using Graphite

AUG 10/The Wanderlust Collective/

Art, Art Class, Drawing, Instruction, Tips

Blending with T.P. 

There are a number of ways to blend with graphite. 


First I want to briefly go over tools you can use to blend with.


There are many things you can use to blend with. I love using toilet paper, brushes, stumps, cotton balls, and Q-tips. These all work pretty well in helping me achieve a smooth texture.


Stumps and Tortillions


These are used for blending graphite, charcoals, even pastels. Stumps are generally double-ended, larger than the finer single ended tortillons. Both have their individual uses.



These are probably the easiest tools to get since I believe most everyone has them in their homes. They are perfect for getting into small detail spaces, and can give you a nice smooth finish.



I’ve purchased quite a few brushes through the years for blending graphite. I found that using makeup brushes is just as good, and inexpensive. I have a large one to clean off excess graphite, one to blend with. You can also use painting brushes.

Toilet Paper


I have been using toilet paper for years, and I love the smooth finish I get with them. I simply grab a piece, wrap it around my finger and blend. I love the smooth haze effect I can get using tp. Just make sure it has no lotions in it.his will ruin your drawings.

Cotton balls


Use these for blending large areas, and you get a great smooth finish.

How you apply the graphite is key. I always instruct my students to shade in one direction using swift light strokes. 



Never blend using your hand. What happens when you blend or even touch your drawing with your hand is the natural oils rub off on your paper. The oils on your skin will cause graphite to stick to your paper in irregular patches.



There are a wide range of grades available from soft to hard. 6B, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, HB, F, H, 2H, 4H, and 3H.



The softest pencil I always like to use is 2B and 6B for the darkest darks. The hardest graphite I use is 2H. Most of my drawings are done with just 4 pencils. I like to use F, HB, 2B and 6B to achieve realistic drawings. This is all preference, you really have to practice with your pencils to find what fits you and your style.




I’ve always instructed my students to go in one direction when shading in with graphite. I purposely hold the pencil from the end, using my wrist to blend. This controls the pressure I use on the paper. Maintain consistent pressure for each individual stroke. 


If you are shading into a light area, it helps to reduce the amount of pressure at the end of the stroke so you get a nice gradient instead of a sudden change of value. 


Before blending make sure your strokes are tight, the shading looks even and there aren’t any white areas showing through.


Closer Strokes


To get smoother shades, you’ll want to use thicker strokes which are closer together. Move you hand up on the pencil away from the tip. The more you angle the side of your lead toward the paper, the thicker your strokes will get. This is good! These strokes can be easy to blend.


Don’t hold your pencil as if you are going to write. The lines are more difficult to blend and it will take more time to keep your strokes tight. If you draw this way it will look very scratchy.



Consider what paper you use. The more texture is on the paper the more white dots will show on your drawing. It will look very grainy. You can get rid of the white that’s showing from the paper by using layers of graphite. You can also use a sharp pencil to fill in those large spots to soften the texture of your shading.

“Remember, practice makes perfect.”

It takes some time to practice blending on a piece of paper. Use different grades, knowing your pencils is important. Take into account how you hold your pencil, and try using your wrist to move the pencil instead of your hand.


Most of all, don't give up and keep trying and learning from both your successes AND your mistakes. Just keep drawing!



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