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What is the easiest way for blending cheap colored pencils?

Colored pencils are a versatile and affordable drawing and coloring tool loved by artists of all ages and skill levels. While professional grade colored pencils can be quite expensive, there are many inexpensive options available that work great for blending and shading. With the right techniques, even cheap colored pencils can create beautiful, vibrant works of art.

Use Layering for Smooth Blending

The key to seamless blending with any colored pencil is layering – building up colors gradually in thin layers. Start with a light base layer and slowly deepen the color by going over the same area with additional layers. Overlapping colors will create smooth transitions between tones.

With cheaper pencils, more layers will likely be needed to achieve very dark tones, but take your time and continue adding thin coats. Avoid pressing hard, which can create an uneven waxy buildup. Let each layer fully dry before adding the next.

Choose Complimentary Color Combos

Blendable color combinations are also important for smooth blending. Instead of choosing hues at random, pick shades that naturally transition into each other.

Some examples of blendable colored pencil pairs:

  • Yellow and orange
  • Red and pink
  • Green and blue
  • Purple and blue
  • Brown and beige

Creating gradients between adjacent colors on the color wheel results in seamless, natural looking blends. Avoid blending complementaries like red and green which will end up looking muddy.

Burnish for Luminosity

Burnishing is a colored pencil technique where you layer colors and then go over the area with a colorless blender pencil. This helps push layers together for even smoother gradients and can add luminosity.

While premium colorless blenders work best, you can DIY your own cheap alternative with a spare white colored pencil. Gently run the tip of the white over blended areas to fuse colors and make them shine.

Start with a Sanded Base

Creating texture by lightly sanding the drawing surface first allows more tooth for the colored pencil to grab onto and can improve blending capabilities. Fine grit sandpaper or sanding blocks spruce up smooth paper.

Try holding the paper at an angle while lightly sanding to keep the abrasion uniform. Wipe away any eraser crumbs and you'll have a perfectly prepped canvas for layered coloring.

Use Solvents for Smoother Blends

Solvents like odorless mineral spirits can dissolve and blend colored pencil pigments into a silky smooth wash when brushed over them. They work brilliantly to soften hard edges and seamlessly fade tones into each other.

You can wet a small brush or cotton swab with solvent and gently sweep over areas you want to blend. Use sparingly and work in a well-ventilated area.

Blend Colors on Texture

Blending colored pencils over textured surfaces like watercolor paper or mixed media paper allows colors to fade softly into the indentations. The white of the paper peeking through creates natural looking highlights that enhance the blended effect.

You can also use textured blending tools like seashells, sandpaper, and textured mats for unique effects as you overlay colors.

Use Baby Oil for Waxier Pencils

If you find your cheaper colored pencils have a harder, waxier consistency that resists blending, baby oil can help. The oil saturates the paper and pigment for better adhesion and smoother blending.

Test on a small area first, as too much oil may warp delicate papers. A barely damp brush dipped in oil and swept lightly over colored layers blends beautifully without oversaturating.

Burnish with Plastic Wrap

For a quick and easy burnishing method, lay plastic wrap over heavily blended areas and smoothly burnish with a spoon. This fuses layers rapidly for brilliant luminosity. Acetone or lighter fluid on a cotton ball works similarly to polish and darken colors.

This is perfect for finishing details like metallic rendered objects or adding quick shine to a completed piece. Handle with care though, as too much pressure can damage the paper surface.

Choose Smooth, Blendable Paper

The right paper makes a huge difference when blending colored pencils. Textured papers allow pigments to grab and adhere for bolder applications, while smoother papers encourage even flow and gradients.

Hot pressed watercolor paper, smooth mixed media paper, and drawing papers designed specifically for colored pencils all work beautifully for blending. Stay away from newsprint, copy paper and other porous papers.

Create Values Charts for Consistency

When attempting complex multi-layered blends, create a values scale first to understand how your colored pencils transition from light to dark. This helps you visualize how colors need to overlap for cohesive blends.

Make a values chart by drawing a gradient rectangle and filling with swatches from light to dark. Label each swatch with the pencil used. Refer to this when working on your actual piece so blends remain consistent.

Use a Colorless Blender Pencil

Brand Product Price
Prismacolor Colorless Blender Pencil $2.25
Faber-Castell Albrecht Dürer Colorless Blender $3.49
Derwent Burnisher $3.99

A dedicated colorless blender pencil is the ultimate blending tool for colored pencils. These wax-based pencils press pigments together without depositing any additional color. This allows more colors to be layered before wax bloom occurs.

They also smooth over grainy areas and create luminosity by polishing blended sections. Choose from economical yet effective options from leading colored pencil brands.

Try Colored Pencil Specific Primer

Specialty colored pencil painting primers provide extra grip for layered applications and blending. Brands like Gamsol offer affordable options that dry completely clear.

Primer allows more control since fewer layers are required for opacity. Apply before starting a piece using cotton swabs, paintbrushes, or scrap cardstock. Let dry fully for beautifully smooth blends.

Apply Blanching for Luminosity

Blanching is a simple technique that makes colored pencil shading intensely luminous. You’ll need a cotton swab, brush, or blending stump and rubbing alcohol or Gamsol solvent.

After burnishing blended colors, wet your tool with solvent and gently smooth over the area in small circles. The paper and pigment are temporarily saturated, creating a bright white glow when dry.


With a variety of straightforward techniques and materials, seamlessly blending cheap colored pencils is simple and achievable. By layering complimentary colors, burnishing, adding texture, and using blending aids, even inexpensive pencil sets can create pro-quality gradient effects. With practice and an understanding of how colors interact, anyone can master smoothly blended works of art.