Blending Stumps Vs Tortillons And Other Tools To Blend Like A Pro

By Nicole Tinkham


Whether you draw or are a makeup artist, you know that blending is essential. For drawing, you have many blending tool options from tortillons to stumps and many others. The right tools can make a huge difference in your artwork and when it comes to blending, you definitely have to think about your supplies of choice. Every artist is different and prefers a different tool. In this blog we’ll talk about the difference between a blending stump and tortillons and more tools to help you blend like a pro.
Blending Stumps

What they are: A solid “stick” made out of soft paper with a point at each end. These can be sharpened with sandpaper and also cleaned with a kneaded eraser which is super convenient! Since these are available in a variety of sizes, they’re great for many different projects.


What they are: Tightly rolled paper with a point on one end ideal for blending small areas. We recommend using it at an angle to keep that nice pointed tip in tact.

Tip: Have many of these in use at once. Once dark graphite gets on these, you won’t want to use it in a lighter area. Tortillons are inexpensive enough that you can be using several for different shades in your piece at once.

The difference

Tortillons can be a little more difficult to use since that aren’t made with the same soft paper that of blending stumps. This makes it difficult to keep a consistent tone. However, tortillons are perfect for precision! Our suggestion: Have both!

What you can achieve with BOTH options

1.    Blending: Push graphite around the page to blend tones together.

2.    Shading: Pick up graphite with your tool of choice (use scrap paper to scribble on and then rub your blending tool over the graphite to pick it up). Now you can apply that graphite to your drawing and layer it on depending on how dark you need it to be.

3.    Light values: A clean blending tool is key for blending light values!

4.    Dark values: When working on a dark area, it’s typical for tiny specs of the white paper to shine through. Using a blending tool can cover up those areas.

Other tools

Chamois: Not for detailed work but this cloth is perfect for a soft blend when using charcoal and pastels.

Makeup brush: We’ve heard from one of our artist friends that makeup brushes are excellent for blending!

Q-tip: Use for larger areas, not precise spots.

Paper towel: Fold in a triangle so you get some nice points on the ends.

Facial tissue: Wrap it around your finger to prevent the oils from your finger to get smudges on your artwork.

Cotton swab

Don’t use..

Your fingers! The oils from your finger can make the graphite impossible to erase.

If you aren’t already blending, you need to be! It can definitely transform your artwork if you do it right. Play around with it first though as it takes some practice. There’s no right or wrong answer here either. Try a few different blending tools out and see which one you like best. Every artist is different so we can’t really recommend blending stumps over tortillons or anything else.

Let us know, what’s your favorite tool to blend with and why? Please leave a comment below!

10 Reasons Why You Should Use Toned Paper for Pastel Drawings

By Nicole Tinkham


If you’re reading this, you’re most likely an artist, and if that’s true, it’s also very likely you love COLOR. So why is it so natural for us to start a project on a blank white sheet of paper or canvas? Of course, not every artist starts that way but it seems to be the norm. Don’t get us wrong, we really do love a fresh, crisp, white surface. But in the world of pastels, there’s a reason why there are various toned paper choices. Read on for 10 reasons why you should use toned paper for pastels and how to go about selecting a color.

The benefits

1.    Ability to produce different effects and moods. Colors (the color of the paper and the pastels combined) can influence how the viewer feels. Consider the mood of the piece when selecting a toned paper.

2.    Mix it up! Dare to do something different. Challenge yourself to use a different tone for each project you do this year. This will help spark new creativity and get you thinking.

3.    Contrast pastels with paper. This is your chance to use paper color to your advantage and practice some brilliant contrasting techniques.

4.    OR you can do the opposite and harmonize pastels with paper for a totally different look.

5.    Emphasize dark-toned pastels with light-toned paper. This will really make your drawing pop.

6.    OR you can do the opposite and emphasize light-toned pastels with dark-toned paper. This technique can be so eye catching!

7.    Provide balance with mid-toned paper.

8.    No need to hide the white of the paper. Let the tone of the paper shine through and use it to your advantage. We love the look this produces.

9.    Works well with portraits and figure drawing. Just choose a nice skin tone paper for this.

10.    Less intimidating. Staring at a blank white sheet of paper can be overwhelming. But toned paper can help you ease up and get started. It takes the pressure off.

Your color choices

Remember that pastels don’t cover the entire surface, and when working on toned paper they don’t need to! That being said, you’ll want to choose your colors wisely. Most toned pastel paper is natural colors, making them ideal for portraits and figures. Here are a few colors you can find in toned pastel paper: black, dark gray, ivory, moonstone, oyster, pearl, sand, sky blue, smoke gray, steel gray, and tobacco. By the way, you can purchase an entire pad of different toned colors to play around and experiment with.

Now here’s how they can affect your drawing

Red/brown paper = Warm glow, ideal for yellow and cream pastels
Pale grey = Subdued, ideal for winter landscapes
Just starting out? Go with a neutral paper as it tends to be the easiest to work on. If your drawing is light, choose a pale paper.

Did you know you can DIY?

You can have a lot of fun tinting your own pastel paper using tea, coffee and red wine. Only drawback is having less for you to drink 🙂

Maybe you’re just starting out with pastels and are a little scared to try a toned paper for fear of choosing the wrong color. We recommend playing around with different colors first. You can get the pad of all different colors and experiment with different effects and techniques to see what works and what you like. We really think you’ll enjoy working on toned paper and it could even make it easier for the beginner. Tell us, do you use toned pastel paper? What are your thoughts?

2 Key Things the Pastel Artist Needs to Know About Paper

By Nicole Tinkham

2 Key Things.jpg

Have you ever started a project and thought something just didn’t feel right? Selecting the perfect supplies before you begin a project is essential. When working with pastels, your focus is probably on which type of pastel to use as there are two main options: oil and soft. You can learn all about the differences between these two here: What is the difference between oil and soft pastels? What you may not have put much thought into however is the paper that you’ve selected. When working with pastels, there are two important things to consider when selecting paper. Let’s take a look at how color and texture can transform your pastel artwork!


• The importance: The color of pastel paper determines the mood and atmosphere of the final piece while pulling the picture together. Simply put, the choice of color is not something you want to overlook.

• Why it’s important: Pastels don’t cover the whole surface, therefor the paper color will come through and you want that color to provide unity to the piece as a whole.

• Color range: A wide range of tints and shades are available from black to white and everything in between. Just take a look at the image above for some of the available colors.

• Warm colors: These include colors such as raw sienna and reddish brown. Use them to bring out light colors such as yellows and creams.

• Cool colors: Pale grays and blues are your cool color choices and they reflect just the opposite of warm colored paper. These are ideal for rainy or winter scenes giving a “cool” feeling.

• Make your own: If you want to take your creativity a step further, you can make your own colored pastel paper using a staining technique. Tea, coffee, and red wine can be used to tint the surface before you begin.

• Tooth: You’ll often hear the term ‘tooth’ used to described texture in paper and it simply refers to the paper’s coarseness. Think about a rough watercolor paper to get an idea of what we’re talking about here.

• Why textured paper: The ‘tooth’ of the paper allows the pastel to stick to the surface which is difficult to achieve on a smooth surface.

• Canson Mi-Tientes: This type of pastel paper can be found in a variety of colors and offers one side with a textured surface and the other with a smoother surface.

• Strathmore pastel paper: This paper may be more delicate but is great for light applications. Strathmore pastel paper comes in a variety of colors and can also be used with other media such as colored pencils, charcoal, and graphite pencils.

• Sanded pastel paper: Sanded paper is ultra course and is able to hold a lot of pastel pigment.

• Rough watercolor paper: Watercolor paper can be used with pastels because of its toothed texture. This will provide a gentler surface ideal for blending with your finger.

• Bristol and illustration board: Cold-pressed Bristol and illustration boards are perfect to use with oil pastels.

Pastel vs Pastel

Pastel actually has two different meanings. You’re probably familiar with the shade, which is a series of pale colors (whites with a hint of color). Pastel sticks, however are not necessarily pastel colors. Check out the image below to see just how vibrant the colors can be!


Pastel paper is relatively inexpensive so next time you’re in, grab a couple different sheets and see which you like best. Make sure to take note of the color and texture choices! If you need any help deciding which paper to use for your project feel free to stop in and see one of our art specialists or give us a call at 941-747-2995.

Are you a pastel artist? Head on over to our Facebook page and post a picture of your most recent pastel drawing. If you’re on Instagram, make sure to tag us in your photo (@keetonsonline).