Blending with colored pencils is a skill we can spend our artistic lives on  – and a small fortune on as well! Fortunately the tools to try aren’t expensive – like blending stumps, cotton balls, qtips, brushes, and even a very clean finger! (Be careful, oils from your finger can wreak havoc on your artwork.)

I hadn’t thought of trying the tool I want to show you today – but my cup of pastel tools was right there beside me just begging to be tried out. Since colored pencils and pastels are dry pigment, it was sure worth a try!

Tutorial: Try this blending tool with colored pencils

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

Bokeh on dark vs light

Soft blends are what makes bohek work – and I think colored pencil is 2nd easiest to create it with (pastel being #1). The color if the paper makes a real difference in the techniques applied.  

When working on light paper, the ‘valleys’ , or low spots between peaks, are what causes the speckled look…the white paper shows through, and filling those spaces in with pigment in a variety of techniques can smooth that out. I happen to love that texture when I can get it to be evenly distributed!

It’s easier to make those spots less visible when the pigment color is close to the paper color, so on white, the lightest colors don’t need as much blending.

On dark paper, though, the valleys show up as dark spots in between the peaks of the paper. That means more pressure to apply more pigment is needed to increase the brightness as well as filling in those gaps.

If drawing a pale bokeh, a lighter paper would be more helpful; for primarily dark bokeh, select a darker paper.

Tips for bokeh

Layer colors atop each other as they touch, so that in thoe areas where they cross you’ll get 50% of each color, letting both trail off in the direction of the other color. From this experiment, I can say it doesn’t matter whether they’re analagous colors (adjacent on the color wheel) in colored pencil, since this technique works great. Other mediums are more likely going to be helped by using colors close to each other.

Make the bokeh dots different sizes, and watch the scale of them compared to the focal image. In this case, the dots needed to NOT be more important than the bird; the kingfisher is to be the star, so I had to watch my colors, values, and sizes so the bird remained most important. Study a lot of images on google to get an idea what the scale might be to go with your subject.

In a forest like this one, add trees that remain SOFT by surrounding any black lines with a light color so the trunk and breanches seem to feather out.

One of the last changes I made on this image was to turn some of the dots into partial hexagons, leaving some of the edges trailing off into each other to keep them looking like they were floating and mixing together. I squinted to make sure the backgound didn’t have areas that were as detailed as the bird and water.

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