Monday, June 15, 2015

Blending Colored Pencil with Mineral Spirits

 While there are many methods handy to blend colored pencils, most of us have our favorites.
Just some of the brushes I use with CP
I do use stumps, and blending pencils, and even burnishing pencils. I have several stiff brushes I keep just for blending. And soft cloths and chamois leathers. But I have to admit I use mineral spirits the most when working with colored pencil. I like the way I can work multiple layers into smooth, graduated color. Since I like to work on thicker papers or even boards, the liquid mineral spirits are not a problem.

First off some basic information:
  • Use artist quality mineral spirits, not hardware stuff. You want something pure that will not leave a line or residue on your artwork. I have made the mistake of using hardware store mineral spirits and lived to regret it.

  • You do need to be careful you do not over saturate the paper when using mineral spirits. this is not a real problem on boards, but on thinner paper, it can wrinkle.

There are several techniques to using mineral spirits, and a number of different ways to apply it. I have used a lint-free cloth, a cotton swap and various brushes from very soft watercolor to rather stiff rounds. Each gives a different effect. Which method or technique you use will depend on the results you wish. Experiment.


I favor the dry brush method. For me, this gives the greatest control. It also allows me to blend the various layers as I would an old painting. You can also blend adjacent colors smoothly.
Some soft brushes I use with Mineral Spirits
Just what is dry brush with a liquid? It is when you dip your brush into the liquid, then wipe off the excess. so the brush is just damp, not wet. This gives you the most control. You want to make sure you only blend what you want, not the entire picture.
For this method I use a range of fine watercolor brushes. I favor natural brushes, but what you are looking for is a smooth, fine brush that gives you both the coverage you need as well as fine control. Something with a little spring in it.
  • I do use a range of brushes with colored pencils, for a number of different tasks. These do include blending.
  • Usually you will let the paper dry before you resume using colored pencil. But not always. Sometimes when the paper does not seem to be accepting any more colored pencil, a light wipe with mineral spirits, and it will take more. This is very true when you do not seem to be able to get the bright highlights you want.
So, now for the examples. I will show you just how using mineral spirits on my Horse, Dog and Rider drawing.

Here, you can see the flank of the horse, with the various colors of the coat in, but rather messy. I have not blended them at all. I want all those colors. You can see the grainy ness of the pencil, the unevenness of it.

The same area of the drawing after the application of dry-brushed mineral spirits. Here, the use of the soft, flat watercolor brush plays a large role in how much this now looks like an oil painting.

You can also see how using the mineral spirit has changed the entire painting.

Horse, Dog and Rider before blending
Horse, Dog and Rider after blending

Neither of these photos is retouched or color/exposure corrected.  You can see just how much more vivid the colored pencil is after the use of mineral spirits to blend.

What can happen over time with colored pencil is a wax "bloom" which dulls the drawing. The mineral spirits do help to eliminate this

For the leather I layered browns and French grays, then used mineral spirits to "blend" them into the rough, worn look of leather.

I also used several different reds on the sweater, then used a soft round to blend the edges of the colors to look more like fabric.

Brushing the neck of the horse, I was able to add back the whites that create a difference between the neck and the mane. I brushed mineral spirits onto the drawing, and then while it was still damp, used both white and cream to develop the mane.




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