View Full Version : Aggrivating technique woes

09-02-2001, 09:54 PM
Two things are driving me nuts! I am interested in photorealistic painting, and I am having a horrible time trying to eliminate two problems: visible brushstrokes and smooth blends. The fan brush does the bes job for avoiding brushstrokes but it's exceedingly difficult. I am trying to wash the paint pretty thin but I still get brush texture. Are there any tricks, pointers, clues you can offer. On the subject of blending, there are two kinds of blending, color to color and value. I am mostly doing value blending, such as a body of water or a sky that need to go from dark to light toward the horizon. Making these blends smooth across the whole range instead of just across a fairly short interval and avoiding streaks is almost impossible. Some acrylic artists use airbrushes to do this kind of thing but I don't want to get into that. Again, pointers, advice, anything like that would be fabulously.

Thank you for any help you might provide. I'll post pictures of my present work in progress if I get a chance.

09-03-2001, 01:27 AM
Sorry about your woes Keith.
The only way I ever got smooth transitions with acrylics was with a brush in each hand. One to zig zag zipper the brush strokes so the new paint overlapped the previous line and the other brush to follow righ behind to smooth.
OHH! And foam brushes. :) Those were the easiest for the larger areas.
Hope this helps until a pro comes in to help. If nothing else, at least it'll aggravate ya in a different way. :)

09-03-2001, 12:51 PM
Hi Keith,

Don't know if this will help with the look you are striving for but one way to get smooth blends with acrylic is:

1. Mist the canvas

2. Apply a generous coat of gesso.

3. Work pure color into the gesso. If you are looking to blend dark at the top to lighter at the bottom, add the dark color in the top section, add the lighter color in the bottom section and blend the colors in between. Large criss-cross strokes help. If you use a soft brush such as a hake or watercolor brush, you can blend out the brush strokes. The gesso gives you quite a bit of open time.

Hope this helps.


09-03-2001, 05:11 PM
What works for me best...is the following.

I do underpainting in acrylic and then do glazing coats...using Liquitex in oils over them.

The fan brush is not really the best blender....try a very soft mop brush.....

The other thing you can do if you are going to do an all acrylic painting is mix your water 50-50 with acrylic mat medium. This will extend drying time and will allow you to "mop" the painting accomplishing smooth blending.


09-03-2001, 05:42 PM
I assume mop and foam brushes are the same thing? What's a hake brush? I have discovered that if I water down the paint more than just a little bit it tends to get pretty watercolory on the canvas. That can be solved by letting it dry and applying further coats, but one way or the other I am going for a nice opaque appearance. Not impasto or course since I'm shooting for photorealism, but not watery with canvas texture showing through either.

09-03-2001, 05:58 PM
A hake brush is made from a fiberous material and is wide and is used for blending with watercolors or acrylics...not for oils...EVER!

The mop is a roundish furry brush...used for soft blending in oils or acylics. You can buy an expensive squirrel tale brush from an art vendor or a less expenive one...is a womans blender for cosmetics.

I also use a very flexible soft brush made out of some kind of plastic fibers for oil/acrylics.

Yes realism calls for opaque colors...but to get gradual transistion and soft edges a blending brush is excellent. The fan brush is more often used for applying scattering of paint...such as highlights on trees/bushes...and for ground cover...you dab the brush in one or more colors of paint and then make an upstroke to simulate weeds/etc. Very good for foreground work...but it is a substandard blender.

Hope this helps


09-04-2001, 08:04 AM
I use a fan on small areas that need blending, like leaves. Lay 2 strokes side by side, using the END of the fan, not the entire brush, lightly "tickle" the 2 wet edges to blend. I think this is how most people, who do use a fan for blending, use it.

09-05-2001, 09:27 AM
photorealism with acrylics is a tall order! personally, i would need the longer open time of oils to achieve such a feat!

but the secret to getting smooth transitions in acrylic is always water water water. misting is the right idea. i mist with a water bottle that has a little retarder and a little matte medium mixed in. i mist every 5-10 minutes while painting and mist my palette as well to keep everything nice and moist.

there are also such things as self-levelling mediums which minimise brush strokes. i offer one on my website but i'm sure there are others at your local corner art supply. you might also try a more liquid-y (less viscous) brand of acrylics. both golden and liquitex offer their colors in a jar format that has a longer open time. the golden fluid acrylics are totally awesome! i started making my own because of this very problem.

09-05-2001, 09:58 AM
I love using a fan brush for blending. But I usually use this brush sparingly and as a last resort. A light touch is the key.

I second the motion that a lot of water is necessary.

09-05-2001, 01:04 PM
Originally posted by vallarta
What works for me best...is the following.

...using Liquitex in oils over them.


Liquitex IN oils??


09-05-2001, 01:29 PM
Thanks everybody.

09-05-2001, 06:00 PM
Acrylics are difficult to use to achieve a totally smooth surface. The suggestions given here are very good. Due to the binder acrylics tend to have a thickness from the start. Try changing your surface from canvas to either a primed/sanded portrait linen, masonite, or even heavy illustration board. Also try using the more viscous acrylics rather than tube paints.

Casein works well for very smooth techniques.


09-06-2001, 10:59 PM
Keith, first off try and view some photorealistic art first-hand. You've got to remember the reproductions you see in books are massively reduced from the originals - the first time I saw a photorealist painting in the flesh I was stunned at how painterly it was close up.

Get some good books on nature and landscape painting - many of the big names use acrylics and their results, while not necessarily photorealistic, have the kinds of smooth transitions you are looking for. Look for work by Robert Bateman, Richard Sloane, Michael James Riddet, Daniel Smith, Terance James Bond, Lee Kromschroeder, Léon R. van der Linden and Terry Isaac to name a few. Try and find Landscape Illusion by Daniel Chard.

Some basic hints:
Work very big if you want your work viewed from distance. It will tighten up and look much better - see Chuck Close's work.
Work very small if you want your work viewed close up. It's also much easier to do just about every effect.
Step back from your work constantly, to look at it from arm's length at least. If you always study your work at the distance you paint you cannot judge how the viewer will see it. Sometimes what looks rough and full of brushmarks will be just right at two feet or six feet or whatever.
Work on a smooth ground (you can use texture when you know how, but to begin with it will only fight you).
Work thin, very thin (think dirty water, not thin paint).
Build up in layers, lotsa layers. Then add some more layers.
Try scumbling and glazing.
Build up with hatching, crosshatching, stippling etc.
Use good brushes.
Try airbrushing for smooth transitions over large distances (what constitutes large is entirely personal - I paint very small so 6" is a long way for me).
Try sponges, fabric, your fingers to apply the paint. Irregular, random marks add up to a complex surface that mimics many textures found in the world.
Be patient, realistic work takes a long time. Photorealistic work takes even longer.


09-08-2001, 08:55 PM

Excellent - bravo - ditto.


09-08-2001, 09:35 PM
Muchas gracias :)

09-08-2001, 09:42 PM
I totally agree with Einion!! The first time I saw a Bateman painting in person at a Wildlife Art Exposition, I was amazed. True photorealism is amazing, and an art in itself. The details come with practice.:)

Kevin M
09-09-2001, 07:01 AM
Einon's list is very comprehensive. Preparing a smooth ground makes life easier and scumbling is a technique well worth trying to perfect. However it is very hard on brushes and I reserve it for older ones which I never throw out.

A common error in photorealism is trying to be too detailed. Subjects in the middle distance will look unatural if rendered in too much detail. Even details in the foreground can be deceptive and it is often illuminating to enlarge a small area of a photograph only to find that an intricate detail is in fact a few blobs of colour.

Robert Bateman, quoted here several times, is a master of this concept. A close examination of some of his stunning detail will show that much of it lacks actual detail to the point of impressionism. Or it boils down to painting what the viewer really sees as distint from they 'think' they see.