Nov 9, 2017

Blenders - The Secret to the Soft Touch of Graphite - Painting & Drawing Tips

Whether creating a Drawing or Painting
 Values Make the Difference

WE'RE IN TROUBLE NOW! - WIP - Graphite (Completed $200 Matted, Unframed)
Working with values means that even white goats have a range of tones, without them the goats would just be a flat, white blob

As an Artist you know Values are Important. But when you are deep in the trenches, working on a picture, it is hard to see if the values are right.  Drawing with a pencil is a great way to train your eye to see values.  In a pencil drawing the values are clear.  You can see the tones of gray and compare them with a value scale. 

White being a Value of 1 and Black being a Value of 10.  (Often you will see the numbers reversed, White being 10 and  Black being 1. The important thing is you have a range of 10 values.)

In my last post the focus was on using a range of values to create the 3-dimensional poppy on the left.   One that had volume and felt like it was alive.  (See the post here) For that poppy the majority of the values were in the dark range, closer to the Black.  But what if you wanted to create some of those lovely light values like the ones in the poppy on the right.

Poppy Reference: The Poppy on the right has quite a range of light values in the petals. (Contact me if you would like a larger reference file to work with.  I would be happy to send it to you.)

This can be done with graphite pencils, using very light pressure.  However, there is another way to create soft tones - using a blender. (Note: I would not do one poppy in pencil and one with the blender, I wanted to show you how a blender works and the range you can get with it.)

I have drawn the poppy on the right - tools are lined up 2B & 4B Derwent Graphite Pencils, larger blenders, kneaded eraser, vinyl eraser, brush for cleaning off debris, Note the scrape of paper with the graphite on it. 

The names Blenders and Tortillions are often used interchangeably, basically they are rolled paper or cotton in various lengths and thickness. One approximately .5 inch thick and one approximately .25 inches thick is a good starter kit.  Often they will come in a package of 3 or 4 thicknesses.  The thicker ones are good for bigger spaces and the smaller ones for those tight corners.

When you get your Blenders they are nice and clean.  They will become black as they pick up graphite.  They can be cleaned with sandpaper but I have never found the need for that. (Notice how black mine are)

Tricks to using a Blender:

A light layer has been applied and now I am blending it

1.  Put a light layer of graphite down with a 2B, then blend it by rubbing hard with the blender.  Pay attention to the direction as you are sculpturing your shape at the same time. When working in a darker area use a 4B to set down a layer of graphite.  Work in stages to build up your value rather than trying to "slam it" on the first go.

Using my 4B to add some of the shadows on the petal

 2.  To build up the value, add another layer of graphite then blend it again.  To increase the value a small amount put a light layer of graphite using a 2B.  To increase the value alot, use a darker layer of graphite with a 4B or 5B. Build up your layers accordingly.  It is easier to darken an area then to be lightening it.

Holding the blender in a more upright position to keep the dark and to give it a hard line next to the petal

3. Holding your blender upright allows more pressure on a smaller area.  This gives you a sharper edges or line.  Holding it more on its side allows for a softer blend over a larger area.

4. Making circles with the blender will give a more even layer without streaks or lines.

Using the blender to give a very soft layer on the petal that is rolled over and reflects the light

5. Once your blender has graphite on it, you can also use it as a drawing tool for a really soft, light touch on your paper.  If it does not have enough graphite on it, take a 6B pencil and scrabble on a scrap of paper then rub your blender in it.  It is now loaded with graphite and ready to draw with.

Using the thinner blender to soften the dark shadow lines.  
6. You can soften a line by first drawing it then running your blender over it.

Rub the area softly with the kneaded eraser to lift off and lighten.  You will need to go in with your blender to soften any edges.  

7.  Use your kneaded eraser to lighten an area.  

A Closeup: The center has not been blended and makes a nice contrast with the soft petals.  (Petals are not complete, I would like to darken the far petal a bit more. I will wait til more of the flower is completed so I can compare the values in that area.) 

Using a blenders gives an image a very soft look, one that works well with flower petals, fur, feathers and more. Combining this soft look with a textured surface makes a great contrast in a drawing. Notice how I did not blend the center of the poppy.  This gives a roughness to the center that contrasts nicely with the petals.  (Note: I would not do one whole flower in pencil and one whole flower with a blender unless I wanted to practice and compare the results.)

 See my Post: Drawing A Seagull Part 2  to see how another way of mixing the two types of textures with a Seagull and to see other blending tools.

What are your favourite blending tools?  Do you mix it up in your drawings?

Looking for other drawing information, See the previous drawing posts:

How to Find Your Starting Point in a Drawing
  4 Ways to Grow the Sketchbook Habit
Time to Meet Your Drawing Friends
Ready to Start Drawing - Get Your Materials Together

      Next up: Values and Colour in Action  

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