Blending colored pencils just got a whole lot easier…and faster!
I was pretty excited when I first saw this new product for blending colored pencils from brushandpencil.com. I love colored pencils and typically blend with odorless mineral spirits (OMS). Not that there is anything wrong with the OMS, but if there is a faster way to get soft blending, I want to try it!!
I contacted Brush and Pencil and they sent me a complimentary kit to try out. These kits retail 49.95 + shipping. They are currently only available within the us, but they are working to make them available everywhere else. They’ve got to find distributors overseas to make that happen. I was advised that sanded paper would be best, but any non-absorbant paper would due. This means any cotton paper needs to be sealed before using the powder blender.
I thought a couple of coats of the texture fixative on my trusty Fabriano Artistico HP would be fine. I sprayed it a couple of times and got started with my layers. It ended…badly. You can see how gritty it looks. Now I’m used to needing a lot of layers so I wasn’t sure if this was normal or not, so I contacted Alyona Nickleson over at Brush and pencil and asked if this is what it should look like after 6 layers (spraying texture fixative between each layer). She said I didn’t have the paper sealed well enough before I started and recommended spraying gesso over my next project first. She also recommended picking up some sanded paper to try out.
Alyona’s next tip was to apply my oil based pencils first (polychromos in my case) and THEN wax based if I wanted to use the wax based pencils (luminance in my case). The wax based pencils like to grip to the paper too much when they’re applied first and that contributes to the gritty look I couldn’t get rid of.
Now my brain is thinking. Sanded paper. No. Just no. This is colored pencil! I want smooth! But I took her advice and ordered some. I couldn’t find any local. I wasn’t about to wait another week for my new paper to get here, so I went ahead and used some gesso that I have here, watered it down to about the consistency of milk and used my airbrush to apply a couple of coats to some cheap light weight paper. I wasn’t going to waste another sheet of fabriano if this didn’t work! As advised by Alyona, I let my gesso dry for 24 hours before getting started. She said that if you work too soon, even though it’s dry to the touch, it’s not totally cured so it gunks up with the pencils and blender.
O M G the difference was AMAZING. For my next attempt, I was really working towards experimenting. This wasn’t about creating a masterpiece at this point but more of “what happens if I do this, then apply this color, then blend, then (fill in any number of experiments here)”. I was afraid having so much tooth on the paper was going to be an issue for me. when it came time for detail. It’ wasn’t. Getting detail is even easier because of how the pencil grips to the texture fixative.
As you can see in my first couple of hours working on this piece above, I got a LOT of coverage and it was super soft. I’ve never had this much work done in colored pencil so fast before! Que the SQUEEEEEEES. I decided to spray another coat of texture fixative after this just to see what would happen with different pencil pressure etc. I found that you want to use a really light hand. If you push hard at all when getting your soft background, you will come up with the gritty look. I also didn’t like using the wax based pencils for the larger areas to be blended but kept them for finer detail. I added the luminance to the upper left hand corner on one layer and it really did grit it up quite a bit. The nice thing about this stuff is that
The nice thing about this stuff is that you really are unlimited as to how many layers you can apply because of the texture fixative. The detail I got on the pussywillows was SO EASY! I’m excited about how simple whiskers on animals will be now. Or even beards on men…or hair. OMG the possibilities are seriously endless.
Now the big thing to remember if you’re going to try this out is that it’s not like working in normal colored pencils at all. Plan to have some serious failures as you learn how best to use it. As you can see from my experiment, this is by far not by best work, but after experimenting, I can see where I can improve and avoid some of the issues I had with it. It’s like working in an entirely different medium. I felt like it combined the soft look I like of pastels, without the mess and the ease of detail that you get with colored pencil.
Thanks to Christine Cyrenne for the chickadee reference photo!!
I asked Alyona to answer a few of your FAQs, and here is what she had to say!
Powder Blender FAQ
1. Is it harmful? No, Powder Blender is not harmful or toxic.
2. Will Powder Blender affect the artwork in any negative way? No, it is practically invisible when applied and will not affect the longevity or aesthetics of the artwork.
3. When using Powder Blender can solvents also be used in the rendering process? Yes, you can use such solvents, as Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits in colored pencil rendering when using Powder Blender.
4. How can Powder Blender make the colored pencil process faster? It works as a dry lubricant for colored pencil and loosens the grip of colored pencil core wax to the surface allowing it to be spread more easily. This makes the blending process fast and efficient for covering large areas, such as backgrounds and for fine blending of colors and value transitions such as skin tones.
5. Is Powder Blender difficult to apply? It is easy to use and can be applied with any sponge applicator, flat brush or even your own finger covered by a cotton (to keep from adding skin oils to the surface of your painting).
6. How long does one container of Powder Blender last? You need to apply only a tiny amount of Powder Blender with each use when working on non-absorbent surfaces, such as sanded papers or acrylic gessoes. When used sparingly, one container can accommodate several painting sessions.
7. Does Powder Blender have an expiration? No, it has an indefinite shelf live as long as it kept away from moisture.
ACP Final and Textured Fixatives FAQ
1. Are these fixatives harmful? No, they are non-toxic and can be used safely indoors.
2. Will these fixatives change the colors and values of the artwork? ACP Final and Textured Fixatives only minimally affects already established colors and values. They are non-acidic and archival. It is always a good idea to test any fixative on scrap paper prior to use.
3. How are these fixatives different than other fixatives on the market? ACP Fixatives are not acrylic based and are compatible with all wax mediums. Unlike acrylic fixatives, they form a permanent bond with colored pencil when dry. These fixatives also harden when dry and provide an isolating layer that is water, alcohol and oms resistant. ACP Textured fixative restores the tooth to the surface allowing artists to have virtually unlimited layering abilities. ACP Final fixative can be used to display colored pencil work without glass since it provides an isolating finish prior to the application of varnish.
4. Can ACP Fixatives be used with other mediums? These fixatives were developed and tested specifically for use with colored pencil medium. Make sure you test their performance with other mediums before use on an actual artwork.5. Can I use a hair dryer to speed up the drying process? We recommend that ACP Fixatives are applied in thin layers and allowed to dry naturally and thoroughly between applications (at least 15 minutes per layer). Use of a hair dryer can cause uneven drying and can compromise the fixative’s bonding with the surface.6. What is the difference between ACP Final and Textured Fixatives? ACP Final Fixative forms a hard and smooth finish for the surface. ACP Textured Fixative restores the tooth to the surface, increasing the necessary friction for continuous colored pencil layering.
• Touch-Up Texture
1. What is Touch-Up Texture? It is similar to ACP Textured Fixative substance but is provided in a small container with a handy brush for controlled application.
2. What is Touch-Up Texture used for? When the artist works on small details, near the edges or just needs a precise application of texture our Touch-UP Texture is the perfect tool. It restores the tooth of the surface allowing the artists to create bright highlights or add opaque passages of bright colors during or at the of the rendering process.
3. How should I apply Touch-Up Texture? Make sure that you shake the bottle well before application since the texture ingredients have a tendency to settle at the bottom of the container. Apply Touch-Up Texture in thin layers and allow them to dry naturally and thoroughly (for at least 15 minutes) between layers. Work with colored pencil on top of dry texture holding it almost parallel to the surface to prevent damaging the layers.
• Titanium White
1. Is Titanium White toxic? No, it is not toxic and is actually a part of any white or light colored pencil core.
2. How is Titanium White used with colored pencil? Titanium White is the most opaque white available on the market today. It is indispensable for rendering the form from a “dark to light” approach (when the opaque light values follow the development of transparent shadows). Titanium White provides artists with a much wider range of values on the light side that significantly contributes to the 3-dimensioanlity of the rendering. Titanium White is also a valuable highlighting tool. It is easily applied over a toothy surface with a sponge applicator or a flat brush and can be blended with a short bristle brush. It can be corrected by simply lifting it with scotch tape or mounting putty. Titanium White must be secured in place with a couple of light layers of any ACP Fixatives.
If international artists would like to obtain our products locally they need to enquire through their favorite art supply stores. Art retailers and distributors can then contact us through our website www.BrushAndPencil.comThe hour-long version of this video is available for supporters on Patreon to watch now!! If you’re unfamiliar with Patreon, you get access to my 1-2 hour long tutorials every single week for as little as $4/month!