🖌️ Layering

Updated at 2020-05-06 17:01

Layering is the most straightforward technique of creating color gradients and blending colors. Layering means applying layers of translucent paints (e.g. all acrylic paints) to create a blend or a gradient.

All acrylic paints are translucent; some more than others and you can increase the transparency by thinning the paint with water. Apply thin coats to shift the color from one to another in smaller increments.

How much you thin depends on the condition of the paint and where is it applied to. This is why you can never give exact water-to-paint ratios. 1+3 paint-to-water is a good starting point but sometimes you want something on the lines of 1+5 where the paint is more like colored water. It depends how much control you want to have and how much time you want to spend. If you have a wet palette, swiping the paint back and forth will thin it.

The easiest way to create a gradient with layering:

  • You buy paints that create the gradient and you don't need to mix anything.
  • But this is expensive; imagine buying paints for every color hue and tint. Blending these shades on your palette is cheaper in the end.
  • 3 shades of a color + a dark wash is good enough; base with the darkest one, dark wash, cleanup with thinned darkest, add highlight of the thinned mid-tone and finally add thinned layers of the brighter tone.
1. Apply an opaque base coat.
2. Apply a wash, focus getting some at least in the crevices.
3. Use the same base coat to clean up the larger surfaces. "Keep the good parts."
4. Take a lighter color, thin it and apply it where light would hit.
5. Repeat step 4 as many times as you want, applying in smaller areas.
    * At some point, switch to even lighter color.

You can also do texturing with layering thicker paints. To add scratches to leather, dot some cloth, make wood grains, detail hair etc.