The importance of a blending stump in drawing

Blending Stump

When drawing with pencil and charcoal, surfaces are often blurred to create a smooth tonal transition. The most common method is to use a finger or an old, dirty cloth. But it can also be done more professionally: With a blending stump specially developed for this purpose.

A blending stump basically consists of nothing more than pressed or wrapped paper. Because of its narrow shape, you can work more precisely with this tool than with any cloth or finger. This way you can blend and visually smooth even the smallest details in your picture.

The difference between stumps and tortillions

Such a tool is made in different ways. To be more precise, blending stumps can be distinguished from tortillions.

Blending stump and tortillion
Left bundle: Tortillions, right: Blending Stumps | Via CharmaineZoe’s Marvelous Melange / Flickr

Blending stump

Stumps usually are usually made of cellulose, which is pressed into the narrow form. That is why they are rolled much harder and they are long-lasting than tortillions.

Blending stumps are perfect for very precise work.


A tortillion essentially is a tightly rolled piece of paper. Often you can see the wrapping of the paper on the outside.

Tortillions are preferably used with rapid movement and lighter blending on a bigger surface area.

Effect on the blended area

The area that has been blended with a stump should match the motif. For some works, a completely smooth finish would not be appropriate. In other works, the blending stump is used to prepare the surface and then to work it out with targeted strokes.

Too much blending can quickly make the drawing appear lifeless and boring. The picture then simply lacks the necessary highlights.

Frequently asked questions about stumps & tortillions

How to use a blending stump?

The blending stump is held like a normal pencil or a chalk stick. Changing the position of the hand and the angle to the drawing surface changes the size of the smudged surface. The flatter you hold the wiper, the larger the area covered.

Blending stumps and tortillons are often used in realistically painted pictures to blend edges and soften them. The fibres drag the graphite over the drawing and press it into its surface. This produces a smoother finish with no visible graphite strokes.

How to clean a blending stump?

During use, the paper wiper not only sread the graphite but also absorb part of it into its fibres. To clean it, you should rub it with a fine-grained sandpaper.

How to sharpen a blending stump?

Alternatively, you can use a traditional pencil sharpener to scrub the dirty surface off the stump.

To buy blending stumps or to make them yourself?

The little helpers are sold for very little money. Available individually or in a set with different sizes, they are offered for about 5 to 10 USD.

There are also many artists who wrap their tortillions themselves. It is pretty much impossible to make an blending stump yourself at home, because the cellulose needs to be compressed firmly.

How to make a blending stump?

The following instructions will help you to make a tortillon at home:

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