How to Blend Acrylic Paints

One of the largest complaints I’ve seen about acrylic paints for creating art is it’s quick drying time. This prevents the blending of tonal values the way oil paints can be blended. Some people refer to this effect as the paint-by-number look.

Oil paints can be blended on the canvas to achieve very subtle gradients of value from one color to another or from dark to light. Although acrylic paints can be mixed wet on the canvas for a certain amount of blending, acrylic paints dry so fast that you are forced to work in small areas. Even then, it’s almost impossible to blend the next area without some demarcation showing between the dried area and the newly painted area.

The way I deal with this situation is by pre-mixing my colors in small cups. I start with the darkest value that I want and then create a second mix with just enough white to give me a slighly lighter value. I usually mix four of these tonal values using just a slight bit more white in each successive value.

Using this technique, I don’t have to worry about blending wet colors. I paint the darkest value first, covering the entire surface that I want painted. For example, if I’m painting the body of a mallard drake, I paint the entire body with the darkest value. I then move to the area that will receive the next lighter value and paint it over the darker color. Because I am not placing colors next to each other but rather painting colors on top in layers, the shade gradient looks very natural. The natural transparency of acrylic paints allow some of the darker color underneath to show thereby blending the two shades more evenly.

This technique works well for me in my style of painting allowing me to achieve blending effects similar to that of oil paint.  Try it sometimes and see if helps you with your acrylic paints.

Until next time, keep your brushes clean, your colors pure, and as always, thanks for stopping by the North Forty.


Clark Color Labs

Thank you.

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12 Responses to How to Blend Acrylic Paints

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  8. Well written, thank you for the post.

  9. Well written, thank you for the post.

  10. Great ideas. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  11. I have not been this excited and motivated by a post for quite some time! Keep up the great job. Keep on inspiring the people!

  12. richard ramirez says:

    Great blog. I work using human blood as my medium, a much over looked style of art that I have been toying with over the last few years. Blood has a very quick drying time, similar to acrylic paint, and your tips for blending work just as good with blood. Thanks a lot!

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