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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Three Simple Tools You Can Use to Blend Pastels

'The Sea Beckons'              8x10         pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $150

 I don't blend very often.....but when I do I only use the finest tools. 

a few simple and cheap blending tools

Not really!  I don't blend often... that part is true but when I do blend my pastels I use only the most simple, readily available and inexpensive tools!  My favorite tool is always HANDY. Sorry for the corniness but it makes it easy to remember that one of the best blending tools is actually your own palm and fingers. It is all in the technique. (video demo coming!)

Of course you can purchase blending tools of all kinds and I am sure they work great but I have had success with a few cheap tools that you may just have in your home. If not they are easy and inexpensive. Read on for the details!

Putting down the first layer of pastel
The first step in successful blending is to have enough pastel on the surface to blend. I like to blend the first layer of pastel to create an out of focus underpainting. In the photo above I have added pastel to create the first layer. I have used a light touch but there is still enough pastel to blend.

Using a piece of foam core to blend and suggest the sea oats

 TOOL #1  A small piece of foam core board. I used a scrap of foam core and cut it with a utility knife to make into small brush shaped tool. I used this tool to blend the grassy areas of the painting. I was able to pull up some pastel marks to suggest the beginning of some grasses and sea oats.
Tip: I get my foam core at the Dollar Tree. It isn't archival but it is surprisingly decent!

Using a piece of pipe insulation foam to blend the sky

 TOOL #2   My old favorite tool! Pipe insulation foam. I get this at any hardware store and cut it into small pieces. It is a great tool that doesn't shred on sanded paper and doesn't remove too much pastel. It can even be washed and reused!
Tip: use this tool like a brush. You can easily tear it and make thin and thick brush tips!

Using a wadded up piece of Viva paper towel to blend the sky
TOOL # 3  The artist's favorite paper towel brand! Good old VIVA paper towels work great for softening and blending. I used a wadded up piece of paper towel to soften and blend the colors in my clouds.  Viva is strong so it holds up to sanded paper and doesn't leave a trail of paper!

What other cheap blending tools do you use? Please feel free to share with us in the comments!

Painting notes: I used a piece of the YI CAI sanded paper and Terry Ludwig pastels.


Ricardo García said...

Often I use cotton swabs. They are cheap, occupy little space and work for both sides.
The blending is controlled very well changing the pressure and we can work with several simultaneously (one for every color). Also they allow to remove pigment in a concrete zone and to use them as a paintbrush.

Linda Kriegel said...

I sometimes use a silicon tool called a colour shaper but then I'm a portrait artist and these are great for getting in tight places. A lot smaller than pipe insulation so limited use for sure.

Gaye Sekula said...

Love this post! Thanks!

Susan J Wachob said...

My day is about blending, thank you for this exceptional educational blog KEM you are my first inspiration in loving Pastel! Thank you for all you do to further the Art form !

Neva said...

Have looked online for the Yi Cai sanded paper and don't see it. Where can we purchase
some? Thanks. Love this blog, learning so much.

Karen said...

Thanks for your kind words about my blog! The Yi Cai paper is not yet available. As soon as I hear more I'll share it!

Neva said...

Thanks, Karen