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COLOURED PENCIL TOPICS

PENCIL SKILLS

BURNISHING

& BLENDING

Once you have applied some colour to your paper that is not the end of it. Apart from layering colour on top to get greater strength of colour and deeper contrasts, we can develop the actual pigment where it lies on the paper surface and move it around. The pencil core is, after all, a mixture of colour and wax,  and wax can be a very mobile material. Associated with this Topic are the two accompanying ones - Working the Surface and Solvents
WORKING THE SURFACE BLENDERS, BURNISHING & BURNISHERS
As Coloured Pencil ( the wax type ) is a linear medium, we have the problem of getting rid of lines when we want a smooth coloured area.  This can be done in the traditional way, by applying many layers of lightly laid down colour from the pencil point, shaded in different directions to avoid any clear individual marks.   A smooth finish can also be achieved by using a blending tool containing a similar wax material (without colour) which picks up the pigment below and spreads it out to remove any individual marks - A BLENDER -  or by burnishing the surface with a similar pencil to the original layers but using more strength and a lighter or white colour.  This will bed down and merge the lower marks and BURNISHING pencils are sold to aid this……, though usually a similar lightly coloured pencil to those used for the original work will suffice. We can also use solvents to melt the wax based pigment - there is a topic on Solvents here You can also merge the colour with heat and expensive heat tables are available to work on, which soften the wax colour and enable the smooth colour to be obtained In 2015, a new development was the Pan Pastel powder Medium designed to blend pastel laid down on paper, and this has been found to work well with wax pencil and is now generally available in Europe. Pan Pastel itself is a fine powder pastel in cake form and will be covered briefly in the pastel pencil and the mixed media sections of the site In the USA a purpose made and similar powder  product is available from Alyona Nickelsen at ‘Brush & Pencil’ as a medium recommended for using with coloured pencil  on sanded surfaces, but this is only available in the USA by ground surfaced mail, as a fixative is also required which is sold as part of the process. The powder breaks up the colour and converts the layer to something similar to Pastel, which can be blended and smoothed.  It does, however, need to be fixed afterwards, so I am not sure how much benefit is achieved over just using Pastel in the first place. More details are given on this process lower down the page
BURNISHING This is a method of pressure blending the colours on the paper by applying a further series of layers of a lighter colour. In effect we are pressing the pigment and wax layers together and producing a smooth polished effect.   This will rely, first of all, on the amount of pigment already on the paper. Burnishing works best if there is a good amount of earlier colour to work with. For the purpose of providing a simple illustration in this introduction, I show below four images giving the stages of 1/ the initial lightly layered colour  2/ the first additions of stronger colour, 3/ the burnished result after a lighter colour has been laid down on top under pressure and 4/ the addition of further layers of deeper colour over the earlier burnish. For the illustration I have used cartridge paper ( ideal for wax type pencils used entirely dry ) and a selection of colours from Caran d’Ache Luminance.    I have used a softer pencil for this to make to result more obvious, but burnishing can be carried out with most coloured pencil types.   Soft wax works best for burnishing so it is best to look at pencils from Prismacolor Premier . Derwent Coloursoft, or Caran d’Ache Luminance - as all three are wax based and among the softest pencils.
The initial layers laid down lightly on the paper establish shape and form with areas of shadow and highlight. The pencil is stroking the paper so lightly that the grain of the cartridge paper shows in the granular covering of the brown pigment
As you can see, we have added some further colour to develop the three dimensional shape of the ball. These lightly laid down layers of colour still show the grain of the paper,  but we are starting to get a good base of wax based pigment on the paper to work with.  Burnishing depends on a blending process, and we must have something to blend with. I have used some new colours but have gone back over with more layers of some of the earlier ones as well
Here you can see that a stronger yellow/orange has been introduced and the whole shape has been worked over with that and then burnished with heavy pressure. You don’t need a sharp point on the pencil for this - the pencil is merely a tool to add a thin covering of colour and work it in to the existing wax and pigment.  You can see how the grain of the paper has disappeared from much of the image and the colour has become much stronger, while the transparent orange of the recent layers have not totally obscured the shape and shading that existed before
I have now been able to work back over the burnished surface to define deeper coloured areas. In common with any other artwork, the temptation is to fiddle. I could continue to work on this image with burnishing the top right highlight with a cream to lighten it. I believe I have done enough, though, to explain the process
IF YOU WISH TO SEE FURTHER EXAMPLES OF BURNISHING, Check out the topic on ‘Results on Different Papers’ In the wax pencil section
You can see from the above note, that burnishing can be done with another coloured pencil and this will influence the overall colour of the area worked as well as deepening the intensity of colour through losing the grain of the paper. Apart from dipping into the coloured pencil collection for a tool to burnish with, there are a number of products made by the pencil manufacturers to fulfill that purpose. These can be called blenders or burnishers and are marketed, notably, by Derwent ( both blender and burnisher pencils sold in a twin pack), Lyra ( the ‘Splender Blender ) and Caran d’Ache ( who market a stick of solid wax called a ‘Full Blender Bright ). These separate blenders rely on a stick of colourless material to soften and move the underlying pigment. They can be very effective, though they do tend to seal in the earlier layers of colour and make any further working of the image difficult - or impossible. I did a test some time ago and published the results here of working the Derwent and Lyra blenders - and in 2011 when the Caran d’Ache blender came out, I did a further test on that.  In the 2 or 3 years since then, I have found little use for any of the blender varieties and have simply used a lighter coloured version of the pencil brand I am working the picture with. There can be a use for a burnisher without colour to act as a resist when working watercolour pencil over the top.  Do test the actual pencils you are going to work with first to make sure the exact process you plan will work... I  have had experience of relying on a burnisher to protect a surface and then find the later colour simply blended rather than be repelled. I have not ‘tidied up’ my earlier tests, they are published here almost as they were originally written - I have simply gone through and updated the comments to the images
       The Lyra Splender and the Derwent Blender and Burnisher Pencils The Lyra Splender has been on sale in Europe for several years.  It is not so easy to find but is available from Mail Order and Internet sources The Derwent Blender and Burnisher Pencils are a more recent arrival on the scene. They come in single pencils and also as part of a blister pack containing an eraser and a simple sharpener. The prices are low so an individual mail order for one pencil is hardly economic, but ordered with other items, makes sense and should be considered. What do they actually do ? The names give a clue, but as the Derwent Burnisher is more closely likened to the Lyra Blender, and the Derwent Blender is a different animal altogether, they do need to be examined  and compared in more detail. The Lyra Blender and the Derwent Burnisher will both act as a resist in putting down a layer of transparent wax that protects the paper surface from later layers of colour.   The Lyra Splender is softer than the Burnisher. The Derwent Blender appears to apply a layer of very soft wax from the  core which acts more as a solvent to earlier layers of colour.  Let me say here that I see little difference in performance on top of either oil based or wax based pencils even though Lyra comes from an oil based pencil manufacturer and Derwent a wax based one. In a nutshell I think the test sheet shown below shows up the differences
I have enhanced the image above to make the differences clearer. Firstly, note that the test was carried out on white Stonehenge paper with a pair of oil based coloured pencils and a pair of wax based ones, making the four colour boxes shown. What do you want to do ?     If your need is to put down some sort of resist line or area, look first at the lower pair of examples. The Derwent has a harder core and therefore does two things.  The point applies transparent wax and at the same time indents the drawn line in the soft paper surface.  Much like a white Coloured Pencil would do. The letters spelling out the word ‘Derwent’ are clearer as a result.  The block of colour below this shows the same effect, as the square area covered by the transparent wax is more solid from the softer Lyra pencil and shows the indents of the shading on the Derwent one. In the final test the pencils are used in their blending mode, where the wax applied from the pencil point picks up colour from the applied surface and beds it down into the paper, eliminating the white flecks in the shading. At the same time the transparent wax lifts and merges edges of colour.  Look at the central box within the four colour block and see how the Lyra performs better as a blender than the Derwent Burnisher ( as you would expect ).  Now see how the top example compares.  The Derwent Blender does not apply a resist in any form - the word ‘Derwent’ is hardly visible in the green block.  However the  Blender does ‘what it says on the tin’ and blends the colours in the top four colour box efficiently.
CARAN d’ACHE Introduced October 2011 The Full Blender - Bright
This is a solid stick of high quality transparent wax - 100% solid material and 100% usable . It is capable of being sharpened and is reported to work well with all the Caran d’Ache coloured pencil products as well as other oil based and wax based brands. The wax is a soft one - I am told it is the same as the wax used in the core of the Luminance pencils, so it will naturally be expected to work well with Luminance colours. I have done a short test on the sample I have here and the results are as shown below
The test samples on the left show that the CDA blender works very well with the Luminance colours even on a low rate of colour coverage and the lowest sample shows how the brown is picked up and carried over the white wax colour in all the samples.  With Prismacolor the white is also carried back over the brown and this shows up well. The wax pencil samples all work well and the only exception appears to be the light sample of Polychromos - an oil based pencil. If you look at the right hand ( heavier weight) samples, all three tested brands - including the Polychromos - worked well. The blender has a very soft wax content and really comes into its own when used purely as a blender on a combination of colour layers. the new blender is shown to be very good at doing what it is intended for.  
So which tool do you buy ? If you want to Indent to resist colour, you can use either a white ( or light ) Coloured Pencil from your box of pencils, or use the Burnisher from Derwent.  The Lyra is less effective.   If you want to blend colour and bed it into the paper, both the Lyra and also the Derwent Blender are very effective. The Caran d’Ache Full Blender is also good though it may be more difficult to find.  I don’t know the price, but if you come across a pack on sale, I believe it would be worth while adding it to your armoury of bits and pieces. However The Caran d’Ache blender will be too soft to use for indenting a line and might be too difficult to use for a resist. You may find it easier to buy the Derwent pair of pencils in the UK, though both the Derwent and Lyra brands are available by Mail Order and over the Internet.   I now have all three in my box of accessories.
POWDER BLENDING COLOURED PENCILS
In 2015, the Pan Pastel range included a colourless blending powder in a small plastic tub, this can be applied to colour on the paper to make it easier to blend.  Whilst developed for the Pan Pastel range, it has been found to be effective on wax type coloured pencils, as it breaks down the grip of the colour on the paper and coverts the pigment to something more like pastel.  The colour can then be blended and smoothed using foam tools or a protected finger.  The coloured surface can be made perfectly smooth and will then need to be fixed - just like pastel would be - to enable further layers of normal wax pencil pigment to be added.  It seems to work well on a dedicated pastel paper like Pastelmat ( which is excellent for CP too ), but on paper, the surface needs to be primed with a layer of fixative first to prepare the surface. IN THE USA, Alyona Nickelsen markets her own brand of blending powder under the ‘Brush & Pencil’ brand and also markets a pair of dedicated fixatives  which are made for using with the process. This may seem to be a very similar product to the Pan Pastel one, but Alyona tells me the process of using and handling is different.   ‘Brush & Pencil Blender’ IN THE UK and EUROPE Whilst the powder and non aerosol products can be shipped outside the USA, there are currently problems in shipping the fixatives so we are not at present able to review the full ‘Brush & Pencil’ process, and we are left with the Pan Pastel option and a suitable fixative such as Spectrafix  ( both available from Jacksons Art ) to achieve something like the same effect with a powder..    A CP artist correspondent in the UK,  Deb Stanley, has had a look at the Pan Pastel blender and has reported - details below
Deb Stanley demonstrates it on her Facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/debstanleyart     There are a number of demo clips on her Facebook site so you will need to find the powder blending one. Deb writes :   I've been trying out pan pastels for a few weeks now, I find that there is no problem using them on Pastelmat and then applying pencils over the top, paper is not so forgiving.   The blender worked so well with the pastels on pastelmat,  I tried it with pencils and found that it worked with them too.  However, the results on paper aren't as good, which is the same issue Alyona has.... she sells a fixative to use as a base when using her blender on paper.  The fixatives I tried, a Winsor and Newton one and one called Spectrafix didn't give brilliant results as the pencils stayed on the surface and looked shiny.  These were very quick tests and only on Stonehenge. When I get chance I will try out different ways of testing them again. On Pastelmat the blender worked well.  I used a couple of coats of Winsor and Newton to fix the blended pencil and it sealed it well.  I could continue to work over the top once the fixative dried. I think it would be very useful for blurred backgrounds and soft edges eg clouds and also for large smooth areas of skin, I am still going to use other liquid solvents but I think this will be better for the larger expanses where you don't want to risk a 'tide mark' from a liquid.  Obviously it will also be extremely useful to lay in a base colour quickly and smoothly
The ‘Brush & Pencil’ Powder Blender Alyona Nickelsen writes ( 3rd February 2016 ) in response to my notes above : Powder Blender has very little similarity in its content or presentation with the products from Pan Pastel. Colored pencil application done with the Brush & Pencil branded Powder Blender does not require being fixed with a fixative, though it does not prevent it. Powder Blender does not “break up the colour”. It only lubricates the surface for subsequent colored pencil application, which prevents waxes from the pencil core to tightly grab protrusions from the paper, also known as “surface tooth”. This is similar to a cook using flour on the kitchen counter to prevent cookie dough from sticking to it. During the drawing process we shave off particles of the pencil core onto the drawing surface. The pressure from our hand pushes them deeper into the tooth and allows them to stick to the surface. Powder Blender keeps these particles from adhering to the surface and allows us to move the shaved particles from one point to another more freely. The tooth of sanded papers and acrylic gessoes is stronger and makes shaving of the core easier. The tooth of cotton fiber is weaker and very absorbent, which allows wax from the pencil core to really “become one” with it, and thus, making the movement of particles around on the surface (blending) more difficult. Therefore, I advise artists who prefer working on cotton-based papers, to make the surface more cooperative and less absorbent by spraying our ACP Final or Textured Fixative first, then follow with Powder Blender. This allows us to simulate the surface of sanded papers without actually using them. …............................................................................................................................................................................. To which I add the following footnote - 4th February 2016 From Alyona’s response, it is clear that Powder blender works best on sanded or grit based surfaces. Most CP artists in the UK and Europe will be working on cotton based papers and therefore will probably best see the benefits of the Powder blender when used with the proper fixatives designed for it. We will welcome the opportunity to review this new process and products when the full range is available to us.  In the meantime, USA readers can benefit from the information Alyona gives on her web site.  PW When we are able to do one, a further review will appear on this page
If you would like to follow this up and experiment yourself,  you can have a look at Deb Stanley’s own web site at  https://www.facebook.com/debstanleyart      and also her own web site at  :  http://debstanleyart.weebly.com/. More from Alyona Nickelsen at    http://www.brushandpencil.com/Blog/Default.aspx Where you can find a link to her video on powder blending   and details of the products available in the USA As I commented at the top of the page, using powder to blend is a new technique and I have not tried it myself.   My feeling is that you would be just as well to work your base or background with pastel, fix it, and then use wax pencil on top - as I have demonstrated in Topics   ( Mixed media CP with Pastel - for unfixed pastel base )  and  (Mixed Media  - archway - and - Cottage entrance demonstrations ).   No doubt time will tell and we will either see a lot of examples of blended work of this style, or the idea will fade away.  Please let me know of your experiences with this technique and these products, it will be interesting for other ‘Topics’ readers. I will post further news here on this topic as I come across it