How to Use a Blending Stump for Realistic Effects

If you are new to the world of art and do not know how to use a blending stump, then you have come to the right place.

This is a tool that is made up of a cylindrical piece of paper which has been compressed and has a point situated on each end. When I first learned about blending stumps, I did not know that they came in a variety of sizes and had various levels of sharpness. The reason for this is that different images require different blending needs and the variations in sizes and shapes help to provide enhancement to images.

The reason that these stumps have two ends is so that the other can be used when one side becomes dirty. These blending stumps are not so expensive, and a blending stump can easily be replaced or cleaned when it becomes filthy. Keep reading to learn more about how to use this simple but effective tool.

Creating Realistic Images with a Blending Stump

Many artists utilize blending stumps to help smudge pencil or charcoal on pieces of paper. I use the stumps to create realistic drawings that can be used to drag the graphite across paper. This helps to develop a fine layer of graphite that will reflect light.

Blending stumps come in handy when it comes to creating graduated highlights such as differences in strands of hair, creating an eye, or even shading a drawing. I as an artist use it in the blending of backgrounds and textures, to sharpen images, to draw with like a pencil (with the excess graphite accumulated), and even erase highlights as needed.

Blended Shading Technique

This is a widely used method that is applied by numerous pencil artists. Graphite is a popular medium used in this technique because it is easy to work with. It is simple to lay down the graphite and use a blending stump to create almost anything.

I have had excellent results in terms of creating facial images with this technique. What you can do is play around with the blending stump to create different types of shades and textures. If you are just now learning how to draw people, then while creating a facial image make sure that you use smooth shading. This helps to develop flawless and gorgeous appearing skin.

Circulism Technique

This is a widely used shading method which uses a blending stump to create small circles. I think that blending with this method is quite meticulous, but the end results are always worth it. It is excellent for creating realistic skin and can allow you to develop light and dark tones.

Creating Dark Black Images

Developing dark black images can be troublesome for many people, but when you have a blending stump you cannot go wrong. If you would like to create a dark black image, use charcoal or a sharp pencil so that you can easily blend with the stump later on. When dealing with a dark tone you will always get a shine as the end result. This occurs because the paper tends to absorb graphite developing a realistic image.

Loose and Tight Crosshatching

The main purpose of crosshatching is to create overlapping lines. To begin you must draw overlapping lines that will overlap the first set. Do this many times to create tones to shade later on. You can develop crosshatching to be tight or loose depending on your needs and the type of image you are creating.

If you just so happen to be drawing a portrait of a person with a beloved pet, keep in mind that loose crosshatching comes in handy for the fur, because there are some sections of fur that are wider than the others. After creating the lines, a blending stump can be used to shade in the areas slowly and develop a connection though blending.

Methods on How to Use a Blending Stump

Smudging in Circular Motions

Use the end of the stub to create a variety of elements in your drawings. The way I do this is by using small circular motions, which allow me to add depth to images to create a realistic feel.

Blending of Shades and Tones

Use a clean blending stump to smear the graphite in a forward and backward motion so that you can add depth to your image. The purpose of this is to make sure that the tones and shades are blended together evenly. When you do this, do not worry and be calm because it may take a bit long, but when you see the finished image you are bound to be pleased with your efforts.

Dark Value Images for a Smooth Finish

If you would like to achieve a nice dark value image while utilizing the blending stump, then look for the white dots between the graphite. When you see the grooves in the paper, add dark values. At this time use a blending stump to spread the graphite and fill in the grooves. This will add a smooth finish to the drawing.

Light Value Images to Add Depth

In order to create light value images, it is essential to make sure that the blending stump is clean during the process. When creating a light value image, sand the stump a couple of times as you blend. This will keep it tidy and add depth to your image almost instantaneously.

Difference Between Blending Stumps and Tortillions

Some beginning artists have a difficult time when it comes to choosing to buy a blending stump or a tortillion. The reason for this is that both of them are different tools that help to create similar effects. If you know how to use each of these tools properly, you will be able to develop a flawless drawing or sketch that will stand out and look exactly how you would like it to look, regardless of which tool you use.

When it comes to appearance, both of these tools resemble each other. They are both made out of paper and artists use them in terms of blending graphite and pastel. The main difference has to do with the paper weight and size.

The blending stumps are a lot larger in size and have points on both ends for the convenience of users. With the blending stump, you do not have to get another one when one side becomes ruined. What you can do is use the other end. The tortillions are a lot shorter and have one point at the tip. What this does is helps to create precise images.

Personally, I typically use blending stumps to blend large areas with broad strokes. I use tortillions to blend smaller, tight areas. These small areas can be blended with a blending stump as well. In many ways, deciding between a blending stump and a tortillion boils down to personal preference.

Some Tips to Blending Pencil with a Stump

If you plan on shading with pencil, you will need a blending tool such as a blending stump or even a tortillion. Below are some tips that will help you during the blending process:

  1. Whenever I use a blending stump, I usually go in side-to-side or circular motions, consistent with the pencil strokes. This allows me to keep the shading nice and controlled.
  2. I hold the blending tool in a downward direction to help adjust the pressure that I must use on it. I believe this is a great technique that will allow you to gain control of the tool and develop a wonderful image.
  3. Remember that graphite has the tendency to stick to the blending tool. Being aware of this and how you applied your tones on the paper will determine whether you should shade from light to dark or dark to light. If you’re just blending graphite, blend light to dark. If you want to use the graphite accumulated on your blending stump to add tones to some lighter areas and even draw in light details, blend dark to light.

Cleaning a Blending Stump

If you want to try to keep the life of your blending stump as long as possible, then I will provide you with some advice on how to do so. Make sure that you have all these items and follow the process carefully.

Items Needed:

  • Scissors
  • Sand paper or a nail file
  • A dirty blending stump

Steps Involved:

  1. The first step is to use the sand paper or nail file to slowly and gently rub the edge of the blending stump. This helps to remove excess lead that is present on the stump and make it clear again.
  2. After you do this, you will have a clear stump, but you will see that the edges may become frayed and loose pieces of paper may hang out from the sides. Use your scissors to cut these loose pieces off.
  3. I suggest that you clean each of the ends once or twice before you actually cut them away. By doing this, the blending stump will last longer and will make blending a lot easier on your part.

Blending Stumps Help to Create Smooth Images

Blending stumps come in handy for larger areas that need to be blended such as backgrounds, prominent facial features, skin tones and so forth. They can also be used in smaller areas that require detail. Blending stumps add a smooth appearance to the image. When you use this tool, make sure that you use it carefully and in a slow motion.

Homemade Blending Stump

If you are in need of a blending stump and do not want to purchase one, then I have included step-by-step instructions on how to easily make one.

  1. Select the type of paper that you would like to use in order to make the blending stump. Try to find paper that can be rolled easily and not cause you much of a problem.
  2. Make sure that you cut the paper down so that the total length goes from the end of your index finger knuckle to the tip. Make sure that you allow the longer side to be intact as this will provide more paper to roll and lead to a better blending stump.
  3. If you have decided to use a hard form of paper (writing paper or copy paper), make some small folds and roll it, but if you note that the paper is soft (tissue or toilet paper) just begin by rolling it.
  4. When rolling, make sure that it is done tightly. If you roll it too loose, there is a chance of the stump becoming floppy. Do not make this mistake, as you will not be able to get a grip on it.
  5. Roll the stump so that you see only one inch that is left to roll. This is the area where you will create the point.
  6. Apply glue on the inside of the inch that you left off and also on the rolled part.
  7. Use sharp scissors to cut off the end of the stump so that it is smooth.
  8. Get a pencil sharpener to sharpen the side that you have cut so that you can get it to a rough point.
  9. Your blending stump is ready to use.

When you apply these methods and techniques, you will become comfortable using a blending stump in no time. I hope you will take the methods and techniques I have taught you for how to use a blending stump and apply them in the creation of your next image. While using this tool, make sure that you take your time and do not rush into the blending process. If you work your way slowing through the process, then you will get a realistic appearing image which the viewers of your artwork will adore.

By Jack Pearce

I am the founder of Let’s Draw People. A self-taught artist, I became involved with and enchanted by drawing at a very early age. After experimenting with multiple types of media and subject matter, I discovered that my true artistic passion lies in sketching people and drawing detailed portraits in pencil. My reason for starting this site is to help other aspiring portrait artists learn how to draw people by improving their skills and rediscovering their drawing passion!

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