Acrylic Painting Demo: Blending Colors on your Palette

This is a quick demonstration of my color blending method, for people who are learning to paint.  It seems pretty basic, but as a beginner I had a tendency to overmix my paint, resulting in flat colors. This method will give you a wide variety of closely related shades that will make the objects you paint look more luminous and three-dimensional.

To start, put dabs of paint on your palette a few centimeters apart.  Try to distribute the paint so that the colors you’ll be mixing will be close to each other, but don’t overthink it. Some artists use a circular arrangement of paint on the palette, I tend to just make a few groups of associated colors with some space in between.  For the demo, I’m just using two colors of acrylic paint; yellow and green.


Begin by adding a little bit of water to your brush and pulling some color out of the side of the paint dab and onto the clean palette area next to it.  Spread the paint around a bit so that you have some room to work. Next, without washing off your brush, do the same to the adjacent color so you have a thin gradient of paint that changes from the first color to the second color.


Now your palette is set up in such a way that you can select from a wide variety of shades each time you add paint to your brush. Once you have practice, you can make these mixes in a few seconds, without thinking about it. Your original dab of paint stays fresh and untainted by other colors, since you’re pulling color out of the side.


Unless I’m going from black to white or putting away my supplies, I usually just wipe my brush off on my painting apron or on a rag. This leaves traces of paint on my brush, which ties the colors of the painting together in an organic way.  While it’s important to thoroughly clean your brush between sessions, you shouldn’t be rinsing it that often while you’re working.

Sometimes I even load my brush with several colors of paint, and allow it to blend naturally as I work on the canvas.  This technique is a great shortcut for painting grass or flowers, like I did here with the lupines in my Glory painting:


When you run out of space on your palette, it’s time to start fresh.  This is how my palette usually looks by the end of a painting:


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