It’s a well-known and oft-repeated “rule” that you should always keep your colored pencils sharp. But is that true? Following are a few guidelines to help you know when to use blunt colored pencils.
Like most art “rules,” these are not written in stone. You can follow them or ignore them as you wish.
How Blunt is “Blunt?”
Before we get to my tips, though, let’s talk about the different degrees of bluntness. Believe it or not, I’ve identified three.
In my book, a pencil is dull when the sharp point has been worn down a little, but there’s still a lot of pigment core showing. The tip is rounded, but not flat.
You gt a dull pencil with regular drawing, especially if you turn your pencil as you work. All sides of the tip touch the paper, so the pencil wears evenly.
If you need a sharp pencil, it’s time to sharpen this one.
The rounded point has been worn down to an angle. The flat edge is not clearly pronounced. There’s no chance of mistaking this pencil for a sharpened pencil.
A pencil becomes blunt when you draw on one side of the pigment core only. That side wears down, but the other sides don’t.
This is a pencil that’s worn totally flat on one side. It has a sharp, very distinct and very flat edge. The pigment core tip is very definitely wedge-shaped. You get a wedge like this either by being very careful not to turn your pencil as you draw or by using heavy pressure on a scrap paper.
When to Use Blunt Colored Pencils
Following are four ways I use blunt pencils. These aren’t the only times to use blunt pencils, nor are blunt pencils the only ways to get these effects.
Soft Detail or Drawing Distance
Soft detail requires soft, sometimes blurred edges. The perfect use for blunt pencils. Before you sharpen again, look for background areas that could benefit from a blunt pencil.
Smooth Layers of Broken Color
Lay down smooth color layers with blunt colored pencils. The smoother the paper, the smoother the color, but you can get excellent “broken” color that’s a consistent value by using blunt pencils on sanded or toothier papers.
Sanded Art Papers
Speaking of which, blunt pencils are your absolute best bet when you draw on sanded art papers of any kind. That grit wears down sharp points quickly, so skip the sharpening and start with a blunt pencil!
Burnishing is another time for blunt pencils. When you burnish, you use heavy pressure to “grind” layers of color together. That’s no time for a really sharp point. You want a slightly blunted pencil.