logo canson
logo canson

Tutorials and artistic advices

Mix media: Basic concepts

Twitter icon

Rate this article

Many artists work by combining several media, such as water-based painting and pencil. Some have made it their specialty, happily blending techniques, whether ostentatiously or discreetly. It's a matter of affinity!


Why mix techniques?


  • To make the most of what each has to offer: The unbeatable luminosity of oils, combined the very fast drying of acrylics; the softness of watercolors highlighted by the hardness of pencil…
  • To bring out reliefs by overlaying materials: particularly paint and pastel or modeling paste.
  • To create tones that would be impossible with just one technique: since the Sixteenth Century, "drawings in three chalks" have been based on an alternation between black chalk, sanguine and white chalk, three complementary media.
  • To protect a work, even if its character is changed: gouache or watercolor on pastel, for example.
  • Because art is first and foremost synonymous with pleasure.  So why choose?



Perfect harmonies: dry and wet media


All dry media are compatible among themselves and have properties in common: graphic or stumped work, possible dilution… The same applies to water techniques: watercolors, gouache, ink or pastel washes, etc.

  • A dry medium can be used straight and diluted in the same piece.
  • Paint and dry media can be superimposed, as long as you respect drying times.
  • Dry and wet media can be applied in whatever order you prefer, with different results: A few charcoal lines add life to watercolors; when applied second, it darkens by mixing with charcoal.
  • It is possible to apply a dry medium over a wet layer: work carefully, on sturdy paper. You will achieve original blends.


Memo: Caution, touchy media!
Water and oil are frequently presented as foes. However, a gouache or acrylic under-layer is compatible with oils. On the other hand, the reverse is less certain: oil will corrode the support.


Some examples of interactions


Pastels and modeling paste: modeling paste allows you to create high reliefs. Once dry, it can be covered with dry pastels, with the pastel dust falling into the hollows.

  • Pastel and gouache: the paint will capture the material and gain in volume.
  • Wax and pastel or paint: wax repels water, but agglutinates particles of pulverulent media (powder-based). Once scraped, it also allows the under-layer to partially show.
  • Pencils and pastels: the former lend themselves to graphic work, the latter, to color effects. Together, they create and liven up volumes, and add to the subject's personality.

Tip: Incorporating other materials

Various materials used on wet watercolors can create original textures: feather rubbings, sand or rice sprinkled onto the surface, then removed by blowing gently…
You can also glue various materials onto your works: paper, photos, printed texts, wood bark…


Four mistakes you should avoid!


  • Mixing too many media: at least to begin with, limit yourself to two media to give yourself time to master their subtleties.
  •  Attempting every blend: too many would be a disservice to your subject!
  •  Using media haphazardly: their assets will be better expressed if you use them the right way.
  •  Do not prepare the support: use water resistant paper and stretch it before working. Otherwise, it will be irreparably distorted.


Suggested products

Canson® XL® Mix Media

See also

Mix Media: Selecting your material
Techniques mixtes : Choisir son matériel
Paper, paintbrushes, soft rags, drawing board… Using several techniques is like reasoning in the plural. And becoming attached to the peculiarities of each medium!