If I could name one question that I’m asked more often than any other regarding colour pencil art, it would be about the best blending tips for colour pencils.
‘Cherries’ pencil painting (in the photo above) – Prismacolor Premier pencils on artists cartridge paper.
Improving your blending skills can make a HUGE difference to your coloured pencil pages for eye popping or smoother results. Let’s take a look at my top tips for colour pencil blending.
Let me start by saying that the success of colour pencil blending results will vary greatly depending on the quality or type of coloured pencils and paper that you’re using. If you’re colouring in a page from a store bought book, obviously you have no choice about the paper but if you’re printing out pages to colour, my advice would be to chose a quality art paper that is designed to be used with your preferred colouring tool (pencils, gel pens, watercolour pencils or markers for example).
I have a few different coloured pencil brands in the studio – from inexpensive Crayola coloured pencils to Faber Castell polychromos (oil based pencils) and Prismacolor Premiums (wax based pencils). I love the intense vibrancy of the Faber Castells but I’ll admit that my all time favourite pencils for rendering colour pencil paintings are the Prismacolor. I bought my first small set back in 2009 and quickly added more colours to my arsenal. I have heard that the quality of Prismacolor pencils isn’t what it used to be but mine are still going strong and I reach for them when I want professional results for my pencil paintings.
Blending Tip 1 – Layering Colours
Whenever I colour an image, I always start out by laying down soft colour layers. Whether it’s for a photo realistic effect or a simple Mandala design.
A light pressure, gently building up your layers of colour pencil will give you the ultimate blending. If you press down too hard with your pencils you could flatten the tooth of the paper (the texture of paper is not perfectly smooth, it has hills and valleys). Heavy pressure and harsh burnishing with pencils and blending tools can cause what is know as a wax bloom, where you start to see an unnatural shine on your page. Gently and slowly building layers is the best way to avoid this.
In the image above, a simple oval sketched shape, I coloured in layers using the following Prismacolor pencils: (Of course you can use whichever brand or colours that you have but quality of the blend effect will vary greatly depending on your pencils and the paper that you’re colouring on).
1. Crimson Lake (PC925) – The 2nd darkest red shade in this exercise, covering almost the entire oval shape but leaving a highlight area colour-free at the top left.
2. Dark Purple (PC931) – The darkest shade to add depth and dimension in the lower part of the oval and blending gently upwards into the first red.
3. Crimson Red (PC924) – The lightest and brightest red, over the top of the colours that have already been used. Always leaving the white, uncoloured highlight area white. Gently colour over the other colours and you will start to see the blended effect.
4. Pale Vermillion (PC921) – Pale Vermillion looks more like an orange but if you use it with this particular colour combination it tends to add a bright vibrancy to the overall effect. Colour over all the other colours that you have laid down.
5. Repeat all of the colour layers above to increase the pigment intensity. At this point I usually start with the darkest colour (Dark Purple) first and then Crimson Lake, followed by Crimson Red and Pale Vermillion.
Blending Tools and Techniques
1. Blending by layering colours on top of each other.
You could consider your work blended and finished just by layering your colours on top of each other, as described above. But, if you’d like a smoother blended result, the following tips will be useful.
2. Blending with a Paper Stump
A paper stump is a cylindrical drawing tool, usually made of soft paper that is tightly wound into a stick and sanded to a point at both ends. It is used by artists to smudge or blend marks made with charcoal, pencil or other drawing media.Paper stumps and tortillions ( they are not the same things) are available at art and craft shops.
Simply hold the paper stump on an angle to your paper and gently rub over the coloured pencil layers to blend. Depending on your pencil brand or the number of colour layers that you have applied, the results will vary. In my opinion, the blending stump is great for some light blending / smudging but I don’t use it with my colour pencil paintings very often.
3. Colourless blending pencil.
There are a couple of different pencil brands that sell colourless blending pencils – I know that Prismacolor and Derwent have them.
My Prismacolor pencil sets have always included the colourless blending pencil and I haven’t tried any other so that’s the one I know. The blender pencil is wax based and, when applied gently over your colour pencil layers, helps to blend the colours together a little. I use this technique from time to time, depending on the effect that I’m looking to achieve. It’s ok but not my favourite blending method.
4. Blending with a White coloured pencil.
Once you have finished your colour layers, you can colour over areas with a white pencil to blend the colours together. Please note that by doing this you will lighten and change the tones of your colours. That’s fine if that’s the look that you’re going for but I would recommend trying this technique on a scrap piece of paper before using it on your favourite colouring page.
Here’s a YouTube video link by AllTheArtToday that shows you how to use either the Prismacolor blending pencil or a white Prismacolor pencil to blend. It’s not my video but hopefully you will find it helpful.
5. Blending with a colourless marker pen.
Prismacolor has it’s own version of the colourless blender marker pen and I quite like it for blending. Once you have coloured you layers, apply the blender marker to the lightest areas first then move and blend towards the darker colours. The blender marker seems to melt the layers of colours together and you’ll notice that the white of the paper that was left behind after colouring (due to the texture of your paper) starts to disappear. The Prismacolor colorless blender marker is my 2nd favourite blending tool. I imagine that they are sold anywhere that the Prismacolor range is sold, I was lucky enough to receive mine as a gift from one of my colouring techniques students.
6. Blending with Odourless Spirits
My all time favourite colour pencil blending method!
There are many, many brands of odourless spirits on the market, so don’t get caught up with worrying about the best one to buy. Odourless spirits are odourless spirits … simple.
To get the best results, apply with a small brush dipped in the spirits . I always have a paper towel on hand when I blend with odourless spirits. I dip my brush in a small amount of the spirits then wipe off the excess onto the paper towel before I blend my colours together. Be careful not to ‘drown’ your page with this wet product, less is definitely more and I’m sure you’ll be thrilled with the results. One of the nicest things about using this method to blend your colour layers is that the spirits do no damage the tooth of the paper, which means that you can go back in and add more and more layers of colour pencil.
Here’s a link to a YouTube demonstration McCrae Fine Art that shows you just how easy it is to blend beautifully using odourless spirits. Once again, it’s not my video but it is one of the simplest How To videos that I’ve found for you on YouTube.
I created a step-by-step colouring and blending worksheet on How To Colour Gems and it’s available as a free printable page on my Jenny Gollan Designs page on Facebook HERE or by clicking on the thumbnail image below. If you plan to share the image on social media, please ask me first.
No Vaseline blending tips?
If you’re familiar with the fad for blending colour pencils with Vaseline, you will have noticed that I haven’t included it in my tips and techniques list above. Why? Simply because I tried it once and didn’t like the fact that my paper didn’t dry afterwards. And because I love blending with odourless spirits for the best results. If you’ve had great success using Vaseline, or any other blending medium, let me know … I’d love to hear from you.
Here’s a great colouring page to try out your newfound blending skills! My Eclectic Mandala design is available as an instant download colouring page, simply click on the image below to grab your copy. Your colouring page will be sent to your nominated email address after checkout is complete. Browse around while you’re there on my PayHip store, you might just find something else you’d love to colour.
The Cherries Pencil Painting
I drew and coloured the Cherries coloured pencil painting in the image at the top of this post using exactly the same colouring and blending techniques that I have described above. I used a Google image as my reference photo, sketched freehand then layered my colours, one on top of the other. I used the odourless spirits to blend because I wanted to achieve a smooth and glossy finish on my cherries.
I’ve been considering creating How To videos for my YouTube channel for quite a while but I have to admit …. I’m camera shy. I’ll do my best to get over myself 🙂 but in the meantime, there are plenty of How To colouring videos on YouTube to learn lots of fabulous tips and tricks when it comes to colouring. If you find a really good one, don’t hesitate to share it with me.
In the meantime, check out my step-by-step Gem Colouring Worksheet on my Facebook page at Jenny Gollan Designs.
See you here next time!