One of the most important skills a colored pencil artist can learn is blending color. To the new artist, it also looks like one of the most complicated skills because there are so many options. So today, I’d like to talk about the best color blending tools available that do not involve solvents, or special products.
The Best Color Blending Tools for Colored Pencils
The Pencils Themselves
The absolute best tool for blending colored pencils are the pencils themselves.
The absolute best way to blend is simply by layering colors. Because colored pencils are translucent, adding one layer of color over another layer creates something called visual blending. Visual blending happens when light passes through several layers of color, and then bounces back to your eye. Your brain “mixes” all those colors and creates a new color.
Oil painters use visual blending when they glaze very thin, transparent color over part of their painting. I first learned this technique when I was oil painting.
Though the process is a bit different with colored pencils, the basic principle still applies.
How to Blend with Colored Pencils
You get the best results when you add each layer of color with light pressure. Color applied with light pressure appears more transparent than color applied with heavier pressure. You can also add more layers and colors, adjusting the appearance of the color until it looks the way you want it to look.
If you’re careful in how you apply the color and create smooth color layers, you won’t need to do any additional blending.
Blending pencils are colored pencils without the pigment. They contain the same binding agent as the colored pencils, but when you use them, you do not add color to your drawing.
Blending pencils work best for burnishing to fill in the tooth of the paper and “polish” color. They are best used at or near the end of the drawing process because they leave the paper slick.
Companies that make blending pencils include Prismacolor (shown below,) Caran d’Ache, and Lyra.
How to Blend with Blending Pencils
Use blending pencils with heavy pressure to “grind” layers of color together and smooth out color. Make sure you have plenty of color on the paper. Blending pencils need a lot of pigment on the paper in order to work best.
Wax-based blending pencils such as Prismacolor Colorless Blenders tend to produce wax bloom.
You can also blend colored pencil with a scrap of the same kind of paper you’re drawing on. If you trim paper to size, save the scraps. In addition to using them for sketching, they can be helpful in blending.
Paper towel is thicker and more textured, so you may get better results with it. Bath tissue is perfect for light blending.
How to Blend with Paper
Fold the paper towel or bath tissue into a small square, then rub it on the area you want to blend. I usually blend with a circular motion and heavy pressure, but you can use other strokes and lighter pressure.
The paper towel or bath tissue will pick up color. That’s normal, so don’t be concerned.
Keep in mind that the color blending tools I’ve listed here are only a few of the many options. You can also use a variety of solvents, as well as specialized tools such as Brush & Pencil’s Powder Blender.
For more information on blending tools and methods, read The Only Methods You’ll Ever Need for Blending Colored Pencil.
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