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How Much Color is Enough to Blend

How Much Color is Enough to Blend

Blending is an all-important part of drawing with colored pencils. Today’s reader wants to know how much color is enough to blend. What a great question!

Hi Carrie,

I had a stroke, 5years ago. Now I find it hard to know [if I have] filled in the tooth enough. [Also] when should I use Zest-It, when should I use the powder blender?

I am like you, a horse fanatic. Plus I have done a lot of cats and dogs. I usually have everything planned before I start a project.

Im so grateful you have opened up this blog; I really enjoy your emails.

Kind Regards,

Toni

How Much Color is Enough to Blend

Toni,

How very kind of you! I’m delighted to have you among my readers!

I’m sorry to hear about your health issues, but your interest in art and drawing is a great motivation.

The amount of color you need before you can successfully blend varies from method to method. So let me answer your question for solvent, and then for powder blender.

What is Enough Color for Blending with Solvent?

When you use odorless mineral spirits or other solvents to blend colored pencils, it is important to have enough color on the paper for the solvent to blend. Solvents break down the binder in the pigment, which allows the pigments to flow together and mix almost like paint. The more color on the paper, the better your results.

If you’re working on cotton paper (Stonehenge, etc.) or any absorbent paper, the paper also soaks up the solvent, making it dry more quickly. If you have just a little color on the paper, the solvent may be absorbed before it can do much blending. Having more color on the surface of an absorbent paper slows down the “soaking up” process and gives you a little more time to blend.

That’s less of a problem on sanded art papers. In fact, I’ve had solvent take quite a while to dry when I used it on sanded art papers (which are non-absorbent.) If the weather is damp or humid, it takes even longer! There’s plenty of time to blend colors on non-absorbent paper.

(It also takes less solvent to blend color when you draw on non-absorbent papers.)

No matter what type of paper you use, you need enough pigment on the paper for the solvent to melt and mix the pigments together.

That usually means three to six layers of smoothly applied color. If you have a naturally light hand, you need more layers. If you have a naturally heavy hand, you can successfully blend with fewer layers.

I use very light pressure to draw, so I have to put down more layers of color before solvent blends successfully.

This is a drawing on Stonehenge paper that I wanted to blend with solvent. I applied several layers of color evenly with light pressure and sharp pencils in this sample. My goal was smooth color, so I used a variety of strokes to create the smoothest color I could draw.

How Much Color is Enough to Blend with solvent.

I blended this area with rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is good for blending if you don’t need a very deep blend. It doesn’t completely break down the pigment binder, but you can blend with it.

This is what the color looked like after blending with rubbing alcohol.

You could blend with any other solvent, too, including Zest-It. Those solvents would produce more complete blends, so you might need a few more layers of color before blending.

Keep in mind that the milder your solvent (rubbing alcohol is very mild, meaning it doesn’t blend completely, and turpentine is very strong,) the smoother your color layers need to be. Milder solvents will not smooth out bold pencil strokes. A stronger solvent is more likely to smooth out bold pencil strokes, but that’s not guaranteed. Especially if you draw with extremely heavy pressure.

I’m not sure where Zest-It falls on the mild-to-strong scale.

What is Enough Color for Blending with Powder Blender?

I’m just beginning to experiment with Brush & Pencil’s Powder Blender, but I can offer some tips, the first being that it works best on sanded art papers. I used Pastelmat for my sample.

I had heard, seen, and read that you could just scribble color onto the surface, then blend it with powder blender and the strokes would all disappear. So that’s what I did.

First, I applied a small amount of powder blender to the background. Then I literally scribbled Faber-Castell Polychromos Sky Blue over the background with light pressure and bold strokes. It looked like this when I finished.

How Much Color is Enough to Blend with Powder Blender

Not very pretty, is it?

Next, I used the same sable round brush to blend the color that I used to apply the Powder Blender. I did not add more Powder Blender. I simply moved the color around.

When I finished, the background looked like this.

It’s still not very pretty, but you can see how well that little bit of color blended out.

It will take more layering and blending to get the look I want, but I am satisfied that you can successfully blend a small amount of color with Powder Blender. Obviously, the smoother the color layer you draw, the smoother the blend will be.

Three tips on using Powder Blender.

  • It works best on sanded art paper that’s quite heavy or is on a rigid support.
  • Blend with a tapping stroke for the smoothest blends.
  • Isolate layers with ACP Texture Fixative after you’ve finished an area.

So How Much Color is Enough to Blend?

The more color you put on the paper before blending, the better results you’ll get with blending.

The smoother the layers of color you want to blend, the better results you’ll get with blending.

That’s pretty much true no matter what type of paper you use, what blending method you use, or the pressure with which you draw.

If you’d like tips for layering colors, last week’s Q&A post will help you. It’s a short demo on layering color to create an umber under drawing and then glazing color. I hope you enjoy it.

And I hope my answers have helped you!

Do you have a question about colored pencils? Carrie answers a reader question every Wednesday. Click here to ask your question.