Coloured Pencil Blend Off!

The most recent SketchBox contained a pair of Derwent blender pens for pencils and that was a really interesting tool to see. The other day, I was in Michaels and discovered Artist's Loft makes a similar pen. So? Time to test!

When it comes to blending coloured pencils, there are a number of options including mineral spirits, burnishing, blender pencils, baby oil, and more. Some of these are really good, but toxic, like mineral spirits. Others are good, but destroy the tooth of the paper, like burnishing. Many artists choose odourless mineral spirits, as I do, but when you travel, you might not want to pack that... so this is where these blending pens come in.

So, Derwent is a trusted name in artist grade, but Artist's Loft is more associated with student/learner options. Still, the purpose of these tools isn't really going to distinguish between those grades and, for me, I wanted to know if these tools worked well and, more importantly, if the Artist's Loft choice was effective since it looks like that is more readily available here.

The test was simple, I used Polychromos and Prismacolor and created some regions of similar colour and tested mineral spirits, Derwent, and Artist's Loft. The initial set up had a single layer of a red and a two layer blend of a red and dark blue as shown:

The first pass results for OMS:

Odourless Mineral Spirit / Polychromos

Odourless Mineral Spirit / Prismacolour

First pass for Derwent:

Derwent / Polychromos

Derwent / Prismacolor
First pass for Artist's Loft:

Artist's Loft / Polychromos

Artist's Loft / Prismacolor

There's obviously not a lot of layers there, so not pretty, but I think OMS does a little better job when the layers are thin. The two pen options are okay and I think, based on the alcohol-like odour, pretty similar.

However, to carry on the experiment, I did a second layer and blend.

OMS / Polychromos

OMS / Prismacolor

Derwent / Polychromos

Derwent / Prismacolor
Artist's Loft / Polychromos

Artist's Loft / Prismacolor

So, I think I would use the blender pens, especially when travelling. I did find it interesting that the Artist's Loft option, which claimed it was specially for wax pencils, actually seemed to work a bit better with the Polychromos. Marginal, though, and the more layers you add, the better these will continue to look. The other thing I really liked with the Artist's Loft was that it was a dual tip pen, giving a larger brush nib and smaller pen nib for detail. Derwent was a two-pack for that, so I would need to carry two pens rather than one to get the same effect.

The only caveat to the value of these is with large pieces. These pens are great for small sketches while travelling, but for large works? I think you're better off with OMS, otherwise you're very likely to run out.

All in all, thumbs up.


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