Blending, smudging and painting with the Blenders

by Cher Threinen-Pendarvis

Artist Cher Pendarvis is the author of all ten editions of The Painter Wow! Book. To learn more about Cher, please visit her Web site at

Whether you are a fine artist, commercial illustrator, or photographer working in Painter, you will benefit from using the Blenders brush category. The Blenders allow you to move and mix existing color pixels on your image. With the Blenders you can simulate blending paint with a watery or oily brush, and you can blend grainy chalk or pastel strokes using a blending stump in Painter, and much more!

In this tutorial I'll demonstrate blenders that produce watery blending effects, oily looks and grainy strokes. Some Blenders do not apply new color, and just affect existing pixels, while others add a little bit of color as they blend.

Here is a screen shot of Painter 12 brush library open, with the Blenders category selected.

Watery strokes

Just Add Water, Grainy Water, Water Rake

To blend existing paint smoothly without applying any new color, select the Just Add Water variant of the Blenders. If you'd like to blend, and reveal a little of the paper texture chosen in the Papers palette, the Grainy Water variant of Blenders is a great choice for a natural media look. The Water Rake variant is a broader brush that reveals a little of the current paper texture as you push and pull pixels over a large area. It's ideal for moving areas of color expressively on your image, while creating interesting brush textures.

Oily strokes, with some color

Blender Bristle, Blender Brush, Real Blender Tapered

In Painter 12, there are several blenders that incorporate Artists' Oils or Real Bristle capabilities, and with these brushes you can realize amazing oily paint effects. The Blender Bristle, Blender Brush and Real Blender Tapered variants of Blenders are examples. These brushes apply a little of the Current Color chosen in the Colors palette as you paint. These brush features can be viewed and adjusted in the Brush Controls panels (Window>Brush Control Panels>Artists' Oils and Window>Brush Controls Panels>Real Bristle).

Oily strokes, no color added

Coarse Oily Blender, Oily Blender, Round Blender Brush

Painter 12 also offers several Blenders with which you can achieve oily blending looks without adding new color. These brushes move and smear existing colored pixels on your image. Three examples are the Coarse Oily Blender, Coarse Smear and the Round Blender Brush. The Coarse Oily Blender is a broad brush that creates a diffused oily texture as you paint. The Coarse Smear has a similar texture, and allows pushing and pulling tapered strokes. The Round Blender Brush has a softer bristle look and blends with tapered strokes.

Grain and bristle

Diffuse Blur, Flat Grainy Stump, Smudge

Painter allows artists to achieve textured effects that are not possible in other programs. If you like to paint with Chalk and Pastel, you will enjoy these Blenders, because they are ideal for blending grainy pastel strokes while preserving some of the texture of the pastel or chalk, and the texture chosen in the Papers palette. Three examples of these Blenders are the Diffuse Blur, Flat Grainy Stump, and Smudge. For the most natural result, keep the same paper texture (and paper texture scale) chosen in the Papers palette throughout working on your image. To view the Papers palette, choose Window>Paper Panels>Papers and once open you can edit the paper properties or select a new texture from the Paper Libraries.

Lennox Twilight

Lennox Twilight is painted with the Oils brushes and Blenders brushes.

You can use the Real Blender Tapered variant of the Blenders category to blend color as you paint. The Real Blender Tapered is similar to a conventional flat brush dipped in a small amount of wet oil paint. The Real Blender Tapered brushwork is most visible on the background and on the clouds in the painting.

To finish the painting, I blended a few details. To smooth, while retaining some of the bristle texture in the paint, I switched to the Just Add Water variant of Blenders, and applied gentle pressure on the stylus to make soft strokes.