Art Blog

Seamless, Smooth & Stunning: How to Blend Colored Pencils

Drawing with colored pencils can be a lot of fun, but blending sometimes can be a not-so-fun process. Since seamless colors can be vital to achieving realistic results, let’s demystify how to blend colored pencils.

Unlike graphite or charcoal, colored pencils can’t be blended with paper stumps and tortillions. But there are several other tools and techniques that can achieve the same blending effects. In this post, we’ll go over some of the best tools and tips for easily blending with colored pencils

Tools and techniques for blending colored pencils

Gamsol and Turpenoid Solvents for Colored Pencil

Solvents

Solvents — liquids that melt the binders in wax- and oil-based colored pencils — eliminate pencil strokes, smooth the surface of your work and make layering color much faster. This technique works best for dark and medium colors, though it will work (a little less noticeably) with lighter hues.

Great solvents to use for colored pencil blending are Gamblin Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits and Weber Turpenoid Natural. It’s best to use solvents in a well-ventilated area to limit your exposure to the chemicals (and, sometimes, the odor). Pour the liquid in a small, resealable glass container so that it’s easy to use and clean.

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For the best results, dip an inexpensive synthetic brush into the solvent and brush it over the shaded area. It takes some practice to use just the right amount. As a rule, use a little rather than a lot, because the solvent might dilute more pigment than you planned. Have a paper towel handy to blot extra solvent from your brush.

Solvent Applied On Colored Pencil

Colorless pencil blenders

While colorless pencil blenders take more time and effort, using them for burnishing can create an affect similar to solvents. Burnishing is a blending technique of layering colored pencils with heavy pressure. It fuses and saturates colors while smoothing out the surface. The blending method rids the surface of any texture left in the drawing. In other words, burnishing allows the artist to polish the surface to its maximum smoothness so that it’s evenly filled with color, reducing deep saturated tones. This technique and tool are particularly effective to burnish the surface in the mid-tones, lights and highlights in your colored pencil drawing. 

There are two really great colorless pencil blenders on the market: the Prismacolor Colorless Blender and the Caran d’Ache Full Blender Bright. While the Prismacolor pencil leaves a slightly grayish tone, the Caran d’Ache woodless, oil-wax pencil glides on clear and burnishes the surface perfectly.

Blending With Colorless Pencil Blenders

White and off-white colored pencils

Unlike the solvents and blenders, the white or very light colored pencils (such as cream, sky blue, light peach or beige) lighten up the surface while burnishing it. It’s useful for certain situations, such as coloring the afternoon haze in a landscape, lightening up a skin tone or creating transitions in the light and around the highlights.

Icarus Art Board

Colored pencil blending was revolutionized by the Italian-American artist-inventor Ester Roi, who invented the Icarus Art Board. Basically, it’s a controlled heat plate that allows artists to work in colored pencil much faster by seamlessly blending the pigment while drawing. The boards, which come in three sizes, cost a pretty penny, but you’ll make for it in saved time and effort.

Tips for blending colored pencils

  • Blend colors from light to dark.
  • If using a solvent to blend, let your drawing dry before drawing over it once again.
  • Burnish the surface gradually by varying pencil pressure. If the surface becomes too dark, let it dry and layer lighter color over it.
  • Burnish carefully around the highlights in little feathering circles.
  • Warm your wax-based pencils on a pencil tin by placing them on a battery used for heating your home. The wax will become much softer, yielding easier and faster application of colored pencils.
  • Remember to draw on smooth surface. A paper’s texture greatly affects the layering of a color — the more textured, the harder it is to fill in the paper’s tooth and blend the colors. Many artists prefer Strathmore paper or Stonehenge paper. 

Colored pencil blending results


Samples of colored pencil blending results

Different techniques create different results. The image above shows three different colors: Prismacolor poppy red at the top, indigo blue in the middle and peach at the bottom, with each column using a different blending technique.

Column 1:

The original application of a color on Strathmore drawing paper.

Column 2:

The pigment blended with some Gamsol solvent

Column 3:

The pigment blended with white colored pencil

Column 4:

The pigment blended with the colorless pencil blender

Learn Colored Pencil Essentials

colored pencil techniques

Improve all of your colored pencil drawings! Learn easy, empowering techniques for color mixing, application and more in this expert-taught online video class.Enroll Now »

26 Comments

Marycon

Great info as usual. You visuals as well as instruction are great

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Madeline Winkler

Working on a colored pencil piece in art- this website was super helpful for my classmates and myself

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Dan

Great info. Thanks!

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Bree

Great post will be using these techniques in my art journal! You can see it at unodoliadventures.com

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Jocelynn

Is there anyway you could blend Colored/Non Colored (Gray/grey pencils) Pencils without a blender or all the supplys you need to blend a drawing?

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Veronica Winters

Hi!
Colored pencils of any color are blended the same way as explained in this post. graphite pencils are blended with a paper stump or a piece of felt. Are you sure you know what pencils you have?

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Fariha

HI! Is there a way to blend color pencils (NOT WATER COLOR PENCILS!) with water? Can we use Nail polish remover too? Thanks!

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vik

Baby oil works good

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Debbie Walker

I’m new at coloring with pencils. How do I get the edges of an item to “feather out” to appear as if it is blended into nothing? I hope my question makes sense.

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Katrina

Does one need drawing classes before attempting art work in color pencils?

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Gloria

What type of drawings are best for beginners?

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Bob Linaberry

Thanks for a place to discuss this with great people.

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Lenore

When using a colorless blending pencil, does it make a difference how long the colored sections of a picture set before attempting to blend and smooth out the pencil strokes? I bought a colorless blender pencil (Artists Loft) and found that it did not do a very good job of smoothing out my pencil strokes, but the picture had already been colored for a couple of days before using the blender pencil. Did I wait too long to use the blender pencil? Any advice will be appreicated.

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Tammy

Lenore, I don’t think the artist loft blender is a good one, but that’s just my opinion. I tried one, and didn’t get any results, then bought the prismacolor blender, and WOW there’s such a difference. I have prismacolor, polychromos, Marco raffine, and crayola brand, and the prismacolor blender works well for all (I have to press harder for the crayola and raffines, but that, I think, is because the lead is “harder”. No, it doesn’t matter if I blend just after coloring, or even a few days later (having come back to my piece), the prisma blender works well either way. (PS, I’m not an artist, just someone who enjoys using colored pencils). Hope that helps!

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Veronica Winters

Artist’s Loft products are terrible. they don’t work the way professional products work. It doesn’t matter for how long your drawing stays on your table. I recommend using the Caran d’ache blender. More on my blog via http://www.veronicasart.com

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Andrei Stserbakov

Your information is very good and I think you will love colorful pencil. Colorful pencil is very soft to use. You can use it easily and can make a good panting. I am also using colored pencil and it is helping me to make very good panting.

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Kayla price

I’ve heard some people say to use a Q-tip and rubbing alcohol… Do you know if that works to?

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David Romero

You answered several questions for me in just this one, very well done, presentation. Thank you very much.

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Jenny

I have FC Classic Colour Pencils, I draw using it and I use a Derwent colourless blending pencil in Vellum board but it didnt work, maybe its because the texture is soft? I don’t know please help..

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Yashpatel

Thanks to you

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