Blending Tutorial Part 2a

by Vhaidra

posted by Yvonne, Vhaidra

Introduction: This is the continuation of the first part of my Blending Tutorial which describes some generall basics: Blending Tutorial Part 1

Special Thanks to my good old friend Darkstar who helped me out of this "english desaster" because he checked out the text and corrected faults and made it all sound a bit more natural. Many, many thanks for that.

This part includes my very first painting videos so excuse the very bad quality. The quality is good enough for getting at least an idea of what is going on there but not much more. I will try to improve this and if it works I will post some better videos in addition here, sooner or later.

I will go on to talk about mixing paints and how to turn all the knowledge of part 1 into practice. In part 1 I started with a simple transition, because these kinds of transitions are the easiest ones. Easy/Simple means: Just one and the same colour is changed from a very dark version (shadow), over a midtone to a very bright version (highlights). In other words: Shadow is a very dark blue (dark blue mixed with a bit black), midtone is a medium blue (dark blue mixed with a bit white) and highlights are light blue (darkblue mixed with more white).

If you mix all those colours in the right order (as stageless as it is possible with 7 tones depending on the depth you wish) on your palette without too hard interruptions and you have the whole palette right in front of you, then you can apply all the colours directly in the right order on the miniature and you already have a first rough blending like you see on your palette.

Elementary for success is that the 5 tones (for beginners, not so much depth) or 7 tones (for advanced painter, much depth) are mixed as well as possible. If there is an interruption in tone on your palette there will be the same interruption for sure at the painted transition on the miniature. The better you mix your paints, the better the first sketch of your basic transition will be.

Mixing paints in action:
One fact we may not forget when it comes to mixing paints is the dominance of the dark colours. If you want to darken a bright colour just mix in very carefully just a small amount of a dark colour. As a an example I show how to mix a simple blue transition:

Video Mixing Paints

The way I paint starts with thicker paints like I mixed them in the video. If the consistency of the paint is right (means: Creamy), then wetblending is easier because the paints need a bit more time for getting dry than they would need in a thinner consistency.

Video Wetblending


On smaller surfaces like we find on miniatures, the wetblending technique doesn`t work exactly like you see it in the video here. For smaller surfaces the brush needs to be wiped over a kitchen towel in front of you. Because if you don`t wipe the brush over the kitchen towel, you would have way too much paint on your brush. Details about wetblending will be described in the 3rd Part of the Blending Tutorial where I only will talk about Wetblending. All who are not able to do Wetblending (yet), because they are not fast and sure enough yet, have another possibility to paint the basic transition. In practice it works in the same way as I have shown at the Wetblending video (paint one tone after another) but the paint has to be thinner. It should be only half as thick as the paint I used for Wetblending. Maybe even thinner.

The reason for that is: If you used the paints as thick as I use them for wetblending, you would apply the paint slowly so that it dries and the paint wouldn`t blend into the previously applied thick paint, then some ugly interruptions would appear at your transition unless you change the consistency (by dilution).

For the slow painters and the beginners: Apply the paint medium diluted, meaning: Not as thick as I use it for wetblending but also not as thin as you use it for a glaze or a wash, but something in between. Consistency should be like thick milk or thin cream. There is no certain consistency. You only have to know: The thinner the paints the less interruptions at the transition but also less opacity and more layers are necessary for getting good depth. The thicker the paints the faster opacity and depth but also harder interruptions at the transition at least if you use thick paints for layering and not for wetblending. For wetblending thick paints work fine. I have written a lot about consistency in part 1 of the blending tutorial.

The way for painters who are not able to do wetblending (yet) is midway. Look for the best compromise of getting quick depth and acceptable results without too harsh of blends between tones at least.

With Wetblending:
When I finished my basic transition, which is done after 3-5 layers of wetblending, then I start to work it out. 3-5 Layers means: I wait until the first layer is dried and then I apply the next all over the whole area, which means I paint the whole transition again over the first and cover it completely with the new layer.The more often one does this the more depth can be reached and the transition will become more and more even and opaque. While I am doing this (applying my layers again and again) I work also on the highlighting and even change it sometimes. Meaning: I place it a bit differently or correct it when I do the next layer.

Without Wetblending:
All this also works without wetblending too if you use a thinner consistency but it takes much more time. If you use thinner paints you do the same: You put on layer over layer, highlights over highlights, midtones over midtones, shadows over shadows. I`m also working crossover and overlapping, meaning: I place midtones over shadows to lighten them up again a bit or I use the midtones to darken the highlights or I use the shadow colour to darken the midtones and so on. In this way you can work out the depth and and the highlighting more and more with each new layer.Your eye and artistic sense should tell you where to place which colour and how much of it.

When you think it is enough and when you are satisfied with the depth of the blending and also with your highlighting then you can start to work out the transition, but then with much thinner paints. You can place them as transparent filters between two tones to paint a connection. With each additional layer the depth becomes deeper and the transition becomes smoother and smoother. That is the reason why highend level miniatures need so much time to be painted. There are a lot of thicker, medium and very thin layers necessary to work out the depth and the smoothness of the transition/blending. So you can spend a lot of time in endless blending sessions to get the best result.

So Wetblending is really a great way to speed up the process extremely, but a painter needs maximum brush control to master this technique and so beginners often fail when they try to do wetblending. But please if you are beginner try this way of painting wet in wet, because it works easier with 7, respectively 3-5 tones (I will explain why in the 3rd part of the blending tutorial), because you don`t have to blend 2 extremes (very light and very dark colour) on the miniature (like wetblending normally works) into each other for a smooth transition. No matter how you build up your basic transition, by wetblending or with thinner layers. Here you can see how I proceed:

Video Smooth Out The Blending

To work out the blending:
Something you have to keep in mind while you build up the basic transition is:
- Start with the tickest possible consistency (for quick depth). If you use the wetblending technique you can use very thick paints but for layering or putting the tones beside each other you need to use a medium consistency.

- Go on with medium to thin consistency to get the transition a bit smoother than before. Consistency should be like thick milk or thin cream.

- Then use a thinner consistency like you would use for a glaze or a wash. It should be transparent and well saturated but very liquid (like water).

- For the very final touches you can even thin the paint a bit more but I wouldn`t recommend to thin the paints more because after this there only comes a consistency which is like slightly coloured water and that is to thin, it will only look glossy when applied. It is better to use more tones than to thin down the paints so extremely.

The right order is from thick over medium to thin and thinner. This way you will get a smooth Blending. Neverthless it is a good idea to use thicker paints too while you work out the transition because it is great for quickly covering mistakes or if you want to darken or lighten up a certain area more quickly and/or to build up your blending again. For example.


Working out and the dominance of dark colours:
Some very important information which may not be missing here and all success is depending on it. How I already described at Part 1: The dark colours are dominant over light colours. So if you thin down a very dark and a very bright colour to the same consistency, you will have to apply the light colour approximatly 5 times more for getting the same opacity as the dark colour has already just with one layer.

This means:
- Either you use the light colours in thicker consistency than the darker ones (but then please pay attention to the midtones because of the danger of interruptions). I often use the first two highlighting colours in thicker consistency, the lightest midtone slightly thinner and the shadow colours are mostly very diluted (transparent).

- Or you paint a lot more layers with thin light paint than layers with dark paint which means: Care much more about highlighting than shading. If you don`t care about this advice it will be very hard, tedious and nearly impossible to reach really good depth in the transition.

Common mistakes:

- Missing Midtones: You don`t keep in mind the dominance of dark colours and you tend to shade too much. What happens then is that the midtones become too dark and the connection to the highlights gets lost. An interruption at the transition appears, chalky highlights, and curved details don't look round but flat, because all the midtones which make a curved surface look curved/round are missing.
- Solution: Thin your shading colour more, use a brighter shadow colour or a dark midtone and work out consistently the midtones again and again after shading.

- Chalky Highlights: They appear if the connection from the highlights to the light midtones is missing.
- Solution: Mix your paints better or mix up an additional midtone between the both highlighting colours.

- Paint doesn`t stick anymore: This happens if you paint too many layers of very diluted paints. The surface gets polished because of the consistency (like water) and then the new layer doesn`t stick and the paint slides off.
- Solution: Sounds hard but either you give up or you paint a new layer with a bit thicker paints (but still slightly transparent because you don`t want to damage your already painted blending entirely) and then you can work out again the transition on the new layer of paint because the new layer of thicker paints will be a bit roughened so that the paint will stick on it again. But don't overdo it, stop when just enough of the very thin paint has been applied.

Paint is out of control: This is a common mistake among beginners. It is because they don`t know just how little paint is needed for miniature painting. The result of too much paint is: Stains, stripes and paint that flows everwhere but not where you want it and it damages already nicely painted areas.
- Solution: Just use less paint. Wipe the brush all the time over a kitchen towel. If you use a brush size 0, you may need to wipe it 3 times over the kitchen towel before you put the brush to the mini. Everybody has to find out through practice by themselves how often it is necessary to wipe the brush over the kitchen towel because it is also an individual preference but one thing is for sure: It's absolutely necessary to wipe the excess paint off of the brush with every new application of paint. Best thing for a beginner is to learn this right from the beginning.

Paints dry too fast (during wetblending): There are moments when it seems that the paint dries in split seconds.
-Solution: Maybe it is too hot inside the room where you are working or the humidity of the room is too low or you have to try another consistency. Try a thicker or thinner consistency. In the meantime I`m able to do wetblending with each consistency even with glazes. This means: It is possible to do wetblending with each consistency but there are 3 consistencies which work exceptionally well and each of these 3 can be described as: thick.

- Generally: It is not necessary to use a drying retarder for successful wetblending. I say this in advance because I suppose that the question concerning drying retarder will arise. I only use pure acrylics and apply them as simply as you can see in the video. This works because of the consistency and the amount of paint and it is as easy as how it looks because you have your paint already well mixed on your palette. That`s the whole the secret. No additives and no drying retarder.

- Personal experiences: Once I tried a drying retarder but wetblending didn`t work with the retarder. I think the retarder makes the paints like gel and I find them hard to control then, but maybe it was because the retarder I used wasn`t the best, I don`t know. But the wetblending technique immediatly worked, when Jarhead showed me at his workshop and he didn`t use retarder.

- The depth becomes less when you smooth out the blending: Oh well that just happens. If you smooth out the blending and try to make the tones more and more similar, mostly the shadow and midtone areas becomes larger and the highlights become darker and darker while trying to get all the tones connected to each other without interruptions. This happens as a matter of course. Often the painter doesn`t recognize it while painting, but when paints dry you will see that the transition has lost depth.
- Solution: Either you paint more depth into your basic blending until you think that you have reached maximum depth in your basic blending or you just add more layers of diluted paints to work out the light tones again.

- Perfectionism: A disease I am suffering from very badly and this point is among the "common mistakes" because many painters suffer from it. You can spend a lot of time trying to get a blending smoother and smoother during a lot of hours of tedious work just to think: "Oh well, 3 hours ago it didn't look much worse." I just wanna say: One can carry perfectionism to excess. Other things like atmosphere, basework, creativity, a nice theme, a message and especially a lot of fun are at least just as important as perfectly smooth blendings.

There is a certain moment when the blending is done, when it is finished according to the current skills of the painter. The painter should recognize this moment and declare the blending as finished although it doesn`t look perfect yet.

Miniature painter`s skills develop slowly by experiance and practice. You shouldn`t rush something but wait patiently for your own developement. Your blending technique will become better and better by itself. If you force yourself too much, you will lose joy in painting and then painting will lose sense at all. Be hard working (but not too hard), be willing to learn, take critique but don`t be to stubborn and take your time for your own developement. This is the most comfortable and promising way.

To be relaxed is essential for miniature painting. Creativity only comes to a relaxed mind and the brush seems to move by itself if you are in a good and relaxed mood. In this state of mind also learning is much easier and you will make better progress then. I also want to especially mention the value of honest, constructive critique which you should face as relaxed as you should be for painting. Our critics are our best teacher because they tell us where we can still develop.

- Solution: Stretch things a bit ;-)

Icepalette special:
I guess it would be a good idea to tell you some general advice about the icepalette.
- Before you place the icepack below the metal palette you should forcefully push the icepack from all sides because sometimes the plastic of the icepack sticks on the ice and when it is melting it often does it with a loud bang. So imagine you are painting eyes on a miniature and the ice is melting and a big bang scares you to death. You can avoid this if you push the icepack before you use it.

- I start with a lot of paint as you can see on the video and each 20 min. I have to add a brushload (size 0) of water to the paints. They dry more slowly on the icepalette but they dry. Each time I dilute my paints more they become a little bit thinner. This can be an advantage if I'm currently using thinner paints to smooth out the blending. But keep in mind the first layers of wetblending need more paint and so after approximatly 2 hours there isn`t much useable paint left on my palette because the paints become much too scarce and/or too thin after 2 hours or so. So I mix a new transition on my palette or by coincedence I just so happen to need this very thin paint right at this moment to smooth out the transition.

- From time to time you should stir the paints with your mixing brush to keep them from separating on the palette. You will see why.

- Cleaning the palette is very easy: Take a damp kitchen towel and just wipe off the paints. If the aluminium foil gets damaged one day, you can use a new one.

- A big icepack (like on the video) is useful for approximately 1 to two and a half hours depending on the temperature of the environment. Put a second icepack in your freezer so you`ll always have reserves.

The way which is described here, is exactly my way of painting, but it is also just one part of it. With this way you can quickly achieve a basic transition with reasonably good depth which is 80-90% smooth. The last 10-20% are the hardest. The last percents to perfection often takes a lot of time because that`s the price of perfection. So how to make the blending perfect (the last 10 - 20%) I will talk about in Part 2b of the blending tutorial. Part 2b will deal with (classic) layering and pulling paints.

What I already said in Part 1: This is just one of the many ways one can paint. It is also not a way I use exclusively but a part of a painting philosophy which doesn`t exclude any technique. Meaning: All the techniques I do know, are used by me. More information in Part 2b.

For the germans: Die deutsche Version des Tutorials findet ihr im Bemalforum

Happy Painting :-)

Greetings: Yvonne

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