View Full Version : Need Help With Soft Edged Art

09-05-2007, 02:46 PM
Hi guys its me again :wave:

I gave up on that marbling technique, as I have had a big reality check. I am an artist whose portfolio only cosists of hard edged work, as I consider myself more of a designer. I think with the marbling technique, I maybe skipping a very basic technique, and one that I should learn before I attempt anything. I really need to master blending before I attempt any sort of soft edged art, as thats the most important skill thats required.

I know most of you are masters at blending with acrylics, and this maybe a topic that is really basic to you. But I need some advice on blending to create soft edged abstract art. I need to learn to blend so i can create fabulous effects. The following are the kind of effects i would like to achieve with acrylics. They are just partial images of full artwork that I got from a website where you can download pictures for money.

Can they be achieved with a brush and acrylic paint? ANy tips would be really appreciated. Do I need to use other tools instead of a brush to achieve these results?


http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/05-Sep-2007/90942-EXAMPLE1.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/05-Sep-2007/90942-EXAMPLE3.jpg

here is some of my work that i do with metal leaf (which is very difficult to apply), acrylics, and mixed media.




09-05-2007, 04:32 PM
First, I like your work. :thumbsup:

Blending. This seems to be a frequent topic on this forum and some searching will give you a number of ideas.

Basically the enemy is time. Anything you can do to either slow down the drying process or to speed up your work process will help. Avoiding brushes that give you hard edges may help as well. Here are a few ideas for slowing down the drying process.

Work on wet gesso
Use retarder (not too much!)
Mist the painting with water to keep it 'wet' longer
Use glazing mediums

You can also take a layering approach. Basically adding layers of transparent colors thinned with glazing mediums.

You can also consider slower drying acrylics like 'Interactives'.

Hope this helps a little. I would suggest you experiment until you find techniques that work for you.

Perhaps some one else can direct you to existing threads on this topic.

09-05-2007, 05:03 PM
Yup, it's glazing, dry brushing and scumbling. It's what I do. A search should bring up tips and things for you. You've given up on the marbling quickly, so I hope you don't think this will be easier! Practice, practice, practice. I was happy with my acrylic glazing after about 4 years, though it's still improving all the time. :)

For glazing I started out using fluid medium but have switched to water. I'd suggest starting with a medium though as you can find some with retarders in them so you get a bit more open time.


09-05-2007, 05:22 PM
Thanks guys for the tips

Timelady I had to give up marbling because I felt I needed to learn the basics of soft edged art before I attempted to do anyrhing of that nature. I bought some glazing medium, and I shall do some searches on the internet and see what techniques there are out there.

09-05-2007, 05:25 PM
I'm a big fan of glazing, dry brushing and scumbling too. I also tend to use water more than mediums but my 'trick' is to keep two misting (spray) bottles. One has straight water and the other has 5:1 water to retarder mix. I only use the mix to spray small amounts onto my palette, NEVER the painting as it should be mixed into the paint.

09-05-2007, 05:40 PM
Skip the retarted and the flow aid (they may raise your level of frustration), Golden glazing medium is a good start ! you need a tiny quantity of paint and generous glazing medium for something like your photo with a circle. Also you need many layers.

good luck, Romi

09-05-2007, 06:44 PM
Cheers romi

I have tried the golden glazing medium its pretty good, but always leaves a glare when the colour are dry. Im I using too much medium?

Bill E thanks for your input I am researching dry brushing and scumbling, I shall see what I come up with

09-05-2007, 07:14 PM
Fazzy01, when I use a gloss medium for glazing I top coat the entire painting when it's done to unify the finish. You can also top coat with matte, but that isn't my preference. As far as retarder, it sounds like Romi has had a bad experience with it, but don't let that deter you. Used carefully and when appropriate it can be very helpful. Too much and you have a mess. That's why I use a pre-mix of 5:1 water:retarder. If nothing else, the amount of water 'regulates' how much retarder I use.

Scumbling with acrylic is not necessarily the same as oil, but my version is to use a bristle brush to work color in to wet areas--stopping before the paint gets tacky. Dry brushing I guess is a little like watercolor. Again I often use a bristle brush with most of the paint wiped off--note that the paint will dry very fast onto your brush. I keep the brush damp (yeah I know that isn't exactly 'dry' brushing, but this is acrylics). I would be interested to know how others use these techniques.

09-06-2007, 11:21 AM
Don't worry about the finish - just finish off with a medium layer or varnish. :) I believe the Golden glazing medium is a gloss or satin finish anyway.

And ditto on what rommi said about multiple layers. Working with the medium try doing one very transparent layer and softening the edges. Let it dry and then do another over it, perhaps softening the edges in a slightly different place. After a few layers the colour will become more solid but your edges will stay soft. :) That's essentially how I work, using lots of layers sometimes for just one colour, even up to a dozen!

Also try do a glaze or scumble of one colour, where you're working so you want another colour next to it. You can then glaze *back* over your other glaze with the other colour. Back and forth with the two areas overlapping at soft edges to get a natural look. Hope that makes sense! Not sure I described it very well. As an example I often put down a blue background then scumble or glaze my white or grey cloud areas of it. I will several times scumble blue back over into the white or grey again, then go back to the white or grey glazes. This gives a nicer natural transition.


09-06-2007, 02:04 PM

I am going to play around with glazing tonight and I think I will take rommi's advice by doing multiple layers. I am really interested in your technique where you say apply and glaze and then soften the edges. I know this maybe the most stupidest question ever but how would i soften the edges. Do i need to use a cloth? maybe fingers to soften?

I am keen on trying this tonight with glazing liquid tonight.

many thanks timelady

09-06-2007, 04:29 PM
I use a similar technique to Tina mostly, but I also use my fingers and sometimes my whole hand to blend directly on the canvas - being very careful of course.

09-06-2007, 06:16 PM
You can use cloth or your finger, I usually just brush very very rapidly outwards repeatedly until the paint is dry. This takes practice as it's very easy to get a 'line' as it's drying. So then I scrub the line out quickly! :) I probably even scrub the brush around rather than brush in the usual way most of the time. I work very hard on my canvases, scrubbing them hard and fast quite a lot. (I use hogs hair brushes.) I also use quite large brushes. So basically my method is continual rapid scrubbing or brushing to completely work out any edges. I don't use medium anymore, just water or dry brushing, as I actually want the paint to dry almost as fast as possible the way I work now. If it's delayed it can move too much or lift layers underneath. (But too fast means you can't scrub it to soften edges at all.)

I would stress that I do not blend at all. I only apply one single colour layer at a time and let it dry. The blending in my work is all visual effect from various transparent layers.

I changed to water because I found you could see the layering with medium - almost like pieces of plastic laid on top of each other. Of course that was possibly more evident in my work because of the sheer number of layers I use (keeping in mind my no blending - each color is a new layer and what appears to be one color may actually be many glazes). With water it all appears to be in one layer now, one surface. Though this runs it's own risks of course, thinned to such an extent previous glazes can easily lift with the next colour if not completely dry. Or worse, middle *parts* of them lift and you end up with weird 'holes' and spots. Edges lifting is actually fairly easy to scrub into a new consistent blend. This is probably my biggest problem, but it's basically down to just giving it proper drying time between layers.

But I'd recommend no one paint in such a masochistic way as I do. ;)


09-06-2007, 08:07 PM

WoW!!! I have just checked your gallery for the first time ever, and I was amazed. All this time I have interacted with you through various threads and messages on here, and never did I know you had a website. All this time I have been searching for answers on how to use a blending technique to create abstract peices of work, and your gallery is full of paintings that I am a real fan of. Just like the examples I have placed on this thread, that is the kind of distressed look I am after.

I am going to read your instructions very carefully as the work you do is the kind abstract work I really love, where the look is quite distressed but at the same time very subtle, simple, and beautiful. All I need to learn is the blending technique you use, then apply my imagination with all the wonderful texture mediums, and with the combination create something very vibrant.

Timelady...you are my inspiration :)

09-07-2007, 06:50 AM
Aw shucks. :)

Just practice practice practice. I don't think my paintings have a distressed look in real life, the examples you posted were different in that sense. I think if you play around with putting on soft glazes with rags and things you will be surprised at what you can achieve fairly easily. Dry brushing can be an amazing thing, again you just have to experiment with how wet your brush is (Bill uses damp, I use nearly dry) and how much paint - like Bill I wipe off the paint on a cloth then use what's left on the brush.

I'm sure there's a few glazing lessons in this forum too, maybe in the useful threads Sticky somewhere?


09-07-2007, 09:51 AM
Thanks tina i will keep practising

I think I did abit of scumbling on one of my other peices which im just finishing off. I just placed layers of different metallic colours (waited for each one to dry before adding the next layer) and the finish was quite good.

I will try and post a picture of it over the weekend, so someone can confirm whether the technique i used was scumbling or not.

Lady Carol
09-07-2007, 10:59 PM
Fazzy, your stuff is really nice and unique...and to think you have been pursuing someone else's style. I know you like her work, but what is not to like about yours? In actual fact I love your stuff.

For my soft edges I use a lot of glazing media and get it so you really do not know where one edge starts or finishes. It does take many layers and there isn't a quick fix to get the effect. But then I enjoy the painting process and I am not after a quickie :D

09-08-2007, 03:16 PM
Carol many thanks for those comments

I know my style is very unique, and applying metal leaf to canvas is so so difficult. It's a lengthy process. It's just at the moment I feel like having a change from hard edged designs and move onto soft edges, and see what I can produce. I just feel soft edged art can be used to create very powerful finishes, and it would feel more artistic than designish.

I have been practising recently, especially with glazes and im having some fun. Maybe i could use the soft edged technique with metal leaf, and produce even more unique designs.

09-08-2007, 04:15 PM
it's so good to learn new techniques - it is called "development" :-) and I bet you can create powerful, moving new designs.

so fazzy, don't keep us waiting !

Cheers, Romi

09-08-2007, 05:05 PM
keep exploring ways of applying paint, and just to whet your appetite, try not using brushes.....

09-08-2007, 05:26 PM
Romi - I should have some pictures on tomorrow with my first attempt. Your right it is called development and I still consider myself a novice and I have a lot to learn.

Gnu - What do you suggest I use besides brushes?

cheers guys

09-09-2007, 04:07 PM
fingers, rags, other things....

09-13-2007, 04:14 PM
Re: soft edges...

There are a few other approaches that might also be worth experimenting with. Some of the most subtly modulated soft edges and beautifully reticulated patterns can happen quickly and spontaneously with good wet-in-wet techniques. For some reason, these are not so often used by acrylic artists, more by watercolourists -- and yet one of the great strengths of acrylics is that they can be used in some of these exact ways.

If you want to see some examples, if you go to the Daniel Smith catalogue, or their website, and look at the swatches or samples of watercolor pigments, they give a good range of possible effects.

It is worth mentioning that all these beautiful effects happened naturally.

There is a kind of 'participation in uncontrolled processes' that can take place that some people find quite invigorating.

These wet-in-wet effects can also be used as an underpainting, and they can be combined with glazes and drybrushing and scumbling and other approaches.

[The term 'wet-in-wet' is often used differently in the context of acrylic painting than it is in the context of watercolour painting. So perhaps in the context of acrylic techniques it should be called something else, so it is clear what is meant -- it's more like wet ink into wet ink, or the spreading and intermingling of pigment in water, through natural molecular motion and flow, than moving wettish paste into wettish paste -- perhaps 'aquarelle mode wet-in-wet' would be a clearer way of saying it, in the context of acrylic painting techniques.]

Another approach to soft edges is wiping off transparent glazes from a raised or textured surface. Turner used this technique well. The high points and 'hilltops' of a textured layer can be wiped off, leaving the glaze in the valleys and on the hillsides. Rembrandt also used this approach quite a bit, and did it well. It can result in beautifully subtle gradations of color.

Another technique that is used by some watercolourists, and by those who use Lascaux Aquacryl, is lifting out. It can also result in exceptionally effective soft edges and subtle gradations and blends.

09-15-2007, 12:16 AM
what brand of paint do you use Fazzy ? Ateliers Interactive?

09-19-2007, 10:59 PM
Scumbling for sure. Wet in wet if you have the time.
I've found laying a wet edge of clear water (to a dry paining) adjacent to where you are going to lay the wet paint works. Once the wet paint comes into contact with the light coating of adjacent water, it bleeds -- somthing a kin to how watercolor bleeds but less intense.

A bit off topic but here is an acrylic where I used layering to create the shadow areas of the tulips and scumbling technique on the pears. The white light reflection on the vase was done by scumbling titanium white in very tiny quantities with a fairly dry brush over dry paint. Sorry for the poor photo quality.