View Full Version : Question: Color shapers

09-21-2004, 09:06 AM
I need something for blending, particularly on this sandpaper. I'm thinking of the rubbery ones offered. For those of you that use them, which do you think work better; the soft or firm ones? Am I better off buying a set (they offer 5 per set in Dick Blick)?

Thank you.

09-21-2004, 10:32 AM
I love love love these on regular paper. They do things that my fingers are just not capable of and it is like using a paintbrush.

I have yet to use them on a sanded surface. I would be worried that it would wreck the shaper. I know that the colorshapers are expensive to buy (I paid about $7-10 CDN each for mine) and I am fairly overprotective of them.

Then, on the other side of that coin, I guess the argument would be that it is kind of like a paintbrush but for pastel. You expect to replace brushes for oils, acrylics and watercolours...so wear and tear on a colour shaper should be expected.

I think my advice would be to se eif you can pick up a single one at an art store for as cheap as you can get it, and give it a try. If it doesn't seem to wreck the shaper, or if you don't mind that you may have to regularly replace them, go for the multi-pack...

09-21-2004, 12:47 PM
With what you said in mind, do you think I should go for firm rather than soft? (Dick Blick's ad asks that and I don't know the difference.) What's the difference between both kinds for regular paper?

09-21-2004, 01:12 PM
I think soft. I haven't tried hard one on soft pastel. It was suggested to me that they wouldn't work well, so I didn't try. I do like the soft ones. I was forewarned that sandpaper would wear them down, but I still use them. I haven't had them for long, so don't have a lot to say yet. Well, I have a lot to say, its just not relevant. :D

Deborah Secor
09-22-2004, 10:55 AM
I use the colour Shapers on the Wallis paper all the time and I prefer the firm ones, in part because they don't wear out as fast as the soft ones do! I also find they mimic my finger more, allowing firm pressure. The soft ones seem rather wimpy to me. I like the flat ones best, and my most-used size is about 1/2" across. The corners become rounded in time but then it's useful for other effects--and I know then it's time to get a new one!


09-22-2004, 12:36 PM

I use both Canson and Wallis papers. I haven't used any of the heavy sanded boards yet. So far, I use the soft color shaper only because I don't start pushing the pastel around until I get to the soft pastels. I get the effects I want without much pressure. I am sure in time that I will want to purchase the firm ones.

Deborah, do you use them with the hard and medium pastels? How do you use the shapers? I'm still experimenting. I think it would help Grasshopper too if given an idea of what 'objects' you use them for. I use the flat chisel for making tiny adjustments in an uneven line of color and to draw down color in a reflection in water and the taper point for applying tiny details. I use the blender to soften the rest of it. I pretty much just use them for 'scumbling'. Any other suggestions?

I have the set of 5 and I bought a #10 soft shaper, as well.

I also use a pastel blender brush (small - #2?). It gives me a VERY LIGHTLY blended area without a "flat" effect. It helps keep my fingers less messy and no oil on the paper.

09-22-2004, 12:53 PM
I use either soft or hard- depends upon what I grab. Generally, I use them only for, as you said there, adjusting a line, or helping to create a very crisp edge. They're also good for "erasing" small areas, as they can just as easily wipe pastel off in a controlled manner. Since I rarely blend anymore other than to smooth a finger over a line or edge, I don't use 'em as much, there are many other ways to blend: Laying colour over-and-over-and-over and it begins to blend itself, or using a hard pastel to "glaze" and blend what lies underneath in a pleasing manner without going flat. I've used them with the hardest pastels right up to the softest- doesn't matter.

Since I work exclusively on Wallis, I can tell you that yeah, the plasticky tips will lose some integrity, but it's not that big a deal, and, as Deborah says, tells you when it's time to get a new one.

09-23-2004, 02:14 AM
Terry Ludwig - I think - gave Kitty Wallis a piece of kinda rubber tubing, about1.5" in diameter so quite narrow, the sort you put round pipes for insulation. She cut it into small sections and then cut the sections in half, and gave a bit to each person in her class. They made marvellous "rubber" blenders.

Use a bit of ingenuity, and you can find yourself some very inexpensive "shapers".


09-23-2004, 03:56 AM
Hi Grasshopper.

I have bought a taper point and a flat chisel one. I didnīt knew that there are hard and soft ones. I think mine are rather soft but they donīt wear that much away even on sandpaper. By now I only use the taper point one for small detail work. I think there are better blending tools for large areas (blender brush, fingers, tissues etc.) so I would recommend to test a smaller one with a sharp tip for details and donīt buy the full set but maybe others have made different experiences?


09-23-2004, 08:27 AM
I have several shapers of different softness, shapes, etc. but haven't used 'em that much yet. I did, however, find a great mid-sized, throw away, blender that works well: I had bought some make-up (rounds) applicator sponges...the very dense, but very soft kind, about 1/4" thick...they were like two dozen in a bag for a buck at Walmart or somewhere similar. I cut several into varying sized wedges and found they make a GREAT pastel blending and painting tool. They tend to absorb the colors you blend with them and then can be used to "paint" whispers of color over other areas, depending on pressure applied. They make excellent "erasers" too. Cheap, and when they absorb colors to the point of muddiness, ya just chuck 'em out and get another. Works just fine on Wallis and Art Spectrum.

09-23-2004, 08:30 AM
Jackie, I've been using things around the house, etc., as tools for art but on sandpaper I've been stumped (no pun intended) because of the shredding effect, etc. Sometimes when I am doing a detail I accidentally put my "line" or mark too high or too low because I can't see close up and I need just to get rid of or blend a very small or thin area. The rubbery chisel-edge seems ideal for this in particular. Another thing I'm trying to do is compensate, by using more tools, and decreasing my fine motor use (yeah, right). I seem to have tendonitis terribly in my writing arm, that is not improving since I got it in May. My art is the worst thing I do with this arm but giving it up is not an option. I tried for a few days and just couldn't...

09-23-2004, 08:36 AM
Khadres, those little sponge thingees are exactly what I've been thinking of using for some projects!

09-23-2004, 11:40 AM
I bought one of each and have found that I use the firmer one since I started working on sanded paper. Found an extra firm one at an art store and like that one too. Also bought a thingy that looks like a paint brush except it has a small oval of spongy material on the tip. That didn't last any time at all. Went to Walmart and bought a package of make-up sticks with the same spongy tip. They work the same at a fraction of the cost.


09-24-2004, 12:39 PM
Another thing I'm trying to do is compensate, by using more tools, and decreasing my fine motor use (yeah, right). I seem to have tendonitis terribly in my writing arm, that is not improving since I got it in May. My art is the worst thing I do with this arm but giving it up is not an option. I tried for a few days and just couldn't...

I crushed my thumb 3 years ago. I had a cast for 1 and 1/2 years then a brace. I still have to wear the brace at times now. I compensated by learning to use my left hand. I'm back now to the right hand but I cannot 'grip' a pen or pastel very well. And, like you, I feel at times I am playing "Pin the Tail..." as I miss the mark when applying the pastel. That's why the shapers have worked so well for me. Now, I'm waiting for permission for the second operation. I'll be back using the left hand for awhile but nothing will stop me from painting.


09-25-2004, 09:06 AM
tea, crushing your thumb! A cast for 1 1/2 yrs.??? Holy mackerel. And I'm whining about tendonitis??? Sheesh. I've just been humbled.

I've done a little bit with my left but I can only do so much. I'm not ambidexterous... I can barely eat with a fork that way!

09-25-2004, 02:56 PM
I think color shapers are fantastic tools for pastels. I utilize the soft on all surfaces, but I do vary how I use them. I tend to like to lay my painting flat, and after added my color or colors, I push or daub the pastel dust into the paper.

I have, depending on the paper surface also, used a circular motion, and I have also used a shaper to draw linear lines, or effects in my paintings.

I sometimes (a favorite) apply pastel quite heavily and using the pushing method can achieve an impastolike affect. Surprisingly it does stay affixed on most surfaces.

I have purchased a set, but I tend to use three of the the most.
I have used the little sponge things, but they do not "feel" the same as the shapers, but if you simply want to just blend, the sponges work just as well.


Deborah Secor
09-25-2004, 03:20 PM
Here are a couple examples of how I might use the shaper.

In this one you can see how I used the flat shaper to lightly move the pastel around and suggest crags in the mountain, especially above the tree on the left hand side. Those little darker smudges actually work in the finished piece. You can also see the lines made above the right side tree that read as peaks and valleys.

In this one I've used the shaper on its edge, grabbing the color from the base of the grass and pulling it upward--like paint. You can see the 'raw' strokes of pastel underneath the long grassy strokes. Also, the darker pinkish strokes that made the shadow to the left side are made by using the shaper to essentially remove the top layer of color and allow the base color to show. (Hope this isn't too blurry--it was a small file to start with!)

Once I began to think of the shaper as being like a brush, a tool that can be used to move the pastel, not as a blending tool, I found it was far more useful to me.

Hope this helps...


09-26-2004, 08:42 AM
Dee, thanks for showing those examples; I see exactly what and where you're talking...

I did buy 3 shapers: 2 small, 1 lg. I, too, find they're more worthwhile to move pastel around, change the shape of an area, rather than as a blending tool. I'm doing a large pastel of my husband's eye closeup and the lines around it, and brow, and this tool helps make straight little lines along his lower lid more by taking away color on top, than by blending it seems (chisel edge). I still need something larger for blending, to save my fingertips. Maybe bits of chamois??? - or would that be more likely to erase?

09-27-2004, 08:08 AM
If I hadn't had painting, I think I would probably be addicted to pills or somehting. It wasn't the pain so much as the darn longtime wearing of the cast and brace. And, BTW, it was a removable cast. I took it off, after the incisions healed, for bathing. But I had to wear it night and day, otherwise.

I believe that if a person has a hobby or sports or whatever you become more dedicated to it because of the accident or disease. I was mostly oblivious to the pain when I went to pastel classes. I was so busy looking, drawing and gossiping :D that it receded to the back of my consciousness. So, keep painting!