Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Trick of the Trade

-By Jesper Ejsing

I just wanted to tell you about this little trick of mine. It is a neat way of blending wet colours that I use all the time.  I learned it from an animation background painter from back when that stuff was still made in acrylic or gouaches. You'll need: A badger brush (It is a thick fanned brush that has a round tip instead of a pointed one), and an Airbrush with a large cup, preferable with a lid on it. Fill the reservoir with water. 

The idea is this: with a quick hand you add the 2 colours you want to blend thickly up against each other. With the airbrush you mist the surface with water to keep it from drying while you work on it. with the badger you then let it gently touch the area between the 2 colours, thus mixing them or blurring them together. When needed, you can spray more water and brush in and out of the 2 colors to add shapes or broader fading.

I use this technique primarily for skies and for mixing soft edges in lets say clouds or smoke or mist. The great thing about it is that I can keep semi hard shapes and forms but blend the edges to a soft line. In the end it has more strokes than had I airbrushed the whole thing, but it has less hard strokes than had I done it in brush only. Acrylics is kind of a hard medium in the shape of the strokes, and this little trick allows me to keep areas of a painting smooth and thus lacking focus, creating calmness to the eye and by then adding focus to the areas that are hard and edged. 

On the Ice Giant cover I have added small arrows to show you where I have used the water fusing technique. 

In the 2 magic card illustrations it is clearly visible in the sky.

Well, that was my best kept secret... if you do not count the alien abduction or the crossdressers for the Satan Country Club.


  1. One of my teachers taught to wet the surface so the brush stroke would bleed a little and you get a soft edge. He was able to make acrylics blend like oils, it was amazing.

  2. I took a tour of Disney years ago and I saw people doing this and I thought it was a brilliant idea. It also made me wonder what other tricks of the trade those animators had ;)

  3. Great post Jesper! I'm always impressed with your command of the medium.

    Scott Wills(background guru form Samurai Jack, Clone Wars) has some great videos posted showing this process that can be found at the link below.

    BG Videos

  4. Hey, thanks for the advice! And btw. great artwork too!

  5. Nice work, Jesper. I do the same thing, but with a small spray bottle. Makes gradients a whole lot easier.

  6. I hope that there will be more posts like this in the future from you guys. I have just started painting with acrylics and getting nice controlled gradients is something I have been having trouble with, Thank you!

  7. Thankyou! (Thankyou! Thankyou! Thanky...) I can't tell you how psyched I am about this technique, I tried it out last week on a piece and it works great! I'd resided myself to what I thought was the fact that acrylics couldn't really be blended in a similar way to that of oils (by polishing colour into colour), and had figured that with acrylics the best that could be acheived similarly was a blended 'look' not really blended at all, but essentially created through sophisticated layering of multiple subtly gradiated additions of colour upon dried colour, or by using an additional airbrush haze to sort of 'tie' it over, or airbrush by itself (Though I find raw airbrush gradiations tend to look too artificial and detached from brushwork when used in isolation).

    So this is awesome! I love painting in acrylic and it now feels like a whole area of texture rendering has just been made a heck of a lot more fun. (Chewy dense skies & mist, be gone!)

    In short - I'm really stoked about this technique, and I sincerely appreciate this post. Cheers!


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