How To Blend Colored Pencils [All You Need To Know]

What could be more gratifying for an artist than creating realistic artwork on paper and canvases? Of course, nothing! 

Besides being a profitable business, art can lower stress levels, alleviate anxiety, and boost self-esteem. And when an artist has paper, a drawing pencil, and a few colors by their side, they can let their creative juices flow and create anything they imagine. 

Of course, creative art isn’t only meant for artists but everyone because creativity lies within each of us. 

If truth be told, the secret ingredient to creating eye-catching and realistic artwork is the blending process. Irrespective of whether you use quality wax-based or oil-based colored pencils, using the right blending methods, which include layering and smudging, with the right pressure will take your art game a notch above the rest. 

There are several coloring techniques with colored pencils and it’s not easy to master all of them at once. But, here in this article, we have discussed how to blend colored pencils with some pro tips for you to begin. After this, you can choose the right colors easily to draw the galaxy with colored pencils or your favorite urban landscape. 

One thing follows wherever you go with your art, the colored pencils, wherever you draw, they’re there, whether you are drawing in the park, in your very own art studio or you’ve just claimed your home office as your very own creative corner, the colored pencils remain your bread and butter, reliable, easy to use, and most importantly, colorful! 

So, sit back and relax, while we let out the tricks of the trade used by successful artists to create artwork that makes thousands of dollars. 

How To Blend Colored Pencils Like A Pro: 5 Techniques That Every Artist Must Follow

How to blend colored pencils

There’s no denying that creating art is the best way to showcase your creativity to people and make a difference in the world by sharing your perspective through art. 

Gouache, watercolor, acrylic, and ink – there are plenty of painting mediums that allow artists to create the kind of art they want. However, out of all the mediums, colored pencils are much more popular and preferred by artists because they let them create realistic textures and details that others fail at. 

What’s more, they are highly versatile as you can mix them with other painting mediums, such as watercolors to create a rich sense of color. That’s not all; let us tell you that they aren’t packed with toxic chemicals, which means they are safe for use indoors. 

So, whether you’re an artist by profession or an amateur, colored pencils are the best options to add life to your drawings. 

While colored pencils are fun to work with, blending them to create textures and details to your liking is slightly tricky. But don’t worry, for we have enlisted the five best methods to improve your blending game and give your art a more polished and finished look. So, let’s dive right into the deets! 

1. Layering Pencils

If you’re a beginner who doesn’t know much about blending colored pencils, then layering pencils is the easiest way to blend colors. Also, not many materials are needed for the layering technique; all you need to get is paper and colored pencils – to create art. 

Though not a necessity, a colorless blending pencil will simplify the blending process, which is why we suggest getting one. 

More often than not, colors are merged by building layers of each color on the paper. While you may be tempted to overlay colors in heavy coats, it’s important to lay them in light layers. 

One of the common mistakes that amateurs make is applying an overly heavy layer at the beginning itself. When that happens, it becomes impossible to build up colors, so it ruins the sketch. 

Ideally, you must remember that the more layers you apply, the more blended and thicker the colors will appear. So, when overlaying colors, apply minimal pressure and gradually increase it with each consecutive layer. 

Whenever you have to make a gradual adjustment, start with a slight overlap in the center and proceed steadily, overlapping each layer a little more. 

In case you don’t wish to add more pigment to the layers, simply use colorless blending pencils to blend the colors properly. All you need to do is spread a thin layer of a colorless blender and then use the lightest color onto the paper. 

Also, we’d like to mention that once dark colors stick to the paper fiber, they are challenging to blend. But with this foundation, rest assured that you won’t have to break into a sweat to blend them. 

Furthermore, those working on a grainy paper should keep in mind that its texture will take a few more layers to cover the surface completely. 

2. Blend Colored Pencil With Solvent

Want to maximize the effects of blending colored pencils on the paper fiber? If yes, then a solvent will come in handy for achieving the finish you want. 

Colorless solvent markers, odorless mineral spirits, turpentine, and rubbing alcohol are popular solvents among artists and amateurs. Basically, these are applied on top of the blending colored pencil that dissolves the substance bonding the pigments together. Once the agents are dissolved, the pigments flow together more or less like paint. 

However, you should always test the solvent on a scrap paper before applying it to the colored pencil. This is done to test the strengthening properties of the paper and whether it can withstand harsh solvents or not. After all, you wouldn’t want your paper to warp or buckle upon getting wet, and ruin the drawing. 

Besides, we would suggest testing whether your colored pencils are resistant to solvents or not before using them to blend your drawing. 

A. Blending Colored Pencils Using Rubbing Alcohol

For light blends, rubbing alcohol is perfect because it splits the binding agents to transfer the pigment from colored pencils onto the paper. However, try going for rubbing alcohol that contains no more than 70% isopropyl alcohol, or you’ll lose the pigments. 

While cotton balls are perfect for blending colors, you can go for painting brushes or swabs. 

B. Colorless Solvent Markers

If you wish to create a watercolor-like effect, colorless solvent markers are right up the street to soften and blend colored pencils. 

With watercolor pencils, you’ll be able to create soft painted effects as the pigment spreads over the paper, mimicking the appearance of watercolor painting. 

C. Odorless Mineral Spirits

When applied to colored pencils, odorless mineral spirits dissolve the wax binders to a great extent compared to rubbing alcohol and colorless solvent markers. Hence, the pigment is freed, which is why it blends more easily and thoroughly than others. 

To create a lighter blend using odorless mineral spirits, all you need to do is melt some color and wash it on top of the paper. You’ll have to do this on a durable board or paper and keep in mind that the outcome may be quite artistic and saturated. 

D. Turpentine

Another solvent that most artists prefer using to blend colored pencils is turpentine because it breaks down the wax excellently. Just remember that it is more potent and toxic than other solvents, so make sure you use it carefully. 

3. Smudging With Tortillons And Paper

Another tried-and-tested technique for blending colored pencils is using paper products for smudging. While most people prefer using fancy paper products, you can make use of toilet paper, paper towels, a small piece of tissue, or a serviette. 

Alternatively, you can get tortillons or blending stumps for smudging pencils. Of course, they are excellent for smudging charcoal, graphites, and other similar mediums, but did you know that they blend colored pencils outstandingly? 

Since they blend colors with precision, they are a worthy addition to your art kit. But, if you’re looking for a cheaper option, we suggest going for cotton swabs as they are reasonably priced. 

Irrespective of whichever blending tools you go for, always lay a heavy layer in the beginning because it maximizes the effect and makes drawings vibrant. 

One thing that we like about this technique is that it slightly lifts the pigment and imparts a bit of a grainier effect compared to pencil layering. That’s not all; you may use the smudging technique with layering for the perfect blend that you wish to achieve. 

4. Blending Colored Pencils With Baby Oil

Another popular blending substance that artists prefer using is baby oil. Not only does it break down the binding agents, but it also allows the pigment to be spread easily across the surface. 

And if truth be told, blending colored pencils with baby oil is easy and can be done using cotton swabs. First off, soak the cotton swab in baby oil, dab it all over the colored pencil drawing, and you’re done! 

However, if cotton swabs aren’t available, use a soft bristle brush to spread the baby oil on the colored pencils. 

5. Burnishing Technique

Much like layering, burnishing is yet another easy technique that is used by most artists for colored pencil blending. 

After laying strokes on the drawing paper, choose the color pencils that you want to use in your artwork and start laying them. Unlike the layering technique, you’ll have to apply slight pressure to the pencil tip to release the binding agents and pigments to cover the entire white surface. 

More often than not, burnishing is preferred by artists because it fills every nook and cranny of the paper with pigment, giving a smooth, bright, and waxy surface. 

However, keep in mind that once the paper is burnished, you won’t be able to add more pigments. This is why we suggest choosing color combinations beforehand so that you don’t make mistakes and ruin your artwork later. 

Here are some burnishing techniques that you can consider to blend colored pencils. 

A. Burnishing With A Colorless Blender

Burnishing with a colorless blender is no doubt one of the easiest ways to blend colored pencils. All you need to do is get a colorless wax blender and sharpen it to the tip of the pencil using sandpaper to blend small areas. Or, if you want, you can leave the tip flat to blend larger areas without difficulty. 

After overlaying colors on the paper, shade them with the blender and press hard to separate the colorless layer from the colored ones. 

B. Burnishing With Light Colors Over Dark Ones

Those who want to polish their artwork should consider using light or darker colors over the layers already spread on the drawing paper. 

While most people prefer a white colored pencil for the lightest effect, you should use it cautiously because it can make the previous layers chalky. But, for those who wish to create a high-key look, then you can never go wrong with the white color. 

C. Burnish With Gray Color To Neutralize

Want to reduce the saturation of the previous color layers? Then consider using gray or a contemporary color to decrease the intensity of the color and create realistic effects. 

Irrespective of whether you’re a pro or a beginner, we suggest testing it on scrap paper or a sketchbook before trying it out on your artwork. Since not all color combinations yield exact results, it’s best to try it out on scrap paper to know which blends work for you and which don’t. 

D. Burnish With A Different Color

When it comes to burnishing techniques, artists have the freedom to play with different color combinations to make their artworks as stunning as possible. So, if you wish to change the tone of the layered colors subtly, simply apply a different color over them, and it will work its magic! 

For this, artists-grade colored pencils are the best bet because they offer a great deal of transparency, which means the previous layers will be visible. 

Let’s put it this way – you’ve drawn a lake and shaded it in predominantly turquoise tones and want to show coldness and depth. So, for this, we suggest using a more purple-toned blue, such as ultramarine (deep blue color pigment), as it will reveal the depth perfectly. 

How to blend colored pencils

6 Tips For Beginners On How To Blend Colored Pencils The Right Way

There’s no denying that blending colored pencils the correct way is slightly tricky, especially if you’re a beginner. However, with the right techniques, regular practice, and dedication, your blending skills will improve over time, and gradually you’ll become a pro at it. 

Irrespective of whether you use wax-based or oil-based pencils for blending, the tips mentioned below will improve your blending game. So, let’s take a look at them. 

1. Invest In High-Quality Pencils

The pencil you use to layer colors on the drawing paper plays a crucial role in determining the outcome. That’s why never compromise on quality when it comes to color pencils and always choose a high-quality kit for your artwork. 

While you may be tempted to save a few dollars by getting a low-quality pencil kit, keep in mind that the results won’t be up to par. Not only that, but it may also ruin your artwork by getting smudgy because the pencils are packed with low-quality pigments. 

So, whether you’re a professional artist or a weekend warrior, we suggest you start using premium-quality pencils to avoid disappointment. 

2. Sharpen Your Colored Pencils Before Working

Well, you’d agree that using dull-colored pencils for blending is not only frustrating but also a challenging task. After all, blunt pencils don’t lay the pigments properly on the paper, which means no matter how well you blend the colors, you won’t get the desired results. 

On the other hand, sharp pencils have brighter colors and lay stronger pigments than unsharpened ones. That’s because the sharp nib of the pencil is able to penetrate between the microscopic grooves on the paper. 

Of course, you’ll have to purchase good-quality sharpeners that are compatible with your pencil kit. While most people prefer electric sharpeners, you can go for a manual one for sharpening your colored pencils. 

3. Using The Right Drawing Paper

If you want to bring out the best of your artistic skills, use high-quality drawing paper for sketching and drawing. 

Toss away your ordinary papers because the coloring motions flatten the fibers, deteriorating the quality of your artwork. And when shopping for papers, go for a thick one that is capable of accepting pigments. 

Furthermore, you’ll make use of solvents like alcohol or mineral spirit, paper towel, or burnish colors for blending. Hence, your paper should be strong and sturdy enough to withstand the harsh chemicals you use. 

Also, check their texture and tone, for they play a crucial role in determining the outcome of your sketches. Speaking of drawing papers, you can consider Bristol sheets because they are stiff and strong yet smooth, which is why they are a popular pick among painters and artists. 

Or, if you want, you can go for slightly rougher surfaces, such as watercolor paper that accepts multiple layers of colors compared to Bristol sheets. 

4. Applying Heavy Pressure Is A Big No-No!

Irrespective of whether you’re using oil-based or wax-based colored pencils, you’ll have to apply light pressure when using them on the paper. If you apply heavy pressure, you won’t be able to create a seamless transition between colors. 

For beginners, we suggest opting for wax-based pencils because you won’t find it difficult to control the pressure. Rest assured that you’ll be able to create a smooth blend without much difficulty. 

Also, we suggest holding the pencil slightly farther from the base, ensuring wider coverage and light strokes. But, if you want bolder strokes, then make sure you grip the pencil closer to the base. 

5. Go In Different Directions

As a kid, we all were told to color our drawings in one direction. Contrarily, the rules are slightly different when it comes to colored pencils, and it’s advisable to change directions frequently. 

In case you’re wondering why then let us tell you that coloring in one direction distributes pigments unevenly and leaves squeaky lines. As a result, the strokes appear odd and broken, which is why you should change directions when using them to ensure a smooth texture. 

Having said that, we suggest using colored pencils in circular motions, particularly when you’re working with the base color, as it will distribute the pigment evenly on the surface. Other than that, consider cross-hatching or coloring in the contradictory direction of the initial strokes to ensure the pigments settle in the tiny grooves of paper properly. 

6. Patience Is The Key To Mastering Blending Techniques

Initially, you’ll make a lot of blunders when layering colors, but know that it’s a part of the process. With practice, patience and dedication, you’ll master the skills and improve your blending game. 

At times, you may have to layer a color multiple times to get the desired effect. That’s why if you’re unable to get the result you want at the start, don’t lose heart. Instead of giving up, keep practicing and we’re sure you’ll become a pro at it! 

How to blend colored pencils frequently asked questions

How To Blend Colored Pencils Frequently Asked Questions ?

What Is The Easiest Way To Blend Colored Pencils?

The layering technique is perhaps the easiest to blend colored pencils on paper. However, rubbing alcohol is also a simple and straightforward way to dissolve the binding agents and loosen the pigments. Irrespective of whichever technique you go for, make sure you test it on scrap paper to avoid blunders. 

How Many Layers Does A Colored Pencil Drawing Have?

More often than not, a colored pencil drawing has about thirty to forty layers of colors to cover the entire surface of the paper. 

Which Surfaces Are Compatible With Colored Pencils?

Besides heavy drawing paper, you may use colored pencils on wood burnings, pottery, and paper mache. 

How Many Types Of Colored Pencils Are There?

Simply put, there are three types of colored pencils – oil-based, wax-based, and water-soluble. Wax-based pencils don’t smudge or smear, which is why it’s easy to create layers on sketches using them. 

Though softer than the former, oil-based pencils ensure better grip and are less likely to break. Coming to water-soluble pencils, they are basically watercolors packed in a pencil form, so their versatility is limitless. 

How to blend colored pencils

How To Blend Colored Pencils Summing It Up

So, that’s about how to blend colored pencils like a pro! 

Truly, colored pencils are an excellent medium for creating realistic artworks. They are easy to use and are most preferred by hobbyists and professionals alike. Not only that, but they are versatile and can be used for creating anything you want. 

So, whether you want to create a photorealistic, detailed, or expressive art, colored pencils are truly up to the task. 

With that, we’ve reached the end of our guide. But before we call it a day, here’s a last piece of advice – blend colored pencils on scrap paper to see the outcome before trying on your artwork. Also, don’t forget to go through video tutorials on the internet in case you feel stuck at any step. 

And that’s it for today! Good luck, lovelies! 

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