How To Blend Colored Pencils

Blending is to coloring what harmony is to singing- a whole different level of sophistication. Blending is one of the most essential coloring techniques and gives drawings depth, texture, richness, and cohesiveness. In the following post, we’ll give you some blending techniques that will take your drawings from plain to polished.

 Grade-Based Performance

 While certain coloring techniques such as drawing, shading, or layering can be accomplished, at least physically, with almost any colored pencil, blending is very different.

If you want to blend your colors, the medium of your pencil’s core must have give– that is, the pigment must be malleable enough to be pushed and mixed into the paper as well as surrounding pigment. Colored pencils with this type of core are artist and professional grade. That being said, lower quality colored pencils can be blended with a combination of great coloring techniques and a colorless blender or solvent.

The Basics of Blending

Colored pencils are a very specialized drawing medium. Everything takes patience and technique, especially creating a smooth, seamless finish.

Colored pencils have a tendency of leaving tiny white spaces that create gaps in your drawing, kind of like a badly pixilated image. If we continue with this photography analogy, you can think of blending (or burnishing, if you want to be contextually specific) as airbrushing.

There are a couple of different blending techniques out there and I’m going to list several below. Also, if you don’t have high-quality colored pencils, there are some valuable blending tips here you can use:

The Layered Blend Combo 

Layering is an essential part of blending for two reasons: 1) It sets the foundation for the project’s color scheme and 2), it helps create a smooth surface to work on.

Even the smoothest type of paper still presents a challenge to colored pencils. One layer is simply not enough to fill in the paper’s tooth, so if you want to create a seamless blend, put down enough layers that when you start blending, your paper is saturated with pigment, creating a glassy surface.

When you’ve layered properly, you’re not blending on paper anymore, you’re blending on a surface of colored pigment and since like dissolves like, blending’s a breeze- or at least breezier than diluting your colors after a poor layering job.

Using a Colorless Blender

A colorless blender can be used in two ways: 1), it can serve as a primer  prior to applying any color and 2), it can be used to blend colors without adding more pigment. A colorless blender can come in different forms.

Some artists like to use a cotton swab or piece of tissue to blend. While this is perfectly fine, note that any papery substance is going to pick up (and remove) color from your drawing.

Another option is to use off-white colored pencils or actual colorless blenders made with a colorless wax or oil-wax formula. These are made specifically for burnishing drawings and in addition to gliding on clear, enable a smoother blend because of their solvent-like application.

Using a Solvent

Solvents are a substance that partially breaks down pigment to make it more susceptible to blending. There are a variety professional as well as make-shift solvents.

On the professional side, there are paint-thinners. While paint thinners are great for blending, they dilute the pigment and without extreme care, can make a melting mess of your masterpiece.

Other options include vaseline, rubbing alcohol and baby oil. These are softer, less specialized types of solvent, but they must be used with an equal amount of care.

If you are using a solvent to blend your pigment, remember the age-old “less is more” rule.

Physical  Blending Technique

Layering and shading can be played with, customized to your personal preference, but not blending. Blending requires a tiny bit of strict methodology.

In order to maintain your drawing’s composition and clarity, blend your colors from the lightest area to the darkest in small, circular motions. This will prevent you from blurring your image- there’s a difference between blending and smudging.