Let’s talk about using Powder Blender with colored pencils, beginning with the reader question.
How is powder blender used with colored pencils?
Powder Blender and Colored Pencils
What is Powder Blender?
Powder Blender is a dry blending tool developed by Alyona Nickelsen, founder of Brush & Pencil. She needed a way to blend smooth color without using solvent, so she developed one. Powder Blender is the result.
Powder Blender is a very fine white powder that is non-toxic and archival. It allows artists to blend colored pencils without solvents. It works best on rigid, textured surfaces such as sanded art papers, but you can use it on traditional papers after priming them with gritty, acrylic gesso.
The technical information on the Brush & Pencil website indicates that powder blender works best with oil-based colored pencils such as Faber-Castell Polychromos, but I have used it with a mix of pencils, including Prismacolor. Most of my work is with Polychromos, however.
I’ve used Powder Blender for a couple of projects, but only on a limited basis. But I can tell you I’ve had good results when I did use it.
The tips that follow are limited to my personal experience.
How to Use Powder Blender
The recommended use is applying a small amount of Powder Blender to the surface of your paper before you start layering color. Apply it with a brush, sponge applicator, or your finger if you wear a cot to protect the paper from skin oils.
Powder Blender is white in the container, but when you spread it onto the paper, it practically disappears.
It doesn’t take much Powder Blender, so use it sparingly. You may be tempted to use too much because it disappears so quickly. Resist that temptation! I used a bit too much the first time I tried it, and color nearly fell off the paper when I blended it.
Layer color normally after you’ve applied Powder Blender.
The neat thing about using Powder Blender is that you don’t have to be especially fussy in layering color. The illustration below shows my initial color layers, and how blotchy they look. That all blended out.
Blending is as fast and easy as color application. A brush, sponge applicator or your finger make good blending tools (don’t forget that cot!)
I tried this when I did the drawing, Blazing Sunset. This illustration shows unblended color (top) and blended color (bottom.) It also shows the brush I used. As you can see, the brush is nothing fancy.
After blending, continue layering color and blending until the color looks the way you want it. You don’t need to add more Powder Blender.
Powder Blender allows you to easily lift color to lighten an area or remove mistakes. I tried this, and color lifted more easily with Powder Blender. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo, so I can’t show you the result, but I can say that it’s possible to remove color almost completely if you start the drawing process with Powder Blender.
Color is easiest to remove with mounting putty, but you can rub it off with a clean sponge applicator or lighten it with a soft brush. This makes correcting mistakes very easy.
But it does have one slight disadvantage.
You can move color around or remove it until you seal the layers. You don’t have to seal color between every layer. You can even finish an entire drawing without sealing it, but you must seal it afterward or the color will never be permanent.
Fortunately, there’s a tool for that, too.
ACP Textured Fixative is designed for works-in-progress. It seals the color layers beneath it so they become permanent. You can use solvents over it and the solvents do not soak into the sealed layers. Fresh color layered over Textured Fixative can be lifted without disturbing the color under the Textured Fixative.
Textured fixative also restores surface texture, so any new color you apply over it is almost like drawing on a fresh sheet of paper. This allows you to layer indefinitely, seal layers as needed, and create luminous color and subtle detail layer by layer.
Textured Fixative is an aerosol designed to be used on the entire drawing.
If you want to seal a small part of the drawing or need to restore tooth to a small area, Touch-Up Texture is the better option. This is a liquid that you brush onto the drawing. Once it dries, you can layer more color over it.
You can also mix Touch-Up Texture with Brush and Pencil Titanium White, which is white pigment powder. Grinding up pigment from pencil tips can also be mixed with Touch-Up Texture. Either way, you end up with paint-able color that can be drawn over once it dries.
The Best Papers to Use
Powder Blender works best on non-absorbent surfaces like sanded art papers. I’ve used it on Clairefontaine Pastelmat, Uart, and Lux Archival, all of which are sanded surfaces.
I’ve read that you can use this product on traditional papers primed with acrylic gesso, but I haven’t yet tested that. I’m not sure I will either because of the work involved. However, applying two or three thin layers of acrylic gesso may be the way to go if you want to use Powder Blender, but don’t want to use sanded art papers.
My Observations on Powder Blender and Colored Pencils
Powder Blender is a very versatile tool. You can start a drawing first with Powder Blender, or use it only when you need to. It makes correcting mistakes or lifting color for any other reason extremely easy, and it allows you to blend seamlessly between values and colors or both.
It certainly speeds up the layering and blending process, especially for larger areas.
It’s the closest thing to painting with colored pencils that I’ve found yet.
But it does have disadvantages, as well. The most important disadvantage is the need to seal a drawing in order to make it permanent. That requires the use of ACP Textured Fixative, and there have been complaints about spatters on drawings. I have experienced those, but have found them very easy to remove.
If you don’t like blending with solvent or cannot use solvents for health reasons, Powder Blender may be helpful.
For more specific information, get Alyona’s book, Colored Pencil Painting Portraits. It describes other ways to use Powder Blender with colored pencils.