This is a quick overview of blending techniques with colored pencils that I use in my colored pencils classes (and in my own artwork). These simple techniques can be used to create the basis of realistic and expressive artwork in colored pencils.
I use three different techniques for blending colored pencils to achieve blends of colors as well as desired textures.
Colored pencils can be blended by layering different colors on top of each other. For the most control and smoothest blend, start with light pressure, holding the pencil at the far end, and coloring with the side of the pigment rod (rather than the tip).
Add layers of pigment directly on top of previous layers, alternating between colors to achieve the desired saturation of color without burnishing the tooth of the paper (flattening the paper, which will make adding further layers of color or details more difficult).
Burnishing is an option for blending. This method creates heat, melting the medium (oil or wax) and allowing the pigment to mix on the paper. It also flattens the tooth of the paper to create a smooth surface.
A colorless blender is one tool for burnishing. This is a pencil with a rod of medium (wax in my example) and no pigment. Use it to layer over colored pencil, or use the tip to blend small areas.
A paper tortillon can also be used to burnish colored pencil for blending. Make sure your tortillon does not have any other pigment on it from previous use to prevent smearing and mudding color.
Blending with Solvent
Using a solvent to blend colored pencils may be preferable to burnishing if you want to add further layers of color and details ontop of a blended layer. An important thing to remember with using a solvent is to have enough pigment on the paper before applying solvent — if there isn’t enough pigment, the solvent will soak into the paper and create a grease spot.
Solvent is typically odorless mineral spirits, the same that would be used with oil painting. This is a flammable material and should be used and stored with care.
To blend with solvent, layer colored pencil on paper. Layer with more than one color if desired. Use a small paint brush to dip into the solvent, and a towel or tissue to blot the brush and remove any excess (less is better, more can be added, but too much will make grease spots!). Brush gently over the colored pencil you wish to blend.
Allow blended areas with solvent to dry completely before continuing to color or draw over them. The solvent can soften the paper and make it easy to tear, or get onto your colored pencil and make it muddy or soft. I allow my solvent blended areas to dry for 30 – 60 minutes before continuing to work on them. When the area is dry, you can add more color in layers or in details.
Those are the basics for blending colored pencils! From here, we can create so many cool, colorful images, with details and different blends of color! In the next few posts, I’ll focus on techniques for lighting, shading, texture and shaping.