Blending with Acrylic Paint - Warhammer 40K Fantasy

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  1. #1
    Member Bane's Avatar
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    Blending with Acrylic Paint

    My teacher tells me that when trying to blend with acrylics to use very little water (just enough to get it to flow) and then try and smudge two tones together with a dry brush. She tells me this is what is known as ďsfumatoĒ technique, and was the way Leonardo Da Vinci painted.

    After doing some research on my own, I found that Da Vinci used very then, virtually transparent glazes of paint and built it up in layers, up to 40 in an area 1 inch by 1 inch. Of course, to create such diluted layers, you would need to water your paints down a lot, which contradicts what my teacher has told me. To expand on her technique, you lay two tones of paint beside each other with a small gap in-between them and smear the paints into each other before the paint can completely dry. To me, this technique seems crude and unreliable. However, my teachers repeatedly emphasized how important it is not to use watery paints, as ďthis isnít water coloursĒ.

    I tested out Ďmyí way of blending and received rather favorable results; better than I expected. Compared to her way of smudging the paint I think my way turned out a lot smoother, warmer and generally had more depth than hers. (Ill post a picture of my test once I get my camera back, and you guys can be the judge.) There where two problems with the technique I tried though, the first being that it took a substantial amount of time to do one small sphere; about 15 minutes. While this may not seem like much (I realize that some people would spend hours, days or even weeks on a circle) her circle took only about a minute and a half. Secondly, with all that water on my brush the paper I was painting on (8Ĺ by 11 inch white paper, taken out of printer) the pulp from the paper started to gather on top of the sphere, and while on my highest highlight it actually ripped a hole into it. Iím assuming that using thicker paper while eliminate the latter problem, but Iím unsure.

    Anyways, my question is, how the hell do I blend acrylics? Iíve spent about 5 days of a project Iím doing contemplating how to achieve a subtle blend to my painting, so I really should get started. (By they way, this is the picture I am likely to do http://www.manhunter.net/hannibal/gfx/hannibal.jpg). I think I've gone on long enough. Please fellow painters and artists, enlighten me!


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  3. #2
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    Well, first of all Iíll recommend you to get some proper paper to paint on. Acrylics are traditionally used on canvas, but if you insist on using paper I would advise that you get some good thick aquarelle paper that can handle water, which ordinary printing paper cannot. You will also find if you work with proper paper or canvas that the colours will be deeper and more intense, that even layers will be more easily achieved, and that the colours will blend more smoothly.

    Some people find canvas daunting when trying it for the first time, but I rather like it. Just make sure to give it a basecoat of paint in a light colour first, or the paint will have a tendency to run out Ė I usually use white for this purpose because it allows me to sketch on the canvas when dry. Once basecoated, canvas acts pretty much in the same way as paper, only it looks classier.

    If you use watercolour or aquarelle paper rather than canvas, a good trick to keep it from buckling when drying is to take a piece of thick cardboard or preferably a thin piece of wood and tape your paper to it Ė alternatively, you can also tape your paper to the table where you work, then just remember to put a layer of newspapers underneath to prevent paint from leaking onto the table surface. Youíll have to cut off the edges where the tape was, so remember to make your sketch a little smaller than the actual paper, leaving margins to cut away without ruining the motif.

    As for how to blend acrylics, I must say Iím with your teacher on this one: donít thin the paints too much, apply two colours next to each other, and gently work them together until they blend. Acrylics really arenít watercolours, nor do they react on paper as they do on miniatures. Thinning them too much tends to make them layer unevenly in my experience, but that is of course up to your personal liking. Personally, I also like to do most of my colour blending on the palette rather than on the paper, applying small brush strokes of subtly different nuances and then working those together into a smooth blend.

    As for Leonardo da Vinci and his painting methods, do keep in mind that he was using oils rather than acrylics, and thatís an entirely different medium.

    However, I would very much like to see the results of your experiments if you have the option of scanning your works. Could be I should try your method as well?

    ~Greph.
    "Girls are nice and cuddly on the outside, and freaky on the inside." ~ Lost Nemesis.


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    Thanks for the response Grephaun, very interesting stuff. Regarding the paper, my teacher has already supplied me with the type she wants us to use. However, I could probably convince her to let me use a different type, so it shouldn't really be a problem. I don't have the paper she gave us with me, but it's thicker than regular paper with a textured surface, if you can make anything of that. I doubt, though, that she will let me use canvas.

    Thinning them too much tends to make them layer unevenly
    I'm don't exactly understand what you mean by this. Is it that they don't retain the same level of highlight through out the piece? It confuses me though, why people seem to refrain from using watery paints. Is there something I'm missing? Does the glaze technique just not work very well, or is your suggestion for blending just better? I think I'm over thinking this :tongue:.

    I'm going to a very good art store tomorrow, and I'll pick up some nice papers. Unfortunately I don't have a scanner, but I think I can make do with a Digital Camera.

    As for Leonardo da Vinci and his painting methods, do keep in mind that he was using oils rather than acrylics, and thatís an entirely different medium.
    It never even crossed my mind that he wouldn't have ever painted in acrylics, hell they weren't invented for another 400 years after his death!

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