Blending color pencils

May 22nd, 2019 / Drawing Techniques, Illustrations Basics

Recently I worked more in color and I used many more markers, watercolors and crayons. Color pencils are not my favorite medium, so I have only cheeper ones – Koh-i-noor Hardmuth Polycolor, Progresso and treeless Bambino from St. Majewski. They are far from ideal, but they are enough for my needs. Perhaps in a while I will choose something more expensive.

Blending with Copic Blender Turdus Concept
Koh-i-noor Hardmuth Polycolor color pencils blended with Copic Blender.

You need to know that all of the above-mentioned brands have their limitations, those for a higher price (Caran d’ache, Prismacolor Premier , Faber Castell Polychromos, Derwent Coloursoft etc.) combine very well with each other and blend. If you did not know what is going on in the subject of this post, you already know – about mixing color pencils with each other. These cheaper types do not take on too many layers (approx. 3) and do not combine with each well (they are not so soft, have a different consistency, create a different coating than typical artistic products). It is very difficult for them to draw, for example, eyelashes on previously blend skin around the eye on a drawing. Of course, you can create with them, but it will be more time consuming.

When choosing pencils, you have to think about what you will use them for. Not whether you are a beginner or not – but what will be their purpose, because it is the most important thing. If, like me, you create illustrations in a more cartoon style, stylized, with a strong outline that does not accurately present reality, cheaper pencils will be ok. Later, if you want you can invest in something more expensive. However, if you want to do work with many tonal gradations with a smooth finish, requiring many layers, very realistic or even hyper-realistic works, immediately reach for more expensive  color pencils. There may be fewer of them, you can buy pencils one by one, but you will work better with the typically artistic ones. In this case, reaching for a mid-range brand can discourage you from coloring and stop your development. If you want to do such things in coloring books, also go for better products.

In any case, if you treat the drawing a little seriously, do not buy school crayons or poor quality, which are considered to be color pencils for beginners and brands from supermarkets, etc. They are very poorly pigmented, very poorly connected, poor quality wood, etc. The pencil has a tendency to crumble, it is a disaster. Of course you can also create amazing works using them, if you use the tricks described below, however, the amount of time you need to accomplish it does not compensate for their low price.

Okay, since we’ve already explained the differences between different brands of colored pencils, we can go on tricks related to blending. To obtain a smooth finish of the drawing and mix colors we have several options to choose from:

ways of blending Turdus Concept
Ways of blending color pencils.
  • Dry blending with only color pencils (1). The best with very good crayons (I used for the examples Progresso color pencils, so the effect was not spectacular) – we put them on each other in layers. We first apply the base layer (in our picture it is yellow) then next to it the second color, then apply the base color again to drag the pigment of the second color (in my case I was coloring from left to right). The con is that you must put a lot of pressure on it – this is not a solution for people with weak wrists.
  • Blending for example with baby oil (2). I used a little linseed oil that I kept in a drawer for oil paints. Blending came out very nice, but even though I used a really thick card (it is a watercolor paper with a weight of 300 g per sq. meter) a greasy stain is slightly visible on the other side. And oil, unfortunately, has a tendency to dissolve / digest paper and over time, I’m afraid that it will become more and more visible. And cover paper with the gesso under the crayons somehow I can not see this is the right solution … If you used oiles or after my post you decide to try it, let me know in the comment what feelings you have about this subject. An additional minus was the slight melting of the color around. As for the performance itself, it looks the same as in the first example, but instead of re-applying the base color, apply the olive with a brush or a cotton stick. I personally prefer a stick because it thoroughly rubs the colors.
color pencils before blending Turdus Concept
Color pencils before blending with alcohol.
  • Wet blending with alcohol (3). In my case was the most common 95% alcohol, but I also blended crayons with a copic alcohol blender (which came out very nice, only the tip of the marker got dirty – although apparently it can be cleaned with a product called Zest it deep pen nib cleaner). This is probably my favorite way because alcohol dries quickly and does not require a lot of pressure when mixing colors.
after blending Turdus Concept
Left picture: blended with alcohol. Right picture: blended with Copic Blender.
  • dry blending with a white crayon (4) has the slightest drawback that it lightens both colors a bit and we lose pigmentation and crayon density. Plus, as with any dry mixing, it requires more pressure than wet blending.
  • dry blending with a blender in a crayon (5). I used a blender from Derwent; it’s a very nice solution. It mixes the color pencils well, but it has two disadvantages: first of all, we will not apply anything on top of it – it is very difficult because the blender creates a coating on the crayons layer. Secondly – pressure mentioned above.
  • I can’t, unfortunately, present it on the example, because I do not have this medium yet, but we can also blend the pencils with a specially designed medium for it, which is called: Zest it pencil blend.
Color pencils plus other media

Remember also that the crayons can be very well mixed with other media such as alcohol markers or watercolors and create interesting works with mixed techniques. I often use these methods and I am very happy with the results. color pencils imposed on water techniques or in my case on Copics add a fantastic contrast. However, the use of these techniques as a primer can significantly speed up the work with the use of colored pencils. So it is a combination worth considering.

mixed media techniques Turdus Concept
Elegant Caracal made

I do not know more tricks, but I think that those presented by me are enough for some nice experiments. Write in the comments whether you used one of them and how you went. If you know any other solutions also let me know 🙂