Solvents are useful tools for colored pencil artists, because they work with most pencils on most papers. But today’s question comes from a reader who asks a very specific question about Gamsol and smooth paper.
Can you use Gamsol O.M.S. to blend colored pencils on Strathmore smooth paper with no tooth?
I have tried the Finese Blender Pen, but It just removes the color from the paper. I’ve tried rubbing alcohol and it just muddies the colors. I have tried baby oil and it blends, but the colors loose a lot of their vibrancy. The only thing I haven’t tried yet is odorless mineral spirits.
Am I having these Issues blending because I am using paper with no tooth?
Most artists deal with blending issues at one time or another. I’ve been using colored pencils since the mid-1980s and still sometimes have difficulty getting the look I want. So take heart! Problems are part of the process!
Gamsol and Smooth Paper
Gamsol can be used on most surfaces from Bristol to sanded art paper. It works to varying degrees on different types of paper. For example, as a rule, I don’t use solvents on Bristol because it doesn’t often handle moisture well.
However, I don’t recall having used Strathmore smooth paper, so I can’t offer advice from personal experience on this paper.
Since I’m unfamiliar with the paper, I did a little research. If I looked at the right paper (Strathmore 400 Series Smooth,) it’s only 80 pounds in weight.
You may be able to do a little bit solvent blending on paper this light-weight, but I don’t recommend it. The paper may buckle or soak through altogether. Paper tears are also a possibility.
Solvents and Smooth Papers in General
The reader mentioned other blending methods that failed for one reason or another, so let’s talk about those.
The Finesse Colored Pencil Blender is made specifically for waxy colored pencils like Prismacolor. Since all colored pencils contain some amount of wax in the binding agent, it’s possible this tool works with every pencil. But since it’s specifically designed for waxy pencils, it’s also possible the problems this reader experienced are because of the pencils, not the paper or the blender.
At one time, rubbing alcohol was my favorite blending solvent. It was easily available, inexpensive, and perfect for light blending or softening of colors. Muddy colors were never a problem, but I also never blended different color families together. Any solvent is capable of creating muddied color if you blend too many colors together, or if you mix complementary colors.
I did one test blend with baby oil (shown below.) The reader is right. It blends very well. My test involved Bristol, a very smooth almost slick paper, and the baby oil blended it smoothly.
But I don’t use baby oil because it’s not archival. It also can stain more absorbent papers. A major problem with art you want to exhibit or sell.
Whenever you use solvent on any smooth, light-weight paper, proceed carefully. Dip your brush in solvent, then blot it on paper towel before touching the paper. In most cases, you don’t need a lot of solvent to blend colored pencil, so use the least amount possible.
Make sure the paper is taped to a rigid backing of some kind before you use solvent. The additional support of a rigid backboard may help you.
Let the paper dry completely after you’ve used solvent.
It’s always better to try solvent on a test piece of the same paper first. If that works out, then try it on your drawing.