View Full Version : Blending question

01-17-2005, 03:59 PM
Hi all, I just have a quick question, I'm finding it a little difficult blending colors together. Heres my question. Do you apply layers of color without smudging, until you get what you're after or do you smudge the colors together? I recently took a drawing class and my teacher told me to try shading without smudging, however with this new non-monochromatic medium I have MANY questions that werent covered in class. OH, also what brand of relatively inexpensive sticks would be a good switch from the Nupastels, I see alot of cheap student stuff but I dont want to get caught in the " I hate the way this looks, so I dont like the medium" stage just because I bought lame pastels. Thanks for looking and any advice you can offer. CYA, Lloyd

01-17-2005, 05:26 PM
Oh sure, Lloyd- start in with opinion questions and expect all the answers....
:wink2: :D :p

Let's start with pastel brands: Some folks get stuck on one brand and love it to death and no other brand is as perfect as it- but I don't think anyone here is like, exclusively wed to one brand, using only it forever and ever, amen. Most of us have found certain brands have certain characteristics we like in some colours, but not in others, and so we mix and match and use 'em all to a certain degree. Be nice to have the complete set of Great Americans or whatever, but I'd still reach and grab for some colour that set didn't have and another set did. Too, it often depends upon the paper you're using: Canson and other laid papers (Mi-Tientes, Ingres, even Brenda Madsen) have a whole lot less tooth than a sanded surface, so with those you start out lightly with harder pastels (like NuPastal and such) and use the softest pastels on top so you don't fill that tooth right up before you've gotten a good form going. On a sanded surface, that isn't so necessary, and on Wallis, it's a moot point- I'm pretty sure if you haven't got it in 20-some layers, you're not gonna get it.

As to blending- another opinion question. For me, pastels can give me rich colour full of depth unavailable in other mediums without a whooole lotta hassle and time, and the best way to achieve that kind of depth and luminosity is to layer and layer and layer colour. I won't say I never blend, but I don't ever, EVER, blend two different colours to get a whole 'nuther colour- to my eye, that flattens whatever colour I achieved and it becomes a "dead" spot in the work. I'll use a very light brushing of fingertip to kind of melt two areas together a bit- just enough so they sit near each other correctly- but not enough that pink and blue made lavender.

On a good sanded surface, after the first two or three layers of colour, the pastels are blending themselves as you stroke them on- when you reach that stage, it takes on a wonderful glow. But it takes practice, and a good sanded surface- the plus there is you enjoy what you're doing, so it's all good. Also, be very careful blending two widely disparate values (lights and darks) together- what you usually end up with is a chalky not-dark. If you don't have the value you need, try to find it in an analogous colour and see if it works- if not, go buy more pastels.

If you haven't noticed, we're very big on buying more pastels here....

My suggestion: PM Kitty Wallis for a sample of her sanded paper, and order some more in a pad or sheets 'cause you WILL like it- it's nearly indestructable, and if something doesn't work you can hose it off and try again. Get yourself a set of Creatacolours (less "greyed" than NuPastel) and try the large sampler set of pastels from Dakota- then buy open stock of the colours you like in the brands you've discovered work best for you. You can sometimes find really good deals on E-Bay, so keep an eye out there.

01-17-2005, 07:25 PM
SweetBabyJ - thanks that helped me, too!


01-17-2005, 09:32 PM
Good advice, SBJ's given you. I'd only add that Polychromos is relatively inexpensive for a full set and would complement your nupastels, as well. They have the richest, most vibrant deep blues and greens, etc. that I've seen. To start, you might add an inexpensive set of Rembrandt half sticks...always available for cheap on Ebay. They're softer than the others mentioned but not ultra soft...for those you'll need to sample several good brands.

01-17-2005, 10:09 PM
Lloyd....blending...an age old debate amoungst us pastelists. I say I don't blend, but in almost every work, there has been a hint of blending which happens instinctively to knock down a line or smooth out a heavily pigmented area.

I recommend purchasing some sampler pacs of paper and pastels from Dakota . Trying the different brands is the only way to find which works best for you. If I had to stick to one brand, I think it would be Unison. (but only if I could have the complete set of 500 plus colors :D )

01-18-2005, 03:50 PM
Hi all, Thanks soooo much for the info, there seems to be a ton of things to explore in this medium, Im looking forward to it with great enthusiasm and empty pockets ;) CYA, Lloyd

01-19-2005, 01:13 PM
empty pockets - ah, not so good. Empty pockets and itchy fingers - even worse!

Re blending.

I believe you can blend all sorts of colours together, if you go about it the right way. You just have to be careful with blending complementary colours together; you can do it, provided you realise you will achieve a greyed colour if you do this. This may be fine, if you intend to work over the top of this greyed colour area.
It can work well to blend, say, a medium blue and a medium green together. Two colours from the same side of the colour wheel.

if you use your fingers, you get lots of pastel on them :) but you also push the pastel INTO the paper and get a solid area of colour. The oil on your skin takes a part.

If you use a tissue (the soft kind you blow your nose with, not kitchen roll), you take OFF most of the pastel, but you do get a lovely softly-blended area of colour, which is great as a kind of "under" colour for subsequent work.

I often use this latter technique when I plan to paint foliage, or skies for instance. When I want an "under-colour". I begin with tissue-blending colours on the paper - sometimes quite different colours, with a tissue, in order to "tint" the paper with hints of colour. This is a delicious process and gives a lovely vari-coloured surface which is not overloaded with pastel. then, I work with pastel marks over the top. a few examples:

Blending two colours with fingers, on pastel paper:


blending with tissue, same two colours:

Blending with tissue, four colours:

section of sky, worked with the sides of my pastels, over the top of a multi-colour tissue blended beginning:

still life, where the various blended blues in the placemat were achieved with lots of finger blending, and were left without further work over the top. Other areas of colour in the picture were also softly blended with a finger there and there, where I wanted colours to "melt " into each other.


so as you can see, there are no hard and fast rules about blending. You can do what works for you. I recommend that you take a sheet of pastel paper (perhaps Canson Mi-teinte, smooth side) and also a sheet of sanded pastel paper, and without trying to create a painting, spend some time practicing blending, and see what happens. try different pressure on the pastel; try using a tissue, your finger, a colour shaper, a piece of card...whatever else you can think of. Tissue doesnt work on sanded paper, for instance - and your fingers can suffer too! I tend to use a piece of card, if I am going to blend at all on sanded paper, but as you have been told, when you get a few layers going, the pastel almost blends itself. But not totally. You need to get the hang of it. Try blending different colours and see what happens. Then try a gradated blend of one basic colour, working from dark, to light.
When you have created a blended area, try then working with pastel MARKS over the top, using the side of the pastel, or the edge. You can spray fix the underneath, blended layer, if you wish, it won't hurt, because you are working over the top again.

Practice makes perfect!
Hope this helps,

01-19-2005, 03:43 PM
Thanks Jackie :)