View Full Version : Blending?

10-24-2004, 02:34 PM
Ok, I am new to pastels and have played around with them a little using my fingers, a rubber blender and a small stubby brush that came in the same blender set...I am now trying a portrait, obviously I don't want to use my clumsy little fingers, the fine point blender works to some extent but the brush just seems to pull the dust back off the paper no matter how softly I try. :(

So, my question is....

What do you use to blend delicately....I'm talking about the facial areas, blushing the cheeks etc?

Thanx for your help!

10-24-2004, 02:45 PM
In portraits, I find I use my fingers most for blending and for fine detail areas, I use a colourshaper. I guess the best way to figure out what works for you is to take a scrap piece of paper and experiment a bit.

BTW, I am by no means an expert at portraits. I am working on improving them though, so as I learn more, the techniques I use now are bound to change.

Hopefully one of the portrait experts around here canjump in and give you osme tips on what they do :D

Good luck!

10-24-2004, 03:00 PM
The little rubber thingies (called 'colour shapers') work for very delicate lines, but I gotta tell you, most people DON'T blend, per se; instead, they layer the pastels over and over themselves until the effect appears to be a blended shade.

The biggest problem with assertive blending is one of overall appearance: Pastels are finely ground pigments, and because they are, they have a crystalline structure. It's this structure which causes pastels to "glow" more than other mediums. Assertively blending them (to get another colour or value, for example) compacts the pigments' crystalline structure, and the result is a "flat" look, instead of a glow, the piece appears slightly "ghostly". The second problem is the mixing of values: If you are trying to blend a light value into a dark to make a medium value, you're going to end up with a kind of chalky bloom over the whole area. This is because MOST pastel values are darkened with black (toned), and lightened with white (tinted). The lighter the tint, the more "chalky" it will appear when blended.

Instead, you might benefit from taking a scrap piece of paper and practicing "glazing": Lightly, lightly dragging the side of the pastel over the area where you wish the shift in hue, tone or value. Operative word there is LIGHTLY. It takes a few layers to do it- lay down a layer or two of colour, and then just keep glazing a second colour over it, and glaze the original, and then the second again, over and over, then step back and see the result.

These leaves are not blended with finger or tool, the colours were simply layered and glazed, over and over each other. You can see in the first example the first layer- a splotchy "this is where the colours go" look, and in the second, how the glazing layers built up, blended into each other, and smoothed the transitions without going chalky or hazy. The piece is anything but "flat".

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/24-Oct-2004/9169-1stlayerdet.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/24-Oct-2004/9169-2ndleafdet.jpg

Use the search function and look for some of the works by bnoonan (Barb) and Dark_Shades (Dawn) who both use a whooole lotta colour in portraits without blending and still achieve a smooth, glowing effect.

10-24-2004, 03:04 PM
One of the best and most effective ways to blend is to use a hard pastel to create a much finer, more colorful blend of underlayers. Deborah also had an article about using very soft vine charcoal to whisper blend colors together, where the charcoal didn't show up as black at all, but blended the underlying colors and very very faintly muted them. Try whatever you can think of. I've also cut up make-up sponges and dipped them in dust and used them to blend or like a mini soft rubber stamper. All these techniques take a very light hand, tho.

Mikki Petersen
10-24-2004, 03:06 PM
Hi Nitsa! Blending can be a real can of worms. One of the most effective ways to blend is with another stick of pastel to get rich layers of color. It takes some practice. Do a practice sheet and try many different blending motions using all your different tools. One thing that works well to soften a line without loosing the detail is to tap the line lightly with your finger instead of rubbing. You can also get a variety of interesting effects by pouncing with a brush (dabbing it up and down) or your color shapers. There is a wonderful article on painting detail written by Gaka. Here is the link: http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/14892/269/
He is the master of detail and gets very , very detailed in his work but along the way he describes a variety of blending techniques.

10-24-2004, 05:09 PM
For the skin areas of portraits (especially on children) I do a lot of blending. I usually use my fingers, usually with a latext finger cot (I get them in the first aid area of the pharmacy). I do use color shapers also. For very tight areas, I use my pastel pencils as a blending/coloring agent where I need to make narrow or tight area shifts in color. It is very difficult to blend near an edge, for instance, if using a finger. That's where the pastel pencils really come in handy. Note: I like to use Faber-Castell Pitt pastel pencils which are quite soft. They work great on sanded surface. The pencils don't work so well on a Canson type paper.

I think blending is superb for creating a very smooth skin look. Depends on how tight or painterly you want the portrait to be.

Some folks like to use different color tones and crosshatch them to get the desired color effect, others like to blend. Experiment with different techniques and see what suits you best. Try using the wrong end of a pen or other object that you can press against your surface. There are no hard and fast rules.

Many pastellists avoid blending because of its tendency to create a muddy effect. As long as you're blending in an area of quite similar color, you won't be at risk for that.

10-24-2004, 07:48 PM
TY all so much!
For now I am blending best I can....I shall practice the layering technique with the pastels but I imagine it takes some practice to get it right.
The laytex gloves sound like a neat idea too!
I guess it's like most things in art...Just a matter of preference.

1mpete...Thanx for the link! ;)

10-25-2004, 02:23 PM
I like to get a flat area of colour laid down before applying layers on top and to get a smooth underlayer I simply put some broad strokes down, not too hard, then use a packing peanut (you know, the small polystyrene/foam 'things' used to package items for mailing). For a sharp edge I even slice the peanut with a knife and presto my own colour shaper!

Incidentally, I use pastels on a HORIZONTAL table. That way when doing the method above most of the pastel stays on the image for me to use, NOT on the floor where it gets wasted!


10-25-2004, 02:53 PM
Thanx Glenn...I am now feeling gutted that I have thrown all my packaging away! :(

10-27-2004, 01:58 AM
Lots of good tips thus far, but there are some aspects of pastel painting that will affect your ability to blend (whether or not that's a 'good' practice) that go beyond your blending tools.

The first is the quality and type of pastel. Different hardnesses and qualities of pastel will determine--at least in part--the degree to which you can blend successfully.

The other thing that immediately came to my mind is the quality of the paper and the density of the pastel that has been applied. As the pastel fills the paper's tooth, blending (at least in my experience) becomes more difficult.

Others may add to this, but in short, the effectiveness of your blending may have to do with elements of the medium beyond the type of blending tool you are using.

To answer the question directly, I use my finger or a hard plastic eraser cut to the desired shape for detail work.


10-27-2004, 05:34 AM
Hi Bret! :wave:

I am currently using Inscribe half sticks and Fabriano paper, although I am in the midst of ordering some of the Wallis everyone is raving about and I have just treated myself to some Rembrandt portrait colours.
Fully agree that it's harder to blend as you start to fill the teeth of the paper up and being a beginner I think I am applying too strong a base right now, leaving me little room for alteration later.....but I'll get there! :)

Good to see the finger is still a valid tool, I just can't seem to resist getting in there and having a play in the larger areas.....It is risky though and I also agree that mud can be made very easily this way. :(

Thanx for replying!