I’ve been asked recently for some tips on blending, and I thought that is something that would make a good blog post. For me there are a few different methods for blending:
1. Gradually changing the paint color on the palette and applying full coverage layers – this is the most straightforward, easiest method. It also uses a ton of paint. I rarely, if ever, do it.
2. Wet blending – Applying wet paint in one color and then applying wet paint of another color and blending the two different wet paints on the model – I rarely do this as well, although when I’m painting textured surfaces like feathers and fur it is my preferred method. I know some people don’t have this problem, but I actually have a tougher time getting smooth blends on smooth surfaces with this method.
3. Two brush blending – Applying thicker wet paint and then taking another clean, wet (but not too wet) brush and sticking it into the edge of the paint and feathering it down across the transition. This is what I used to do the most, but on larger areas this method annoys me because paint tends to dry awkwardly. There are a lot of people that use this method. It is relatively easy to learn the mechanics of, and it doesn’t require a lot of patience. Practice makes perfect here, and additives can be your friend. Don’t worry about the folks that want to say you don’t need them – some people need them, others don’t, there is nothing wrong either way. The weather even has an effect on your paint, so don’t be afraid to try different things.
4. Glazing/layering with super thin paint – This is what I usually do most often now. Paint a base coat – it can be the highest light, the darkest shadow, or anywhere in between…it just doesn’t matter too much where you start, just do what feels right to you. I start in different places depending on what I’m doing, and it’s a thing I feel my way through rather than decide on intellectually. Maybe it can even depend on your mood. After the basecoat dries, take a color in either a shade or highlight direction and thin it a lot, get some paint on your brush, and then run it on a cloth to remove most of the moisture. Take that barely moist brush and gently apply successive thin layers where you want that color to be. Color will build, and you will gradually move across the area as your transition forms. It is also possible to paint a hard transition between two colors and use one or both colors thinned like this to smooth the transition. This method can require some patience, but it is not as slow as it might sound. How much to thin the paint is something I just “feel” now instead of measuring. You can test your paint on another surface to see if it is right. It should be transparent, but still have a little color to it.
I think a lot of people use a variety of methods to blend, depending on what they are doing. I rarely think about what method to use or how to do it anymore, I just do it. The best blends (for me at least) typically come from going back and forth between colors over a transition. For me, the hardest thing to learn (and probably the most important as it allowed me to just paint instead of overthinking it), is that any transition can be blended after the fact. Even if you mess up, it can be fixed.