Our newsletter has dropped and we have four new articles, including a brand new medium for our mini tutorials section, the oil pastel. If you haven't tried oil pastels, we would highly recommend you give them a go. Our new tutorial only takes 10 minutes to create a highly effective piece of work, and maybe you will fall in love with the medium too? We certainly love them!
We like to cover a different medium or product, in each article, so this quarter, we provide a list of blending tools for soft pastel artists, a selection of black papers for artists who enjoy working on a dark surface. We have chosen various surfaces and brands, suitable for numerous mediums, not just pencils.
Finally, we have updated the Prismacolor pencil artist. We really delved deep into the history of these pencils and believe us, these pencils have a great history. They span over a hundred years! We also discuss what these pencils can achieve, as we are aware that they are a favourite of many coloured pencil artists.
Click on any of the images below to visit the article and have a read. Why not grab a coffee, as we do throw lots of information into our articles, so we hope you enjoy them.
About the Prismacolor pencil
Sponges are the most widely used tool for mixing soft pastels. These come in different shapes and sizes. Many art companies and stores sell them specifically for the artists, but you can just as easily use make-up sponges from the local health and beauty store.
How to Apply:
Apply 2-3 shades of pastel to the paper prior to mixing. To ensure a smooth coverage, mix with circular movements. Around small zones, use the wedge or the tip of the sponge.
Good: Washable, providing longevity
Bad: May tear when used on highly abrasive paper
2. Blending stumps/ Tortillions
Blending stumps and tortillions are made from tightly packed paper, rolled into a pencil shaped tool. The fine tips allow you to blend very small areas or push the pastel around to create or smooth out thin lines.
How to apply:
To create smooth mixes, blend in circular motions with the tip or side of the stump. Use excess pastel on the tip to introduce extra pigment to another area of your paper.
Good: Low cost, can be 'sharpened' to remove the dirt
Bad: Quickly dirtied, Short life span, easily ripped and torn
3. Pan Pastel Softt tools
Sofft tools are made from a specially formulated micropore sponge. Each has a unique shape and size, useful for application and blending your pastels. Replacement sponges are available for each tool, which are re-usable and easy to clean.
How to apply:
Rub the sponge across the pastel and apply to your paper. Can then be blended
Good: Re-usable. Economical. Easy to clean.
Bad: You will need to clean or change your sponge when moving between dark to light grades, to avoid muddying your colours.
4. Colour shapers
Colour Shapers are a unique tipped tool made from silicone and used for pastel blending, but can be used with other mediums too. The tip will not absorb any material, and so is great for applying, removing, scraping and moving around colour. The durable tips are made of an advanced rubber composite. The tool can help you blend pastels or push it round the paper to create texture. For best results, search for the softer tips when blending soft pastels, as it may lift your pastels from the paper if they are too hard. Blue and ivory coloured tips are softer and more suited to blending pencil, pastel & charcoal. Darker colours are much firmer and suited to other mediums such as clay.
How to apply: Ensure you have enough pigment on your paper before choosing the tool of choice and then gently blend the pigments together.
Good: Long life, easy to clean. Easy to hold
Bad: May not be ideal on highly abrasive paper
5. Pastel applicators
Sponge wands like these are useful for blending small areas of pastel. You may find packs specifically made for this technique called 'Sofft Mini sponge applicators' from the Pan Pastel company, but general art stores may sell them too. As an inexpensive replacement, you can purchase a pack of eyeshadow wands from your local health and beauty store, but the sponge will unlikely be of the same quality and may tear easily, but may be worth a try.
How to Apply: Add 2-3 shades of pastel to the paper prior to mixing. To ensure a smooth coverage, mix using circular motions.
Good: Economical. Precise application.
Bad: May be hard to hold, especially for those who have issues with their hands. Only suitable for blending small areas.
6. Colourless blender
The PanPastel Colourless Blender is a medium that can be used for a variety of new effects, including increasing transparency and enhancing colour “flow”. It does not change the colour of the pigments, it just allows you to soften the flow of the application or create a more transparent mix.
How to apply:
It can be used before colour is applied (under the colour), or mixed with the colour once it is applied. "
Good: Easy to mix, non-crumbly. Low dust and less waste.
Bad: To be updated
Using a short flat brush to blend your pastels will create soft edges with more precision. As the bristles are short, they tend to be sturdier and will allow more control. Select the correct brush size for each area, but ensure you clean off excess pastel after use to avoid mixing colours together and muddying them.
How to apply: After you have applied your layers, gently brush the pastel outwards to soften, or in a rotational direction to soften hard lines.
Good: Firm application. Targeted application.
Bad: Abrasive paper may break the hair in the brush.
Many pastel artists will at some point, have used their fingers to blend pastels. This is a quick and easy way to blend larger areas, but not for smaller areas. It is also messy and can muddy colours if you do not remove the previous colours from your fingers. Use a damp cloth to remove pastel from your fingers between colours and always dry your hands with a towel before moving onto mixing the next colours.
How to apply: With clean hands, use one or more fingers to mix your colours together. Blend using circular motions to fill in the peaks of the paper and create a smooth looking layer.
Good: Cost-free, quick and easy
Bad: Messy applications. Abrasive paper can damage your skin.
9. Cotton buds or Q-tips
Cotton buds have many uses for an artist and are extremely cheap to buy. The tips can be used to blend small areas of your pastel drawing and are easily disposed of after you have finished with them.
How to apply: Blend using circular motions over layers of pigment, to ensure they provide smooth coverage.
Good: Low cost and economical.
Bad: The plastic ones are not environmentally friendly. Search for the Eco friendly type.
The cotton tips may also get stuck on abrasive paper, and may not be ideal for every piece of work you create.
10. Pastel on pastel
You don't always need a special tool to blend your pastels, as layering one over the other, can help to blend the pigments together. Highly effective when using softer pastels, but can be achieved with hard pastels too. The effects will vary depending on which paper or surface you use. Smoother surfaces may not blend as effectively as an abrasive one.
How to apply: Lay down one colour after the other and push the pastels into the peaks of the paper. Lighter applications will allow for more layers.
Good: No extra tools are needed.
Bad: May not create an even blend of colour.
What products do you use to blend soft pastels?
Do you have other product suggestions we haven't included here?
Please share your own hints and tips with us in the comments section below.
Karen M Berisford
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