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Colorless Blenders and Wax Bloom

Colorless Blenders and Wax Bloom

We’ve been talking about blending recently, so today’s post is a follow up on some of those discussions. This time we’ll talk about whether or not colorless blenders cause wax bloom. Let’s begin with the reader question.

Do you know if colourless blender pencils cause Waxbloom?

Kind regards, Sabine

A lot of artists new to colored pencils ask about colorless blenders and how best to use them. They’re a handy tool, but they can cause problems.

Colorless Blenders and Wax Bloom

Do Colorless Blenders Cause Wax Bloom?

The short answer to this is yes. Colorless blenders do cause wax bloom and the reasons are simple.

Colored Pencils with No Pigment

Colorless blenders are basically a colored pencil with no pigment. The “lead” is all binding agent, which is a combination of wax, vegetable oil, and other materials. In a colored pencil, these things help hold the pigment together, keep it in the “lead” form, and make it possible to apply color to the paper.

A colorless blender doesn’t apply color, but since it’s 100% binding agent, it helps move color that’s already on the paper. That’s why they’re such a great blending tool.

Several companies that make colored pencils also make colorless blenders. Prismacolor, Lyra, and Utrect are among those that do. The formulation varies company to company, but all colorless blenders work on all types of pencils.

Colorless Blenders and Wax Bloom

That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news.

Because colorless blenders are nothing but the binding agent, you’re putting a lot of the binding agent on the paper. Since all binders for colored pencils include some wax, that means you’re putting wax on the paper.

And wax causes wax bloom.

Colorless Blenders are Burnishing Tools

Equally important is that colorless blenders are burnishing tools. You can blend with them using medium pressure or lighter, but they work best when you burnish.

Burnishing is a method of blending in which you “grind” layers of color together by using heavy pressure. When you burnish, you use a lot of pressure. That puts even more wax on the paper.

Are Colorless Blenders a Big Problem?

That depends on how you use them and your thoughts on wax bloom.

For some, wax bloom is a major irritation and something to be avoided at all costs. Those artists should avoid colorless blenders as much as possible.

For other artists, the benefits of blending with colorless blenders far outweigh the risk of wax bloom. Though the wax bloom may be an inconvenience, it’s not a problem.

So you’ll have to decide whether or not to use colorless blenders in your work.

If you do, know that wax bloom is easy to control. When it occurs with a work-in-progress, lightly wipe your drawing with a piece of paper towel or tissue. If you use tissue, chose a type that does not contain lotion. I fold the paper towel into quarters, then lightly stroke it across the drawing. It removes the wax bloom and I can continue drawing.

Use the same method to remove wax bloom on a finished drawing. Then use a final fixative made for colored pencils or dry media. The tissue paper removes wax bloom that may already have developed.

The fixative keeps it from coming back.

I’ve written a full tutorial on blending without solvents that includes more in-depth information on colorless blenders and wax bloom. If you want to learn more, see Blending Colored Pencils without Solvents here.

Do you have a question about colored pencils? Ask Carrie!

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