How to Blend Pigments for Beginners

How to Blend Pigments for Beginners

Blending is the most basic yet most complex concept an artist can ever stumble upon. Though it may be intimidating to try in the beginning, the right tools and supplies will have you guided throughout your painting process. Of course, background knowledge and a solid introduction regarding this technique will help you blend like a pro. So with these, let’s talk about how to blend pigments for beginners and the basics that you need to know. Without much ado, let’s jump right into the topic so keep on reading to find out more!

Blending is the technique in painting wherein you mix two or more pigments or colors in order to create a gradual and subtle transition of tonal values. This technique can level up your artwork in a way that allows it to stand out from the rest. Blending is an umbrella term used by artists when referring to different techniques and approaches in achieving a gradual transition of one shade to another.

How do you tell if a painting’s colors are blended beautifully? Well, it requires careful observation in that particular element. The first answer is that there are no harsh lines-- just seamless, soft, and subtle edges or lines. Second, it looks more realistic. And third, it’s more aesthetically-pleasing to the eyes.

The thing is, blending is not easy to master. If you check iconic paintings like Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, as well as Juan Luna’s Spoliarium, there is a sense of chiaroscuro or a contrasting play of light and dark values to achieve subtlety and a more refined and polished finish. It may sound hard in the beginning, but this article is here to give you the basics. The secret of how to blend pigments for beginners in painting beautifully? Practice and patience.


Apart from the secrets to blending, many people also ask which medium is more suitable for this technique. Both acrylic paints and oil paints are great for blending yet they have their cons as well, so it mostly depends on your preference and budget. 

If you really want to heighten your blending game, we suggest using oils because they’re slow-drying, therefore giving you more time to blend. However, this may not suit you if you’re low on budget because most brands are pricey and they take way too long to dry. On the other hand, acrylics are great because they’re versatile. You can pretty much manipulate the drying time by using additives like retarders which will be discussed more later.

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Essential Tools You Need

- Paint brushes
- Blending brushes
- Paint palette
- Canvas or paper
- Acrylic paint
- Cup/s of water
- Rags or tissue papers
- Palette knives

Additional Supplies

To slow down the drying time of your acrylic paint, there are additional substances that you can purchase at the local arts and crafts store and use to make your pigments easier to blend. You just have to follow the instructions and ratio according to the type of medium that you’ll use that will be discussed below:

  1. Fluid Retarder:  It reduces the drying time of your acrylic paint by 50%. Commonly, you only have to add not more than 25% by volume.

  2. Glazing Mediums: This is a great additive if you’re seeking for a runnier, slower to dry, and more transparent consistency for your “glazing” method when blending.

  3. Open Mediums: Available in several finishes-- matte, glossy, etc., open mediums allow your acrylic paint to slow dry for up to three hours to give you more time for blending.

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Tips on How to Blend Pigments for Beginners that Will Help You Become a Pro

  1. Keep a mist bottle:

    Always have a small misting bottle by your side. You don’t have to purchase one, you can recycle an old plastic perfume bottle or alcohol bottle sprayer and fill it with water. That way, you can spray your paint palette with acrylic paints that you’ll use from time to time to avoid the pigments from drying.

  2. Have a cup of water and old rags:

    To make sure that you're blending with the right colors, it’s good to have a cup or two of water and old rags in case you need to clean your brushes. This is also an efficient and effective way to prevent your brushes from exposure to any unwanted damages.

  3. Use the appropriate brush:

    One rookie mistake that you should avoid is not using the right type and size of the brush to achieve the blending effect that you want. In order to create a smooth and seamless surface, you need to have the right type of brush as using the right size allows your surface area to be covered nicely.

  4. Use the right amount of paint:

    The perfect amount of paint that you should use depends on the size of your working surface but remember the golden rule: use not too little, not too much. Make sure to use enough paint for a smooth, gradual transition of colors.

  5. Prime your canvas:

    It is very important to prime your canvas so that you have a smooth and more resistant surface to work on. 

Different Methods of Blending Pigments for Beginners

  1. Glazed method:

    By spreading paint with any make of transparent Medium, an acrylic glaze can be created. A glaze is a binder-rich solution that normally contains a little paint and a significant amount of medium. Glazes may be made with a variety of media, ranging from thin mediums like High Flow Medium or Glazing Liquid to very thick Gel Mediums.

  2. Wet on wet blending method:

    Painting immediately on top of wet paint without waiting for the lower layer to dry.

Key Insights to Remember

Blending may be intimidating and difficult during your first few tries but with practice and patience, you will be able to blend like a pro in no time. We hope that this tutorial on how to blend pigments for beginners helps you shape your knowledge for this fundamental concept in painting. 

If you really want to learn more about painting, try grabbing a paint by numbers kit and start learning different methods such as the “zigzag” blending method and the “blurring” method. Have fun!

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