Zest-it Pencil blend
Written: December 2019
"Our Pencil Blend is non-toxic and non-flammable which many Pencil Artists value for use with their pencils and studio environment. It has been thoroughly tested with many makes of Coloured Pencil for its excellent blending qualities. It leaves no residue in or on the paper once dry, is economical in use as a small amount goes a long way, many prefer the safer aspects of the solvent than odourless mineral spirit or similar solvents"
* Acid free and archival
* Non toxic and non flammable
* Available in numerous sizes as well as a sponge version
* Helps create smooth transitions and leaves no residue
* Nice citrus scent
* Over saturating the pencil pigment may result in the removal of layers which you may then need to reapply
* Too many applications and you may struggle to overlay the pencil - this was an issue when using the Pastelbord (seen below)
* The strong citrus smell may be too much for some (they sell a 'citrus free version too if you find the scent too overwhelming)
How to use the product to create tonal backgrounds
This example uses a mixture of Derwent Lightfast and Caran d'Ache Luminance coloured pencils on the Ampersand Pastelbord surface. I began this piece by laying down loosely all the tones to be included in my background, applying them using circular motions to ensure the grain of the board was covered and that the pigments penetrated the surface evenly. Once all the colours were laid down, I dip a cotton bud into the Zest-it solution and absorbed any excess onto a sheet of kitchen towel before blending the pigments. As cotton buds are not really ideal, size wise and environmentally, you can use a paint brush or a tortillion/paper stump dipped into the Zest-it liquid instead, remove any excess liquid on a paper towel also before applying on to your paper/support and when blending the colours together, do so in a circular motion to ensure even applications. The solution softens the pigment slightly before it starts to blend the tones together, creating a smoother transition that you may struggle to achieve with pencils alone and it also helps to soften harsh pencil lines too. If you are working on a darker surface, you may find you need to apply 2 or 3 layers to achieve full coverage. Ensure each layer has dried before applying another to avoid lifting previous layers and avoid over saturating the colours as this can remove the pigment.
Using a selection of colours to create a balanced tonal background, I applied each colour using circular movements and the Pastelbord requires little pressure from the pencil before it grabs the pigment. Once all the colours were applied, I then went on to blend with the Zest-it on the tip of a cotton bud at first, blending in circular motions too. Due to the grey board, I needed to repeat the layering process 2 - 3 times before I achieved the balance seen in the second image above.
I decided to pour a little of the Zest it solvent into a water pen allowing it to flow through the brush fibres onto the surface, this was easier to use than a cotton bud as the brush stayed loaded. It is important to wipe the tip of the brush often as it will pick up the pigment which can muddy other areas if residue is left. To blend the area I had recently saturated, I used a paintbrush - this will also require constant cleaning and some brushes may become permanently dyed from the pencil pigment so I recommend the use of cheap brushes. Dependant on the size of your canvas, larger brushes and a larger water pen may be better suited.
The base tones of the Sunbird were blended with the solvent before the fine details were applied to finalise. There were some adherence issues when trying to apply pencil over this base as I had already used the solvent a couple of times before and so I would recommend that only one layer of the pencil blend is used when working on the Pastelbord surface. I suspect it is caused by the hard surface as it was not a problem when working on the Strathmore paper (see images below)