How to Blend Coloured Pencils with Solvent
Tired of grainy, dull coloured pencil drawings? Solve both of these problems by blending with solvent!
Solvent can turn your sketchy coloured pencil drawings into smooth, vibrant looking paintings. The final result is so amazing that people won’t believe you created your art with just coloured pencils!
Solvent is great at blending all types of coloured pencils. In the last 5 years that I have been using this medium, I have yet to come across a brand of coloured pencils that don’t blend well with solvent. Even cheap Crayola pencils blend great with solvent, see for yourself!
So, this technique will work no matter what brand of pencils you have.
Types of Solvent
There are many types of solvent that you can use for this technique. Some examples are: Rubbing Alcohol, Odorless Mineral Spirits, Gamsol, or Paint Thinner.
Not sure if you want to invest in a bottle of solvent just yet? Here are some items that you probably already have around the house that you can use to test out this technique: Nail Polish Remover, Hand Sanitiser and Baby Oil (don’t use too much to avoid oil stains!)
You don’t need to spend a lot on solvent. You should be able to get a fairly large bottle for under £10, which will last you for years!
The solvent I use is the Zest-it pencil blend.
My favourite tool for blending with solvent is a filbert paintbrush because they are really sturdy and dense, which allows for a lot of control during the blending process.
I recommend using a few different sized paintbrushes for this technique. A really small paintbrush is great for blending out small details (like details in an eye) and a larger brush makes blending large areas (like a background) super quick!
If you haven’t got a paintbrush you could also try using a cotton bud or blending stump instead.
Tip: Choose a paper that has enough tooth to handle lots of layers of pencil and is also designed to handle wet mediums. Watercolour paper works great for this technique. Don’t use a paper that has too much texture though, as it will make it difficult to add lots of details with your coloured pencils.
How to Blend with Solvent
Step 1: Shading with Coloured Pencils
Start by building up layers of shading using your coloured pencils. Make sure that you layer enough pigment on each area before blending with the solvent, otherwise your result won't be as smooth.
You don’t need to use lots of pressure when shading with your pencils, as the solvent will blend the colours together for you and even make the colours more intense and vibrant!
TIP: Make sure to also add lots of shading to the lightest areas as well (even if it is just with a white pencil.) This will ensure that these areas don’t end up looking grainy.
Step 2: Blend with Solvent
Before you start blending make sure you have good ventilation in the room, as solvents can be very strong smelling and toxic. I always like to have my windows wide open when blending with the solvent. Keep the lid on the solvent when you are not using it.
The solvent I use is the Zest-it pencil blend, which is not toxic and has no odor!
Add a small amount of solvent on your brush or cotton bud (dabbing off any excess onto a bit of tissue.) Blend out your shading, working from the lightest to the darkest areas. Wait for the solvent to dry before adding any additional layers of coloured pencil.
Step 3: Adding Details
Finally, use your coloured pencils to build up details and add definition to your drawing. Your final result should be rich in colour and there shouldn't be any graininess in sight!
Mistakes to Avoid when Blending
There are 3 big mistakes I see beginners make when trying to blend with solvent. These mistakes can easily turn your drawing into an absolute mess!
Not layering enough coloured pencil before blending. If you don’t have enough shading on your paper there won’t be enough pigment for the solvent to blend and fuse together, leaving you with a grainy result.
Using too much solvent. Using lots of solvent makes it harder to control the blending process. You are also more likely to get greasy, solvent stains around the edge of your drawing. Always make sure to dab off excess solvent onto some tissue before blending!
Not cleaning your brush between colours. It is crucial to clean off your brush (with your solvent) before blending out a different colour. This prevents you from muddying up your colours when blending and accidentally transferring pigment to an area where it shouldn’t be.
Make sure to give this technique a go. I remember the first time I used solvent I was amazed at the results it gave. It felt like magic!
Ready to grab your coloured pencils and get blending? Approach this technique with confidence by following along with my FREE coloured pencil class. I show you in real-time how to use this technique to create a realistic strawberry study.
In this FREE class you will learn how to:
Pick the best colours for your drawing
Layer the perfect amount of pigment with your coloured pencils
Blend with solvent to get that painterly look
Add details to your drawing to make it look photorealistic