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The Best Way to Blend Colored Pencils

The Best Way to Blend Colored Pencils

Today’s reader question comes from a reader who wants to know the best way to blend colored pencils. Here’s the question.

Please tell me which is the best way for blending colored pencils and what you are thinking about solvents?
Thank you, best wishes!

The Best Way to Blend Colored Pencils

The most basic way to blend is by layering as you draw. Each time you layer one color over another, you’re also blending. The two colors blend visually, creating a new color. That happens because colored pencils are translucent in nature. The light passes through each color, bounces off the paper, and back through the layers of color. Your eye doesn’t see the individual colors. It sees a color that combines all those colors.

That is my favorite way of blending because it happens automatically as I draw.

There are other ways of blending colored pencils, of course. You can use a colorless blender (a colored pencil without color) to smooth colors and blend them together.

You can also use paper towel to smooth color. Fold a piece of paper towel into a small square and rub it on the area you want to blend. The paper towel smooths out the color somewhat and softens pencil strokes.

And you can burnish.

To burnish, you use either a colorless blender or a colored pencil with heavy pressure to “grind” the layers of color together. If you need to tint the color, use a colored pencil for burnishing. Light colors work best.

Burnishing with a colorless blender “grinds” colors together. It also flattens the tooth of the paper, so burnish when an area is nearly finished.

My Thoughts on Solvents

Solvents are also an acceptable way to blend.

A solvent is any liquid that breaks down the binder in colored pencils and allows the pigment to be moved around. Rubbing alcohol, odorless mineral spirits, and turpentine are all solvents. Each of those solvents blends to a different degree.

Use solvents with caution and in well-ventilated areas, since they all produce fumes that are harmful.

Solvents make blending faster and allow you to work more quickly, and many artists use them for that reason alone.

I don’t use solvents often because I prefer the look of colored pencil blended without solvent. But if I need to finish something quickly, or if there’s no other way to get the result I want, I use solvents.

My preferred solvent is Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits, but any artist-grade odorless mineral spirit works the same.

For more information on blending, I’ve published a tutorial called Blending Colored Pencils without Solvents. You can read more about that here.

So Which Way to Blend Colored Pencils is Best?

That differs from one artist to the next. As I mentioned above, I prefer not to blend with solvents. But other artists couldn’t use colored pencils if it weren’t for solvents because solvent blending takes a lot of pressure off the hands.

If you’re new to colored pencils, learn everything you can about the ways to blend.

Then try the blending methods that appeal most to you. Experiment a little bit. It probably won’t take long to discover the method or methods that work best for you.

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

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