Today we’re going to cover the basics of using odorless mineral spirits (OMS) to blend your colored pencils.
While the OMS is odorless, it still isn’t good for you to breathe in. When not in use, KEEP THE LID ON THE CONTAINER! I can’t advise you to what is or is not safe for you, but I can say that I am VERY sensitive to chemical fumes. My throat likes to try and close up and I get massive headaches almost instantly *looking at you natural terpentine”. As many of you know, I’ve been oil painting for many years. I have never allowed any sort of paint thinner in my class besides Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner or another odorless mineral spirit because of how my body reacts to other paint thinners.
As many of you know, I’ve been oil painting for many years. I have never allowed any sort of paint thinner in my class besides Mona Lisa Odorless Paint Thinner or another odorless mineral spirit because of how my body reacts to other paint thinners. This is why with colored pencil I reached for the same stuff instead of some of the “natural” alternatives. Now I’m a HUGE fan of natural alternatives. I have a friend who calls me a hippy because of it. I’m not telling you not to go natural, I’m just saying that
Now I’m a HUGE fan of natural alternatives. I have a friend who calls me a hippy because of it. I’m not telling you not to go natural, I’m just saying that in this case you need to be aware of a couple of things. The terms “natural” and “non-toxic” do not mean that it isn’t an irritant. I had a really bad reaction to a natural lavender alternative for paint thinner. Many people use a product called “Zest-It” which is more natural. It has a strong orange scent that a lot of artists love. If you don’t want to use OMS, you may want to try that, but with my sensitivities, I’ve stuck with my OMS.
This stuff likes to leak out of things, even the original jars it comes in. I like to use something that has a rubber type edge around the inside of the lid to help avoid leaking. In addition to that, when traveling, I always keep it upright in the car. Ideally inside another, larger container.
The brushes you use do not need to be expensive! I prefer taklon bristled brushes in flat and filberts. I have a #8 filbert from Low-Cornell that I use more than any other brush. I’ve also used some scrubber brushes typically used for watercolor for blending some of my backgrounds. Try a few different types of brushes to experiment with to see what works best for you.
The one thing I can tell you is that brushes with very long bristles don’t work well. Neither do watercolor brushes. If the bristles are too long or too soft, they just sort of flop over. They do not work well for this technique at all.
My favorite paper to work on are Fabriano Artistico Extra White Hot Pressed watercolor paper 140#, and Stonehenge sold in the individual sheets. Both of these papers handle the paint thinner and colored pencil beautifully.
I have used paint thinner on thinner, less expensive paper, and bristol vellum without issue. I like to use masking tape to tape my work around the edges so that if the paper starts to warp a bit from having too much paint thinner applied, it dries flat back into its original shape. With stronger paper like the Fabriano, I can use regular masking tape. For the softer Stonehenge, I need to switch to a lower tack painters masking tape.
One of the biggest mistakes artists make when starting with paint thinner is trying to use it when there is not enough pigment on their paper. If you don’t have enough colored pencil on the paper, the paint thinner can’t do much for you. I generally have 3-5 layers of colored pencil on my paper before I blend with the paint thinner. Once I blend, I let the paper dry all the way. If you
Once I blend, I let the paper dry all the way. If you try to work over wet paper you can damage the tooth of the paper preventing you from being able to get enough additional layers later on. The amount of time it will take to dry depends on how much you used and what type of paper you’re using. Fabriano dries MUCH faster than the softer Stonehenge for example. The fabriano will generally be dry for me in less than a minute, where sometimes the Stonehenge has sucked up so much that it takes 10 minutes to dry.
After dipping my brush into the paint thinner, I dab it onto a VIVA paper towel or an old tshirt. DO NOT use a regular paper towel, it will not work right. The VIVA paper towels are very cloth like so they work great. Regular paper towels don’t absorb the paint thinner right.
For my first few layers, I will use more paint thinner on my brush. As I work into additional layers, especially my final layers when working on skin, I will have barely any paint thinner on my brush. I let it dry out almost completely. This is because when you have a lot of pencil on your paper, the paint thinner can lift and move it around too much if your brush is too wet.