Blending acrylics to create a smooth gradient look

This photo is a section of an in process 36 x 36 x 1 1/2" painting I'm currently working on in the studio. I liked the shot so I thought I'd share it. The Finished piece will be posted on this blog and at some unknown date in the future.
(c) Deb Chaney 2010.

I received an Email question from a fellow artist who wrote me wondering about creating smooth gradients using acrylics.

This question is definitely worthy of a short video. It is my hope that before the end of this year I will have the video camera set up on a tripod in the studio and be able to film a short on how to do this so you can see it for yourself. For now, here's her question and my answer....

"Hi Deb!

How are you? Hope you are having a great week.

I am currently working on an acrylic painting with a warm orange background. Starting with warm red from the top, fading down to a warm orange on the bottom, I am wanting to create a smooth gradient look.

I'm having a lot of trouble achieving this with acrylics. I'm getting many streaks and lines. The colours are not blending perfectly to a solid gradient look.

Would you be willing to offer any suggestions or any tips or tricks to achieve this look and combat the streaks? Perhaps the paint didn't stay wet enough for long to blend properly. I've painted many coats and nearly used up my entire orange tube ! LOL"

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for writing.

My first question for you would be - Are you using heavy body or liquid acryics?

You mentioned using a tube, so I'm guessing you're using the full body acrylics (toothpaste consistency).
If so, my recommendation is that you use a gel medium - like Golden soft or regular gel - in that area where the two colours merge. The medium could help to blend the two colours together seemlessly, like you desire, and could be used in lieu of water.

The next question I would ask you is what kind of brush you are using for blending the colours?

I have a lot of success using a very soft bristle flat head brush to blend colours. Back and forth, back and forth lots of times, more than would be intuitive, to blend the two colours with the medium and create that gradient you want without streaks or lines.

Lastly, I am wondering if your're working flat or if the substrate you're painting on is up on an easle? It's so much easier to blend gradients when you're working flat on a table. Then if you want to add water it's not going to drip down and disturb the layers below.

If I made the incorrect assumption
about the paint consistency you're using and you are using liquid acrylics (I love the Golden liquid acrylics myself), they blend beautifully and you can also uses a fluid medium in between two colours, same technique as described above.

Hope this helps. Comments are welcome.

Have another question?