Let’s talk about the best papers for blending colored pencils. Are some papers better for blending than others?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one single paper that’s absolutely best for blending colored pencils all the time or for every artist. Blending has more to do with the pencils you use, the way you draw, and the results you want to achieve.
The paper does make a difference, but probably not as much as you might think.
Blending colored pencils is all about smoothing out the color and filling the paper holes. You can do that on almost any paper. For example, I use Stonehenge, Canson Mi-Teintes, Bristol Vellum, and Clairefontaine Pastelmat. The techniques vary, but I can fill the paper holes on each paper.
But there are a few general guidelines for selecting papers to make blending easier.
The Best Paper for Blending Colored Pencils
Smooth Papers versus Rougher Papers
As a rule, smoother papers like Bristol Vellum are easier to blend on because they have very little surface texture. Color goes down more smoothly, so there are fewer paper holes to fill in.
The flip side to smooth papers is sanded art papers, which have a lot of tooth.
It seems like it would be harder to blend colored pencils on sanded art papers, but it’s actually easier. That’s because sanded papers take a lot more layers. You can keep adding color until the tooth is filled.
Another reason is that sanded art papers create pigment dust. That seems like wasted pigment at first glance, but use a stiff brush to push the dust around and into the tooth of the paper, and all of a sudden, you can blend beautiful, smooth color.
The fact of the matter is that you can blend smooth color on any kind of paper.
So let’s talk about the three things I mentioned earlier.
The Pencils You Use
The higher quality pencils you use, the easier it should be to blend, no matter what method you prefer. Better pencils have a higher percentage of pigment to binding agent. That means less binding agent and more pigment ends up on the paper. The more pigment on the paper, the better the colors blend.
I addressed the issue of pencils and blending in a recent post.
The Way You Draw
The way your draw is probably the most significant factor. If you like drawing with just a few layers of color applied with medium pressure or heavier, than you’re probably going to get the best results with a paper like Bristol. It’s smoother, and tougher. You can get good color saturation with a softer paper like Stonehenge, but you will crush the tooth of a softer paper.
If you draw with a light hand and like lots of layers, then the only papers you probably will not want to use are the smooth papers like Bristol. You’ll need something with enough tooth to hold multiple layers of color. Stonehenge and Canson Mi-Teintes would be good papers to try.
And for those who like a more painterly look, sanded art papers are perfect.
The Results You Want to Achieve
Some artists like doing hyper-realistic art, in which you can’t tell the difference between their art and their reference photo.
Other artists prefer a sketchier style, and still others prefer a more painterly look.
The type of blending you need to do depends on the type of work you like. That in turn may determine the type of paper you use.
The Best Papers for Blending Colored Pencils
The best papers for blending are different for each artist. Some artists can get similar results on whatever paper they use, and they try lots of different papers.
Others find a paper they like and stick with it.
In either case, they’re able to blend effectively.
If you’re not satisfied with the way your blending looks on the paper you’re using, using another paper might be the solution. The best option is to try as many papers as you can afford to try until you find one that works for you.
However, I also challenge you to continue improving blending skills. The better you get at layering and blending colors, the happier you’ll be with the results.
No matter what paper you use.