6 Ways for How to Blend Colored Pencils – You Can Learn Today!

I’d be lost without my colored pencils. They have been coloring my world since 2001! They are such a wonderfully

responsive medium that is relatively easy to learn, is inexpensive, very portable and produces great art!

But did you know how blendable they really are? And how important it is to be able to blend them in your art? This article will uncover 6 ways for how to blend colored pencils so that you may create stunningly beautiful pieces!

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1. Layering for Color Magic

This type of blending is for creating new colors or to enrich, tint, dull or shade another color. In my post, Basic Colored Pencil Techniques, I discussed that colored pencils cannot be mixed in the way we mix paint on a palette. Instead, they are layered in order to mix colors right on the art paper. In this way, layering is in fact blending those colors to create new colors.

2. Chill out on the Pressure

Whenever you wish to have a color fade to form a gradient type of blending or simply have a color end without forming a hard line of demarcation, my motto is, blend it where you end it. To do this, you will want to let up gradually on your pressure to form a seamless transition from one color to another or to simply fade out a color.

3. Erasers – Not Just for Boo-Boos

For more than just mistakes, to a certain extent erasers can be used as blending tools. The vinyl erasers are best and can be used gently to help fade a color or soften a hard edge. This would be most effectively done in early layers – not when color is heavily built up.  Just gently pull with the eraser over the boundary you wish to have fade.

I really love the White Pearl Eraser  by Papermate.. They are 100% free of latex and resist smudging.

4. Rub a Dub Dub

Sometimes, your subject requires a gentle look – similar to a soft focus portrait. One of those subjects are flowers, particularly close-ups of petals. I will often use a cotton q-tip or cotton ball to gently rub the application.

I do this especially on the first layers – this will virtually eliminate the look of the strokes and push the color into the valleys, gently toning the paper with the color.

You can also use facial or bathroom tissue, blending stumps/tortillions, although not my first choice for this purpose as they are really more appropriate to use to blend and soften the look of graphite.

5. Burnish With a Flourish

If you desire to have a painted look to your colored pencil art, you will want to virtually eliminate the “tooth” of the paper. Your art paper should have “tooth” (remember that’s the teeny, tiny hills and valleys in the paper’s surface) in order that you may successfully layer and blend colors.

After many layers, your paper may still be showing a “grainy” look or tiny specs. In this case, you have three choices – you may leave it grainy (some people like to be able to tell it’s colored pencil), burnish the tooth away using heavy pressure or simply use a type of solvent.

Burnishing is using very heavy pressure to completely eliminate the tooth of the paper. That is, colors are blended into the paper mechanically. The process is that the heavy pressure creates friction, thereby creating heat that will slightly soften the wax and pigment. This softened pigment will glide right into the remaining valleys of the paper.

Although burnishing can be done with color or white, I recommend using the
Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencil – Colorless Blender.
 Just using the color

in an area may affect the integrity of the color mix you have achieved with layering. Using white may slightly lighten the color causing you to have to refresh the color after the white layer.The Colorless blender pencil is just the binder, no pigment. Through burnishing, it will beautifully blend the remaining grain away and slightly intensify your color.

If you see “crumbs” as you burnish, that is just the extra pigment that sloughs off from the friction from the heavy pressure action of burnishing.  This is perfectly normal and won’t effect your drawing.  But, you should use a brush (not your hand) to gently sweep the crumbs off your paper.

6. Gentle Solvents – Is There Such a Thing?

Another way to blend colors for a painterly look is to use solvents. The Prismacolor Premier Double-Ended Brush Tip Marker – Colorless Blender is just as the name indicates. It’s a marker that has no color (many brands

the market but I use Prismacolor) . It also has a double end with two different size tips.  You simply apply as a final layer (although you can layer over it) to any area you wish to blend. The gentle solvent will dissolve the wax and pigment and enable it to be moved around, eliminating the remaining specs in your application.

Marker is a bit “fume-y” but not as bad as a sharpie, in my opinion.

Baby Oil is another gentle solvent (and smells a lot nicer!) that will beautifully blend your application. I will usually apply a tiny amount with a q-tip. It’s easy to overdo, so I recommend practicing on scrap first as to how much to get on the q-tip and how to apply.

Rubbing Alcohol is another solvent that works similarly to the marker. I also use this with a q-tip or tiny piece of cotton. However, just like baby oil, it can be overdone and lift off or dull your color that you worked so hard to get.

Not-So-Gentle Solvents

I did not include this section as a way for how to blend colored pencils because I do not use them. Why? Well, simply put, they’re too toxic for me.

Turpentine speaks for itself. It emits highly toxic vapors and fumes. Odorless mineral spirits – don’t be fooled- you can’t smell them but they nonetheless emits toxic vapors.

What about the safer alternative mineral spirits? Well some may say they are a safe alternative because they are less toxic so it reduces your exposure. Well, they may not be as toxic but still are. Why take that risk when there is really no need to use them?

Honestly, I just don’t think the medium of colored pencils requires the use of harsh chemicals when there are so many other products and techniques to blend them.

Blending Rules!

There’s no getting around it. To create quality colored pencil artwork, learning to blend them is imperative. Blending is really part and parcel in using this medium. Do try some (or all!) of the 6 ways for how to blend colored pencils outlined in this article for very cool effects and a lot of fun. I think you will be amazed!

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. And if you enjoyed this post, please share!

Thanks for visiting!

Have an artful day!


20 thoughts on “6 Ways for How to Blend Colored Pencils – You Can Learn Today!”

  1. I’m new to using colored pencils and really appreciate your website. Love that you present different techniques in easy to understand ways. Thank you.

  2. Thankyou for sharing your expertise with us. I find it difficult to get information on using colour pensils correctly. Very much appreciated.

  3. I have started using color pencils as part of my Therapy for PTSD. I find it relaxing and feel a new sense of accomplishment. Looking forward to my journey with your instructions. Thank you Elaine.

  4. Thanks Elaine for teaching us, me in particular, as beginners in color pencil art. This medium is relaxing & meditative to use. And thanks to the reply of Tim Humbert, I know now what to give my friends that could help their PTSD and depression.

  5. Colored pencils are my favorite. Thank you for posting this article. It was very informative for me as I just started using this medium several months ago. I started to help with recovery from an accident. Again thank you for writing the article.

  6. I tried the alcohol and baby oil method and it worked absolutely well. Though i still have problem with using the pressure method. I think i will just stick with what works for me. Thank you so much.

    • Yes , by all means do what is comfortable and works for you. Just remember, with the pressure method, there has to be enough pigment on the paper for it to work well for blending. 🙂

  7. Hi, and thank you for a very informative article.
    I am just starting a new product for my store which has very tiny illos. I’m experimenting with acrylics, but one has to work pretty fast because they dry so quickly, but they are waterproof and can be thinned down so as not to look”cartoons.”
    Colored pencils look like a good alternative, with your post making good sense.
    Can it be sprayed with a fixative to “seal” it up? I’m working on smooth Bristol board from Strathmore. I’d have to buy a good set of pencils. — or should I just buy singles as I go to build up a palate?
    Thanks again.


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