Someone sent me an email today asking a very good (and commonly heard) question...
"I am making the transition from graphite to colored pencils. I can blend wonderful tones with my graphite pencils, but I can't figure out how to do it with these colored pencils. Can you help?"
Having been a former graphite artist (who still likes to dabble in it), I can understand the frustration, so I thought I'd put together a simple list of techniques and tools you can use to help you blend your colors in case anyone else had this question as well.
You will notice that the techniques are the same as you would use in graphite. I have included them because most likely you will "blend" your colors simply in the way you lay down your lines.
(btw: If anyone wants to add anything to this, or correct any mistakes... feel free to jump in)
*Note - A couple of these definitions are from the lesson Colored pencil techniques
by Tiffanie L. Gray posted at Elfwood. It's a really good explination of the basics of colored pencils!
Lay down short strokes in a vertical and then cross with horizontal strokes. Successive layers build up color and smoothness.
Make long or short diagonal, horizontal or vertical strokes. Keep all the strokes going in the same direction
Just as the name implies, your lines are drawn to suggest direction. This is most commonly used in hair and fur, but can be used anytime you want to emphasise a direction for the eye to follow.
Using either a sharp or dull pencil, tap the lead on the surface rapidly to leave a small amount of color in a dot. If you hold the pencil at a bit of an angle it makes a short line. If many different colors are dotted into an area it can cause the eye to mix the colors, without them actually being mixed. Usually gives a "soft" look to the picture
A technique created by Maggie Toole where you draw thousands of overlapping, intertwined circles of varying colors and sizes.
See Maggie's Lesson on Circulism
for more info
Also see chatfieldstudios' circulism artworks for some fabulous examples
Use a very sharp point and extremely light pressure to move the pencil point in a circular motion, slightly overlapping as you move along. This works extreemely well on skin, clothing, or any place where you do not
want it to appear shiny. This is a very time consuming method, but is well worth the effort.
Overlaying color with increasing pressure until the tooth of the paper is filled and a smooth surface is attained.
How it's usually done:
A light color is layered over a darker color with heavy pressure to blend the colors together. This is usually done near the very end of the work when the tooth of the paper is almost filled. It's best to use this method only in places where you want to give the appearance of a shiny surface.
Tools for Blending
Will blend your colors together without adding any color of it's own. Great tool for small areas, but impossibly tedious for any large area.
Works as a solvent that can be easily controlled. It can change the color of the pencil, so it's best to test it before using it on your work.
Erasers such as the cheap pink plastic school erasers or (my favorite) the crayon eraser can be used to push and blend the colors into each other.
Used for colored pencils with a wax binder (such as Prismacolor pencils) They work by destroying the wax binding the pigments, allowing them to move on the paper until they dry. Different solvents act in different ways. The also can dramatically change the color of the pencil.
Of course, this only works with watercolor pencils (which I plan to try one day).
Tortillions, paper towels and the like
These are what I was used to using to blend pencil strokes together when I worked with graphite. Unfortunately, they aren't as efficient with colored pencils. The one exception I've seen that can be blended successfully this way is the "Col Erase" brand colored pencils.
There is more information about blending in the Hall of Fame
. Look toward the bottom of the page under "TECHNIQUES", "Burnishing, Blending & Solvents".
Hope this helps to answer your question. If not let me know and I'll try again.
Here are some example images of these techniques. The simplistic pictures are just designed to give you a quick example of the term. To really see these techniques, you should browse through the works here in the cp forum and see how many different ones you can identify.