How to Blend Acrylic Paints on Canvas

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Painting on canvas with acrylics requires that the artist build from thin layers to heavier layers.
Painting on canvas with acrylics requires that the artist build from thin layers to heavier layers. (Image: oil on canvas image by Peter Baxter from Fotolia.com)

Most acrylic paints are thick and creamy and can be thinned to a watercolor-paint consistency or applied with a palette knife. This paint dries more quickly so that, unless using a retardant, the artist must work quickly to apply and blend paint to make one tone of color move smoothly onto another. This is the reason that blending acrylic paints on canvas takes a slightly different technique than using oils. Blending colors on canvas can be done physically or optically.

Things You'll Need

  • Canvas
  • Paint brushes for acrylic paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Palette
  • Container for clean water
  • Rag or paper towels

Blending Acrylic Paint on Canvas

Apply different tones of a color next to one another on the canvas and while they're still wet, stroke the line between them with a damp, clean brush to smooth the transitions. For example, when painting an orange, the dark, medium and light shades of orange and white are applied in the right locations on the sketch and then blended to create a three-dimensional form.

The artist can capture this image quickly using acrylic paints.
The artist can capture this image quickly using acrylic paints. (Image: orange and orange's juice in a glass image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com)

Apply a darker shade of color in thin lines as you would with a pencil or pen to shade on paper. This early Renaissance method of crosshatching allows you to blend by applying darker shades of the hue gradually. Create shadow by first applying thin lines of a darker shade of the hue on top of the lighter tone, and build up the shadow by applying more lines crossing the first at angles, creating crosses in areas where you want darker tones.

Crosshatching can be used with acrylic paints using a fine brush.
Crosshatching can be used with acrylic paints using a fine brush. (Image: drawing night image by ewa kubicka from Fotolia.com)

Stippling is another optical method that creates dark and shadow on a canvas. After covering the area with a light shade of the desired color, use a fine brush to stipple or lightly dab small dots of darker paint onto it. Apply dabs of the medium tone first, and then apply the dark tone of the color in the areas of the canvas that should be darkest. Both form and texture are created on the canvas this way.

Applying small dots to the canvas creates a change in tonal quality.
Applying small dots to the canvas creates a change in tonal quality. (Image: dots image by chrisharvey from Fotolia.com)

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