Sure, you can create beautiful works of art with colored pencils without ever learning how to blind the crayons.
Blending individual strokes of colored pencil takes your work to a higher level: it allows you to blend different shades of color and blur visible strokes to make your finished work look more like a painting.
Three popular colored pencil blending methods are discussed in this article:
- Blending/mixing pencils: Perfect for small surfaces and high precision
- Paper towels, blending stumps and tissue paper: For large areas in a dark color
- Alcohol-based solvents: For particularly intensive blending
1. Blending pencils for high precision
One of the only three methods you need for blending colored pencil are pencils themselves.
Every time you layer one color over another, you are blending together the two shades to some extent. To intensify this effect, special colorless blending or burnishing pencils can be used. It is important that you use a blending pencil with a lead made of the same binder as your colored pencil.
There are usually two types of blending pencils:
- A burnisher: This pencil with a pigment-free wax lead is moved across the drawing surface to create a shiny and repelling colored surface. A burnishing pen is hard and therefore results in a glossy finish.+
- A blender: This colored pencil blending tool is a bit softer than the burnisher. It is perfect to blend multiple colors to one hue.
2. Colored pencil blending with manual rubbing
Similar to a pencil drawing, you can blend several colors by wiping them with a paper towel or a blending stump.
This works best with the following items (in descending order):
- Paper towel
- Toilet paper
- Blending stump
Paper towels and toilet paper should be folded several times to ensure greater firmness and to adjust their working surface to your motif. Using a blending stump and a tortillon with colored pencil is similar to using them with graphite and charcoal.
Admittedly, blending with these four tools will not produce such smooth colored surfaces as with an alcohol-based solvent or a blended pencil.
However, especially for larger dark areas, smudging with these tools is very useful.
3. The most effective blending tools: Alcohol & Turpentine
Solvents, in this case, are liquids that dissolve the binders in wax- and oil-based colored pencils. Solvents are excellent at blending colored pencils, smoothing the surface of your work, and making you draw faster.
This technique is most suitable for dark and medium tones.
Isopropanol or white spirit is usually used as a solvent for colored pencils. Turpentine is probably the most potent solvent for wax-based colored pencils, but it is also the most aggressive and can attack pigment. Here you have to experiment to find the perfect match for your art.
Since the use of a liquid solvent is not self-explanatory, here is a short instruction: Pour some solvent into a glass container. Dip your brush (a cheap synthetic brush will do) into the liquid and spread it over the area to be blended. A small amount of solvent is enough to dilute a large area. Otherwise, you will smear the paint too much. Have paper towels ready to wipe off excess liquid from the drawing and brush.
Good to know: Work in a well-ventilated area, so you don’t inhale the alcohol and the turpentine directly.