Acrylic Paint Techniques for Blending Colors

Make unique shades by blending acrylic colors.
Make unique shades by blending acrylic colors. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Create your own colors for your paintings by mixing acrylic paints. Different methods of paint mixing can allow you to play with textures as you develop your painting. Before you begin mixing paints, make sure you know the ins and outs of the color wheel. Knowledge of pigment blending can save you time and frustration, as well as rescue a painting from unsightly mistakes.

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Using the Color Wheel

If you're new to painting with acrylics, it is recommended you use a color wheel to aid you in the tricky business of blending colors. Place dabs of paint you would like to use onto a palette and consult the color wheel before mixing the colors. A color wheel is composed of primary colors, secondary colors and tertiary colors. The primary colors are blue, yellow and red. Secondary colors -- green, orange, and purple -- are placed between the primary colors on the color wheel and are created by combining the adjacent primary colors. Using a color wheel as a guide can keep you from creating the incorrect color shade and hue and help you recreate colors in a reference picture.

Mixing on the Palette

If you find you are having difficulty mixing the acrylic paints together, try dipping your paintbrush in water before combining the paints on the palette. Because acrylic is a water-based emulsion paint, it can easily be thinned and mixed using water. Just a little bit of water is often enough to thoroughly blend two paints that don't want to mix.

Mixing on the Canvas

One technique for blending two or more acrylic colors while creating texture is to mix the paints on the canvas. Apply a base coat of paint, then add a lighter paint on top of the wet base coat to make highlights or a darker paint to create lowlights. Use a clean paintbrush to blend the different shades of paint together. If you want to create a smooth transition between the base color and the highlight or lowlight, add a little bit of water to your paintbrush.

Layering

Create a unique textured shade by adding layer upon layer of different acrylic colors. Thin each layer with water or an acrylic thinner. Allow each layer to dry completely before adding the next. Thin the paints so each layer is more translucent than the previous one. Using thinned paints allows you to create depth in your painting as you overlap different textures and add subtle highlights or lowlights.

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