Do you love using colored pencils but wish your pictures looked more professional? You can create amazing artwork using just a quality set of colored pencils and a few other art supplies. So what’s the trick to transforming the look of your colored pencil pieces from amateur to amazing? Blending!
- Blending makes colored pencil drawings look more realistic
- Blending makes colored pencil drawings more eye-catching
- Blending makes colored pencil drawings more interesting
- Blending makes colored pencil drawings look 3-dimensional
Learn how to blend colored pencils by following these simple hacks!
How to Blend Colored Pencils for Beginners
If you’re new at blending colored pencils, you don’t need to use any extra tools. Just start by simply layering different colors with your pencils. Use one pencil to color a section and then add your next layer of color right beside and on top of the first color.
Once you’ve mastered this simple layering, you can move on to some other colored pencil blending techniques. One of the most common and effective ones is burnishing.
Burnishing is when you push down firmly with your colored pencils when you’re layering different colors on top of one another. Experienced artists often use lighter colors on top of darker colors. That way, the splash of lighter colors can give the appearance of depth and movement.
One more thing to remember when you’re burnishing: don’t push too hard with a sharp pencil! If you do, you could damage your paper or break the pencil. Your picture might also end up with a streaky, unrealistic appearance. So remember to use a duller pencil for proper color blending.
To recap, for beginners trying to blend with colored pencils:
- Layer one color on top of another
- Layer lighter colors on top of darker colors
- Use a burnishing technique by pressing down hard while coloring
- Always use dull pencils for burnishing
Once you’ve mastered these techniques, it’s time to move on to some of the more complex methods of blending with colored pencils.
How to Shade with Colored Pencils
Shading is one of the most effective ways to add emotion, depth, dimension, and realism to a work of art. Here are some simple tips to teach you how to shade and blend with pencils. You can layer and burnish using just your pencils as we already mentioned. Or, you can try some methods that require a few other supplies.
- Blending with a Colorless Pencil
- Blending with Tortillons
- Blending with a Paper Towel
- Blending with a Solvent
Let’s take a closer look at each of these helpful blending and shading techniques you can use with colored pencils.
Colorless Pencil Blending
Did you know there’s such a thing as a colorless pencil? They’re the ideal tool for giving your colored pencil artwork a natural, textured look. These pencils are made out of a wax-based or oil-based substance.
You can layer them right on top of your colors to create a softening effect that’s quite appealing. Both Prismacolor and Blick carry a selection of colorless blenders.
Did you know that tortillons aren’t just for graphite drawings? They can also blend colored pencil drawings. If you have just a few small areas you want to blend they’re perfect for adding a few finishing touches.
Paper Towel Blending
Do you want to try blending your colored pencils with something you probably already have around the house? Then just use a tissue or a paper towel!
This simple technique can smooth out the texture of your piece and give it a polished look.
Just wad your paper towel or tissue up. Then rub it vigorously on the section of your drawing you wish to shade or blend. This won’t cause a very dramatic change, but it’s great for subtle blending.
Blending with a Solvent
Do you want to try something a bit more dramatic? Solvent blending is a more advanced technique than any we’ve covered so far, but it’s still fairly simple.
Some of the most popular solvents are:
- Mineral Spirits
- Rubbing Alcohol
So what does a solvent do, anyway? It works to dissolve the binders in the colored pencils marks on your paper. Once that happens, the colors take on a new consistency and start to behave more like paint than like pencils.
Always Test Your Solvents
A word of caution is in order about solvents. Use an extra sheet of paper to test them out before applying them to your artwork. Some types of paper hold up to solvents better than others. This is another good reason to test them out first. Check with your art supply retailer to find a paper that is most compatible with the type of solvent you want to use.
How to Use Different Solvents
The various solvents require different types of application techniques. Here’s how each one should be used to blend your colored pencil artwork.
How to Blend with Turpentine or Mineral Spirits
These two solvents can be applied in basically the same way. If you’re blending two colors, you can use turpentine, but if more than two are used the turpentine can start to remove most of the color from the paper.
Mineral spirits work well when you’ve used a lot of pigment on your paper. Make sure to always use odorless mineral spirits. Using a soft paintbrush, apply the mineral spirits to the area you wish to blend. Don’t press too hard because your goal is to blend, not to remove all the color.
How to Blend with Rubbing Alcohol
If you want a very subtle blending and shading of your colored pencil artwork rubbing alcohol is a great choice. The more pigment you have on the paper, the more effective this technique will be.
All you will need to add the rubbing alcohol to your paper is a paintbrush, cotton swab, or cotton ball.
If you’re going to be blending several different areas of your piece, just work on one at a time. Then let it dry before moving on to the next section. If you’re using a solvent, be sure there aren’t any pets or kids nearby. Always leave windows and doors open for ventilation.
Ready, Set, Go!
Now that you’ve read about how to blend colored pencils, it’s time to try these techniques out for yourself! There’s no cookie-cutter method that’s right for everyone. Have fun experimenting with several different methods and materials until you find the ones you feel most comfortable using.
Start with some simple layering, then add burnishing. Next, you can incorporate the dry methods we covered, such as using colorless pencils, paper towels, or tortillons.
Finally, try adding some solvents, such as turpentine, mineral spirits, or rubbing alcohol. The more comfortable you get using them, the more generously you can apply them. You’ll be amazed at how much more realistic and engaging your colored pencil artwork can be when you discover the secrets of blending!