View Full Version : How to achieve soft edges in acrylics?

04-08-2015, 07:27 PM

Acrylics is a new world for me. So, I have the paint, some retarder and blending medium, water, brushes, QTips, rags...

Now, how do you achieve soft edges in acrylics :confused:

Thanks for coming to my rescue!


04-08-2015, 10:07 PM
Check out the Information Kiosk at the top of this forum. Loads of info there.

04-08-2015, 10:18 PM
If the paint is still wet, blend. If the paint is dry, glaze a little thick over the edge in one of the colors and blend. Or, glaze over the whole area.

04-09-2015, 09:00 AM
Good day!

Stumblefingers I have been reading for two weeks in the forum and sub-forums. Yet, I haven't found any relevant info on how to make soft edges. By the way, thanks for your welcome!

maryinasia Thank you for your answer but I am afraid that I don't understand.

Indeed, the color is dry and I want to make a soft edge with the color beside it. Let say a sky and a distant mountain. I cannot glaze the mountain all over the sky :confused: nor apply a thick layer of the mountain color over the edge of the sky and «blend» since the sky is dry :confused: Right!?!

I tried to put a coat of medium at the edge of the sky thinking I could blend the mountain color into that, amongst others like a fan brush. Didn't work even with practice.

I really want to learn how to achieve those soft edges. They are a turning point in my style of painting\drawing. :crossfingers:


04-09-2015, 09:07 AM
I did a search on Youtube and found a very good video explaining a few different techniques of blending acrylics. It helped me tremendously! Hope it does the same for you : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E0xsWf1nkQ

04-09-2015, 09:09 AM
You can glaze the sky color all over the mountain :)

You can put some of the sky color into the edge the mountain where it meets the sky and blend into the mountain. I just use water to thin.

the easiest way to search for wetcanvas threads is to use google search or yahoo or bing or whatever you use.

If you type in google : wetcanvas, acrylics, soft edges, you might get the following




and so on

Have fun!

04-09-2015, 09:59 AM
You might try scumbling, too, with a brush that isn't too soft. It might be best for you to try these techniques on scrap first. It is challenging to get soft edges with acrylics, so hang in there. Takes practice.

Phil Bourgeois
04-09-2015, 10:01 AM
Next time, try blending the sky colors into the mountain...a thin glaze of sky color ( always save some sky color!) blended over the edges of the mountain should soften the edges.

04-09-2015, 10:08 AM

Acrylics is a new world for me. So, I have the paint, some retarder and blending medium, water, brushes, QTips, rags...

Now, how do you achieve soft edges in acrylics :confused:

Thanks for coming to my rescue!


Welcome to the Acrylics Forum Marie.

For a long while I could only get soft edges by accident...:D It really is a matter of practicing that blending or scumbling, and knowing how/when the paint can be pushed a little bit with a dry brush to blur the edge. It can be frustrating but with time you will get more intuitive.

Mary's suggestion of glazing can work as well, although I don't tend to have as much success with that personally so tend to use the blending method more.

04-09-2015, 10:50 AM
Finger blend, dry brush, scumbling, sponge.....whatever it takes to get the effect desired.

04-09-2015, 12:05 PM
I have found a couple of approached that work well for me.

I don't often use a medium other than water. I like to keep it simple, any other mediums are used to prepare my surface and not to modify my paint.

When using paint that has been thinned to the consistency of cream or milk, I find a soft natural hair brush works the best. I have some soft goat hair flats and hakes that I use for this purpose. I can get edges that are smooth enough to look airbrushed. It does take practice. It is really easy to overwork and be too heavy handed.

Alternatively when the previous area is dry, I dry brush the edge, fading out more and more as the get further away from the source of the colour.


Charlie's Mum
04-09-2015, 03:29 PM
We did a PAL class on Soft and Hard Edges - it's in the Information Kiosk, so look here (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1319232).:)

Mark Szymanski
04-09-2015, 05:05 PM
When I use acrylic, I paint the background over the edge of the subject... i.e. the sky is actually painted partway into the mountain. If it dries before I can lay the mountain in, then I use glazing medium to thin the paint and build the edge of the mountain in layers. In this manner, I can bring the thickness/opacity of the paint up as I require to soften or harden the edge. If you just use water to thin, you run the risk of diluting the binder too much, causing the pigment to precipitate out of the solution. You can thin with water, but just watch the percentage.
It is often less a case of blending than a case of mixing the proper value to ease the edge. Lightening or darkening the values as you approach an edge are quite often the most successful way to turn the edge or lose or harden the edge rather than just blending them away.
I try to anticipate where I want to turn an edge before I get to that area, so I don't run out of paint. The key I have found is to mix on a stay-wet palette, and to pre-mix a sufficient quantity of your colors so you can paint quickly enough to ease the edges before the paint dries or you run out of paint. Too often we try to go cheap and not mix enough of the pigment we need. No one likes to waste, but acrylic dries so quickly you just don't have time to fiddle aimlessly trying to find the result within your brushwork. I find a more confident brush stroke is called for. Know what and where and how you're going to paint a passage before you ever lay a brush to canvas, and you will have more than enough time to move the paint in the way you wish. Trying to "figure it out" on the canvas with acrylic paint I find to be frustrating and counterproductive. So if we need to turn an edge we need enough paint on the canvas so it is thick enough not to dry instantly. A larger brush helps to place enough paint on the canvas delaying how fast stuff dries, but sometimes all of the tricks fail and you end up having to paint wet into dry. In this case, I have been known to remix and repaint a portion of the background (depending upon what is back there repainting may not be practical) to allow me ease the edges. Though I will often just paint using the glazing medium as I described earlier. Sometimes I scumble color into other areas, but depending on the surface of the canvas, previous underlying brushstrokes, or effect I am wishing to convey, this may not be practical.

If it is a humid day, you can have a small amount of added open time on the acrylic, but you can't control that too well. Sometimes I use a water mister bottle on the canvas and on the acrylic to add humidity and thus slow the drying, but this can add its own issues to fluidity and transparency and subsequent brushwork.

So anyhow, those are some of my tricks to work with acrylic, I am sure there are a great many others.

04-09-2015, 07:46 PM
Good evening all!

HeartMusings I already had a look at the video. Very useful! Tks!

maryinasia Nice from you to take the time to elaborate and advise me to use google instead. Oh, and for the links as well!

oramasha I appreciate your comment as per doing soft edges is challenging; I am not all faulty!

Phil I will never forget from now on «Always save some sky color»!

Colin Thanks for your welcome and encouragement.

idylbrush Indeed «whatever it takes to get the effect desired.»

Andrew Thanks so much. Exactly what I needed!

Charlie's Mum I will make the best out of the PAL. Tks

Mark I see the light! Your explanations are clear and very useful. Thank you for having taken the time to elaborate that much.