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Old 03-11-2004, 11:09 PM
Karen Cardinal's Avatar
Karen Cardinal Karen Cardinal is offline
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Blending techniques for Colored Pencils

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!

Pencil Techniques

Crosshatch
Lay down short strokes in a vertical and then cross with horizontal strokes. Successive layers build up color and smoothness.

Parallel Lines
Make long or short diagonal, horizontal or vertical strokes. Keep all the strokes going in the same direction

Directional Lines
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.

Pointilism
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

Circulism
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

Scumbling
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.

Burnishing
Technically: 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

Blender Pencil
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.

Blender Marker
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
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.

Solvents
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.

Water
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.
Attached Images
  
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Old 03-11-2004, 11:32 PM
Troy Rochford Troy Rochford is offline
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Re: Answering a question about blending

Hey Karen I have a question about that, and thanks for posting this, btw!

My approach to graphite is constantly changing, and most recently my technique has kind of evolved into something that I can't really explain clearly. I abandoned all of the above techniques and just kind of started building my values by either a controlled, very short (like an eighth of an inch or smaller) sort of back and forth scribble stroke with an extremely light touch, or contour lines wiht the same light touch. I just tried that on one portrait for the hell of it, and I surprised myself by coming up with an extremely soft, realistic looking skin texture. The link below is for the second pic I did using that unorthodox approach. The scanner kind of washed out the pic and lightened a lot of the values, but I think you can still get the idea.

Anyway, if you have any suggestions on how to apply that approach to CP, or if you would advise against it, please speak up!!! I'm just about done with the line drawing for my first cp portrait, and I need all the advice I can get before I start trying to pull off a realistic skin tone!

Here's that pic, so you can see what Im talking about. It's the Lopez portrait on this page.
http://hometown.aol.com/orenthal01/graphite.html
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Old 03-11-2004, 11:43 PM
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Karen Cardinal Karen Cardinal is offline
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Re: Answering a question about blending

Well it sounds like you already have the skills to sucessfully do the same thing in colored pencils... control and a light touch.

Your technique sounds great and looking at your portrait, you do it very well! I'm not nearly so controlled with my scribbles.
I don't see any reason why your technique wouldn't work just as well with colored pencils. As I said, blending sometimes comes from the way you lay down your lines.

btw: That list by no means encompasses every technique or tool. I think it's a good starting point and I'd love to see other artists add their own ideas to it!

Have fun with your work!
I'll be looking forward to seeing what you post!
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Old 03-11-2004, 11:59 PM
Troy Rochford Troy Rochford is offline
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Re: Answering a question about blending

Quote:
Originally Posted by Karen Cardinal
Well it sounds like you already have the skills to sucessfully do the same thing in colored pencils... control and a light touch.

Your technique sounds great and looking at your portrait, you do it very well! I'm not nearly so controlled with my scribbles.
I don't see any reason why your technique wouldn't work just as well with colored pencils. As I said, blending sometimes comes from the way you lay down your lines.

btw: That list by no means encompasses every technique or tool. I think it's a good starting point and I'd love to see other artists add their own ideas to it!

Have fun with your work!
I'll be looking forward to seeing what you post!


Thanks Karen! I may post something tomorrow, depending on how things go with this tonight. I have never had so little confidence at the beginning of a project!!!
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Old 03-12-2004, 12:47 AM
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arlene arlene is offline
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Re: Answering a question about blending

Karen I'm sorry but I'm going to have to disagree with you on several points.
Quote:
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.

No the techniques are not the same. You can't erase like in graphite, and you can't blend the same way. There really is no such thing as "smudging" for example.


Quote:
Parallel Lines
Make long or short diagonal, horizontal or vertical strokes. Keep all the strokes going in the same direction

to get even color one has to lay the lines down with the same light pressure, with a very sharp pencil, and with the lines very close together.

Quote:
Pointilism
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

And this works great as long as you're not planning on blending later on...for example it's almost impossible to do this with just light pressure...

Quote:
Scumbling
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.

The circular motion is almost miniscule to start. This works everywhere, not just skin and clothing...and you are 100% wrong about it not being a good method if you want it shiny. I basically only use this technique, my work is shiny where it's supposed to be shiny, and it's all a matter of building up enough layers. This will give you the smoothest surface and the most even tones of all the methods. My sugar/creamer was done with this method and it is shiny looking.

Quote:
Burnishing
Technically: 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.

that's one way to do it...not my preferred method. by doing that you're lightening the color you want. a better method is to use the colorless blender. And again it's not only for shiny looks...my curtains don't look shiny and i used the colorless blender and burnished them.

and when one says the paper should be almost filled...it should be so filled that if you left it as is, it would be fine. what the burnishing does is blend all the layers together to give it a rich look.

Quote:
Tools for Blending

Blender Pencil
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.

it's not "impossibly tedious" at all...it's like adding another layer, and it goes fairly quickly

Quote:
Erasers
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.

I'd be very leary of this method as it can create smears and mud if you're not careful.

Quote:
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.

Leanne does use these. She also recommended the 100% cotton pads used for make up. I've been using it on When Time Stopped and have found it to be excellent.
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Old 03-12-2004, 12:51 AM
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arlene arlene is offline
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Re: Answering a question about blending

Quote:
Originally Posted by Troy Rochford
Hey Karen I have a question about that, and thanks for posting this, btw!

My approach to graphite is constantly changing, and most recently my technique has kind of evolved into something that I can't really explain clearly. I abandoned all of the above techniques and just kind of started building my values by either a controlled, very short (like an eighth of an inch or smaller) sort of back and forth scribble stroke with an extremely light touch, or contour lines wiht the same light touch. I just tried that on one portrait for the hell of it, and I surprised myself by coming up with an extremely soft, realistic looking skin texture. The link below is for the second pic I did using that unorthodox approach. The scanner kind of washed out the pic and lightened a lot of the values, but I think you can still get the idea.

Anyway, if you have any suggestions on how to apply that approach to CP, or if you would advise against it, please speak up!!! I'm just about done with the line drawing for my first cp portrait, and I need all the advice I can get before I start trying to pull off a realistic skin tone!

Here's that pic, so you can see what Im talking about. It's the Lopez portrait on this page.
http://hometown.aol.com/orenthal01/graphite.html

to build up layers for contouring one should use light pressure and an even stroke.
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Old 03-12-2004, 12:58 AM
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Re: Answering a question about blending

for the record, i've found that the colorless pencil used at the end does the best job of blending.
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Old 03-12-2004, 01:08 AM
Troy Rochford Troy Rochford is offline
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Re: Answering a question about blending

Quote:
Originally Posted by arlene
to build up layers for contouring one should use light pressure and an even stroke.


Ummmm, so... would you agree with Karen on the point that my general approach as described above can also work for colors then?

Thanks@!
troy
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Old 03-12-2004, 01:12 AM
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Re: Answering a question about blending

yes because i think that's what you're doing already is building up light layers, right?
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Old 03-12-2004, 01:34 AM
Troy Rochford Troy Rochford is offline
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Re: Answering a question about blending

YES! Time consuming as all hell, but I think it pays off. Hopefully it will translate over to color as well. Im working on my green grisaille right now for the portrait I'm doing.
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Old 03-12-2004, 02:09 AM
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Elankat Elankat is offline
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Re: Answering a question about blending

Quote:
Originally Posted by arlene
Leanne does use these. She also recommended the 100% cotton pads used for make up. I've been using it on When Time Stopped and have found it to be excellent.

Yep. In fact, a #5 stump is my preferred blending tool when using all Prismacolor pencils. Cotton cosmetic rounds are another common tool for me. I use toilet paper and paper towels for certain blend and lift techniques.
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Old 03-12-2004, 02:27 AM
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Karen Cardinal Karen Cardinal is offline
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Re: Answering a question about blending

Thank you for your help here Arlene.

I wanted to begin by pointing out that the type of stokes you use putting your lines down are really no different in colored pencil than they would be in graphite.
I'm sorry I worded that part badly. I agree that erasing is very different and the only time I really "smudge" my colored pencil is when I'm not careful about where I lay my hand.

Not meaning to be argumentitive, but if I'm doing a work in Pointilism, I wouldn't be planning on blending.

Again, I have obviously used the incorrect term when I said "shiny". It's true that you can give the appearance of a shiny surface (or dull surface, or any surface you like) with any of the techniques if you put in the right values. I'm not sure what the right wording would be to say that burnishing (putting your pencil on heavy enough to flatten the tooth of the paper) will give that area a glossier look than scumbling.

The "impossibly tedious" comment about the blender pencil may just be my own view... sorry again! I've simply found easier, quicker ways to blend large areas of color.

I just love using erasers to blend. Of course, it's all a matter of what you've experimented with and enjoy doing.

I hadn't seen a demo of using tortillians or towels to blend any cps other than Col Erase. If you or LeAnne would like to show us how to do it, that would be great!
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Old 03-12-2004, 02:44 AM
Troy Rochford Troy Rochford is offline
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Re: Answering a question about blending

Hey Karen check your email when you can! Thanks!
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Old 03-12-2004, 11:17 AM
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Re: Answering a question about blending

I love tortillions to blend even large areas. It's so theraputic and I am always amazed such a simple tool can do such a great job. wanda
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Old 03-12-2004, 04:20 PM
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Re: Answering a question about blending

Karen:

Just wanted to indicate my thanks to artists like yourself who take the time to be so generous with their knowledge and concern for those of us who are least experienced, and yet burning with desire to create what is in their hearts and minds; this was an excellent presentation on a subject that has had me stumped...I am going to gladly add this presentation of yours to my collection of reference material...thanks Karen!


Regards,
Eyecon, a.k.a.
John V. Stevenson

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