Dry Blending Colored Pencils

Dry Blending Colored Pencils

I prefer not to blend with solvents if I can avoid it. It’s not that I dislike solvents; I just like dry blending colored pencils better.

Dry Blending Colored Pencils

My preferred blending method is by simple layering. But filling in all the paper tooth with nothing but layering takes time. The toothier the paper, the more time it takes.

I’m currently working on a portrait on Pastelmat, which is a very toothy paper. Since I didn’t have a good paper color for the portrait, I am using white Pastelmat. Because the background is dark, that means I’m having to color the background.

So far, it looks pretty good. I like it. But there’s still so much paper showing through.

The sponge applicators from Brush & Pencil do work, but I’m out of those and have been looking for more. They are available through Brush & Pencil, of course, but before I order from them, I thought I’d try something else. Specifically, I was considering the Sofft Tools for PanPastels.

PanPastel Sofft Tools

Before rushing out and buying a bunch of them, though, I decided to contact the company that makes PanPastels. They have a very easy-to-use contact form, so I sent an email.

The next day, I received the following response.

Thank you for your email. We tested a Sofft tool with Prisma colored pencils on Pastelmat paper and found it didn’t do such a great job blending. A paper stump was more effective. It may depend on the type of colored pencil, but because the Sofft Tool is so flexible and well…soft, it likely only [works] on powdery, easy to push around materials, and maybe less toothy papers.

Materials Application Specialist, GoldenPaints.com
Paper Stumps

Now I might still be able to use Sofft tools with the Polychromos and Pablo pencils I’m using, but before trying that, I decided to try the paper stumps.

I have heard artists mention using paper stumps for blending colored pencils before, but never tried it. Quite frankly, I didn’t think it would work. Paper stumps are for graphite. Colored pencils and graphite are not the same.

But I have paper stumps on hand, thanks to my sketching kit.

I also have a portrait in progress on which I’m experimenting, so why not try it? If paper stumps work with Prismacolor pencils, maybe they will work for Pablos or Polychromos, too.

Test Blending with Paper Stumps

Caran d’Ache Pablo Pencils

It didn’t take more than a stroke or two with a paper stump to show me how effective this blending method is. Just look at this!

Compare the color immediately around the paper stump with the rest of the gray color.

There are only two or three layers of color in this area, but the paper stump smoothed it out beautifully. It did a much better job than the solvent blend I had already tried on the background. There was a lot more color on the background (the dark area), but the resulting blend was splotchy and unsatisfactory.

On the other hand, I was very happy with the results of dry blending with a paper stump.

But how would it work with Polychromos pencils?

Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils

The short answer is: Great!

You can see in this illustration just how well the paper stump blended the colors in this dark patch.

Dry Blending Colored Pencils
A paper stump blends Polychromos pencils, too. Notice the difference between the blended and unblended areas.

There is a lot of color in this area, and a lot of different colors. But the paper stump successfully blended them into smooth color.

The Bottom Line

If you haven’t tried dry blending colored pencils with a paper stump yet, give it a try. It’s effective on a lot of color or just a little. There are no fumes or toxicities involved and you can get paper stumps in almost any art store or craft shop.

I used the paper stumps from Spectrum Noir, but they are available from other manufacturers. Dick Blick has a great assortment from a variety of companies, including Caran d’Ache, Richeson, and Staedtler.

Most companies make them in a variety of sizes, so you can choose the paper stump that’s best suited for the area you want to blend from quite large to very small.

The best part? They’re not very expensive. Who doesn’t like that?

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  1. June Richmond

    Great idea with the paper stumps.
    In the 10 years I have been working with colored pencils I’ve never used solvents although I did try them.
    I used paper stumps and the pencils when I started with Prisma pencils.
    Now I’m only using Polychromos on Pastelmat with powder blender.
    I’ve used just the pencils, my finger, and stencil brushes but I will try the stumps. Thanks for all your info
    God’s Blessings to you

    1. June,

      I like using Powder Blender, too. It’s great for blending smooth color.

      My difficulty with it is that the drawing has to be sealed periodically, because the Powder Blender stays active until it’s sealed.

      Using fixative is not a problem other than for the fact that we have cats and I don’t have a place in which I can safely use fixatives of any kind. I have all the supplies, I just can’t use them in our current situation.

      So finding a workable alternative has been a challenge. The sponge applicators work very nicely without Powder Blender, but the paper stumps work better.

      By the way, I have done a little blending with a fingertip, but my skin is so dry anyway, that doing this doesn’t help at all!

      Thank you for reading this post and taking the time to comment.

      Best wishes with your work.

    1. Gail,

      Wow is right. That was my response when I saw how well a paper stump worked on Pablos and Polychromos.

      Remember, I drawing on Pastelmat. I have no idea (yet) how a paper stump would work on a smoother paper like Canson Mi-Teintes or Stonehenge. I’ll have to give that a try.

    1. Gail,

      Solvent works pretty well on Pastelmat, but I haven’t used it much. Part of the reason for that is that I like the look of colored pencil work without solvent.

      But I’ve also discovered it’s much easier to get splotchy color when using solvent on Pastelmat than on other types of papers. I don’t know why that is. It could be that my technique is faulty!

  2. Gail Jones

    Hi Carrie, I find that solvent works great on Pastel Mat if you are willing to apply it and then go in again when it is dry and touch up with another layer of CP where it doesn’t look right. Then you can apply more solvent again. You just keep layering with CP and solvent until you get the coverage you want.

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