in Art? Painting & Drawing Techniques 101

What is Blending in Art?

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Ever wondered how artists create those mesmerizing transitions?

Below, you’ll find out what blending in art is and how to use it to refine your craft and elevate your artistic expression.

Read on to discover the blending techniques that help you create harmoniously blended colors and shades to evoke feelings and depth in your artwork.

What is Blending? 

Blending involves mixing and blurring colors or shades together to craft a smooth result. While this gradual transition can be challenging at first, it’s essential for recreating everyday textures.

what is blending?
Bacchus by Carravagio

For example, you need blending to recreate the soft, gentle appearance of a person’s skin. Let’s take a look at the painting Bacchus by Carravagio, shown above. He used blending for two primary purposes here, starting with the subtle blushes on the lips, cheeks, and hands.

The second purpose is his realistic effect on the fat and muscle beneath the skin. When you study human skin in everyday life, there are very few hard edges – almost everything is smooth, sloped, or blurry. Even the harder lines along the collarbone soften up.

If you’re a fan of environmental painting, blending is essential to recreate sleek water or sunsets. Let’s take another look at one of the most famous oil paintings below.

blending painting
The Monk By The Sea by Caspar David Freidrich

Caspar blended to phenomenal effect in this famous oil painting, recreating hazy fog with multiple techniques. You can see some smoother areas alongside scumbling with a dry brush.

The lighter shades above add a wispy effect that’s incredibly true to life. The two colors of pale gray and light periwinkle almost appear to be one color.

When you want to start improving your oil painting foundation, learning how to blend colors will help you with the desired results above. You’ll have greater control over transitions between colors and hues that look real enough to touch.

What’s the Difference Between Blending in Painting or Drawing?

Blending in painting and drawing differs in texture – paint will be wet and loose, while dry mediums, such as pencil, need gradual layering to achieve the same effect.

Dry mediums usually require crosshatching or gradual layering. You can also use a blending stump to smudge colors or shades. The video below is a good primer on how to layer your pencil strokes until the area is smooth and even.

Paint has a wet texture that will already do some blending for you. You can further smooth things out by adding water to acrylic or oil to your oil paints.

What is Wet on Dry vs Wet on Wet?

The wet-on-wet blending technique is the default for wet mediums, mixing wet paint onto another damp layer. The wet-on-dry paint uses wet paint on a dry surface, which is a good choice if you want to play with texture or have the canvas appear through your paint layer.

Do I Need to Blend in Art?

Blending is a handy technique that will expand your artistic repertoire. You can recreate the finer details in everyday textures and environments.

However, there is such a thing as too much blending. Sometimes loose brush strokes with a dry brush or flat brush are better for natural textures like soil or clouds. Likewise, you may want to try new techniques with very little blending, such as impasto.

do i need to blend in art?

How to Blend With Paints 

Learning the differences between paints will result in some seriously happy painting sessions. The quick guide below will make it easier for you to achieve your desired effect.

How to Blend With Acrylic Paint

Acrylic paint tends to dry faster than other mediums, so blending your painting can be challenging. I’ve been using acrylic for several years, and I have a few tips to help you effectively mix two colors.

Try starting out with small painting squares to get used to acrylics’ fast drying time (five to fifteen seconds on average). I also recommend buying a slow-drying medium to extend the drying time further. You only need to add a drop or two to a quarter-sized blob of paint to add another fifteen or twenty seconds. Slow drying medium can also work as an extender to create more paint, so it’s a win-win.

How to Blend With Oil Paints

Oils are the king of blending because of their prolonged times, so you’ll have more time to work with colors and shades. However, you can still adjust the paint to suit your style.

Linseed oil speeds up drying time, while walnut and poppyseed oil slow down drying time. Always ventilate your painting space to reduce the fumes you breathe in. You can also try solvent-free oil paints if you can’t tolerate standard paints.

If you’re new to oil painting, you can always try an oil painting course to cement the basics.

How to Blend With Watercolors

Watercolor can be challenging to work with since it dries so fast, but you can still create smooth transitions when you understand how the medium works. The wet-on-wet paint works best here to create a breezy painting experience.

Below is a handy video with a few ways to work with watercolor.

How to Blend With Drawing Supplies

Blending with drawing supplies is slightly different since there’s no moisture, but many of the same layering principles apply. Going over the same area repeatedly with different strokes will eventually result in an even appearance.

How to Blend with Pencil

Pencil is a solid beginner entry point because of its low cost and straightforward approach. The two main blending methods you should practice are crosshatching and smudging.

Crosshatching is layering multiple lines over the other to fill in an area gradually. Smudging can be done with a blending stump or something similar, such as a dry brush or rolled tissue.

These online classes can teach you how to get comfortable with this essential medium.

How to Blend with Colored Pencils

You can create silky smooth results similar to a painting with colored pencils. Depending on your technique, you can produce a gentle look or keep some texture.

Like pencil, you can use crosshatching for colored pencils and add in different areas to create overlap. Colored pencils have different consistencies depending on the brand – for example, Prismacolor pencils are incredibly soft and similar to pastels.

Harnessing the Power of Blending Techniques Across All Mediums and Styles

Blending is a versatile addition to your artistic toolkit, allowing you to recreate countless textures across different mediums. From soft skin to smooth skies, your artwork will look more natural than ever.

You don’t have to learn everything on your own. There are many valuable resources for learning how to layer oil paint or any other medium you have your heart set on.

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