First of all you might be wondering what is a painting technique? I thought I would explain as many of my learners get confused about what they are and what media they can be used in.
A painting technique means a way of using the paint – applying it or removing it, to create a desired visual effect. There are lots of painting techniques you can use, some are general techniques that you might use with any paint media (watercolour, acrylics or oils) and some are designed to be used with one type of media (or are more effective with this type of media).
It can be really confusing when you hear names of techniques and have no idea that they are. With this in mind I will go through the most basic ones that you might try as a beginner:
Blending means just that; blending one colour or colours into another. The idea of this technique is that the blend is seamless and there are no streaks. The desired result is a soft graduation of colour.
Blending is easier with oils, because oils are perfect for creating soft blends. Blending is more difficult with acrylic as it dries quickly but there are ways to make blending easier with acrylics. You can add a medium to the acrylic paint to help keep it wet or buy or make a moisture spray. I shall be writing a post on how to stop acrylics drying out.
Blending can also be known as gradient blending or graduations. They are achieved by mixing small amounts of the next shade either on the canvas or paper or on the palette first. The smooth graduation is achieved by continuous brush strokes up and down or in small circles. A typical example of when you might want to use a blended graduation is for a sky starting in one colour blue and blending to a light blue or off white.
Splatter is a really fun technique that basically means ‘splattering’. It is used in watercolours and acrylics more than oils but can be used with all media. You simply splatter with a loaded stiff brush or toothbrush (for a finer splatter) over the areas you want splattered. It is generally applied to dry paint layers (so it can sit on top and not run/bleed into layers underneath). Sometimes in watercolour painting splatter techniques are used on moist/wet paper on purpose so that the splatter will bleed out into either a wet layer of existing paint or across the page.
To avoid your splattered paint going all over the piece you can block off areas using a piece of protective paper so the splatter goes where you intended. I have seen splatter techniques used effectively for flowers in a field in landscapes and sea spray/breakers for seascapes.
Sponging Off/Lifting Off
There are techniques known as lifting off which means removing paint in a variety of ways. There are many tools you can use to remove paint and each one has a slightly different visual effect.
Sponging off is quite a common technique where you sponge off wet paint leaving the white of the paper or a dry existing layer of paint.
Sponging off is common in watercolours for creating clouds in skies for example. You will need a soft natural artists sponge for the best results. There are many other ways of lifting off pigment other than sponges, you could use a dry brush, credit card edge, rag and many other instruments – anything that you can remove paint with could be used. The only thing to bear in mind with lifting off is not damaging the surface paper, some instruments like credit cards wouldn’t be suitable to use on watercolour paper for example but would be fine on a canvas.
Washes mean watery layers of paint and are often associated with watercolour painting. Washes can however be used with acrylics or gouache.
To the left we see acrylic paint used in washes. Very watery mixes of red and blue have been created on the palette first. The blue wash is then applied and the red wash dropped into the blue to create ‘bleeding’. Bleeding means one paint application running into another, bleeds are very common in watercolour but they can be used effectively with acrylics and gouache. Using washes can be a challenge with acrylics because of the quick drying times.
Try out these four techniques to get you started and your painting and see which ones you enjoy. Also see my post ‘How can I Learn Painting Techniques? for more advice.