Practicing Creativity

A tutorial—How to blend pencil colors on a stamp without using dangerous mineral spirits—How to color and shade a stamp with one pencil

Many (if not most) of the stamp colorists I see on the internet using pencils to color their stamps are using mineral spirits to blend their colors. I'm sure quite a few would-be pencil users are put off by this process and choose not to color with pencils rather than use a dangerous solvent. This is a shame because colored pencils are an easy and affordable way to color. Potential pencil colorists are right to be concerned though; mineral spirits are dangerous. Of the most popular solvents on the market Gamsol is probably the safest, but even it has its dangers (see fact sheet here). The truth is you don't have to use a solvent at all, I don't. This tutorial will show you how.

This little card making tutorial serves two purposes:

1. To show would-be pencil colorists how to achieve a very good result with graduation in blending, color and shading with a single colored pencil (an expensive initial investment in numerous pencils is not necessary).

2. To show you do not have to use mineral spirits to blend.

For this stamp project I've used:

Wink-Wink Opal Manor free digital stamp (an easy stamp for beginners)
180g drawing paper cut to 10cm x 15cm (you need a good paper for blending)
a quality pencil sharpener
Derwent Blender pencil (a must!)
mini duster
Faber-Castell Perfect 7057 eraser pencil (the best for stamps!)
a quality permanent yellow-gold pencil
a quality permanent black pencil
a quality permanent blue pencil

Note on pencils—not all pencils are created equal. You want a quality permanent pencil with a smooth, blendable lead. A water color pencil will not work with this technique. I use Caran d'Ache Luminance 6901 pencils. They have a smooth permanent lead, excellent color fastness and bright pigments. I've used #820 Golden Bismuth Yellow, #009 Black and #162 Phthalocyanine Blue.

1. Add a sentiment if you wish to the Wink-Wink stamp and print on a 10cm x 15cm cut of drawing paper. I think this stamp looks like the sun, hence my sentiment. Drawing papers vary by the grain. If one side of your paper has a rougher grain than the other, print the stamp on the smoothest side. I use a table top easel, an old children's chalk board, and clips for coloring. It is easier to color this way and less strain on your neck. This is my set up.

2. First thing with any stamped (digital or traditional) image is to decide where your imaginary light source is coming from. I tend to like my light coming from above the stamp to the right. Pencil in a little sun to remind you where your light is.

3. Imagine if you were looking at a round object like this, and the sun were overhead in the right corner—where would your shadows be? Where would your highlights be? Take the yellow pencil and with a very light hand, with hardly any pressure on the pencil, add color to the image, leaving the top right of the 'head' white (this is where the light would be hitting).

4. Now you're going to lay in a darker layer. Imagine your shadow once again. Towards the bottom and left of the circle your shadow would be naturally darker. Applying a little more pressure this time, color slightly darker towards the bottom and left outside edge of the image. Imagine how this round image would feel in your hands if you could hold it. Think of that when coloring. Imagine you're coloring a 3D object following its shape. Put in a very narrow line of color at the top right side of the 'highlight' area.

5. What you have should look like the above.

6. Now we're going to blend using the Derwent Blender pencil. This pencil is my coloring secret weapon. Go over the entire image blending the colors and smoothing out the edges. Google the Derwent Blender pencil and you will find some great tutorials for using it.

7. The colorless blender pencil has a slightly sandy feel to it. After blending I dust off any excess.

8. Your image will look something like the above.

9. Now we're going to put in the darkest shadows. Using the yellow pencil, color in the very bottom and left edge of the image, applying more pressure on the pencil to achieve a darker color. Apply some shadow under the smile and the left 'eyebrow'. Again, imagine it's a 3D round object and that your coloring follows its shape.

10. Take the blender pencil and blend the darker and lighter areas. Use the duster to lightly brush away any 'sandiness'.

11. Sharpen the yellow pencil to a fine point, applying more pressure (but not too much, the point will break!) draw a thin darker line just inside the image's outline. If you accidentally go outside the line, this is where the Faber-Castell Perfect 7057 eraser pencil comes in handy to remove any goofs.

12. To redefine the stamp's edges and features, use a sharpened black pencil point to lightly trace the lines of the smile, wink and outside edge.

13. What you have now will look something like the above.

14. Let's color in the eye; if you're wondering what the two little white circles on the iris of the eye are, that's a handy trick by the designer to remind you to not color them. They are the reflected highlights of the eye. You should always have a point of white on the eye. Use a blue pencil with medium pressure to color in the iris.

15. . . . and here's your finished image! This shows what you can do with a single pencil color and no dangerous solvents. Admittedly, I used one pencil for the sake of this tutorial to illustrate a point—if I were doing this for myself, I would have used four pencils to color in the yellow—but this just proves that you don't have to spend a lot to achieve a pleasing result. Once you begin using pencils you can add in more colors and practice your degrees of shading.

And here's the card I made! I used Sassy Designs Sunshine digital paper pack, cardstock, twine and a sunny charm to accent my colored image. My sentiment font is LA Headlights BTN.

I'm linking up with: Through the Craft Room Door Aug. 18-24 – Anything Goes, Artistic Inspirations #138 – Anything Goes, Crafting from the Heart #73 – Anything Goes, Craft Your Passion #275 – Anything Goes, Crafty Card Makers #145 – Warm Summer Colors, Dream Valley Challenges #113 – Add a Charm, Love to Scrap #60 – Anything Goes, CCC Digi Creations #31 – Anything Goes, 613 Avenue Create #137 – Anything Goes, and The Creative Corner Link-up Party.


  1. Ahh, this takes me back to college when I took several fine art classes. I haven't touched colored pencils in a decade, but used to have fun with them. It turned out great!


  2. Gorgeous card. Thank you for playing along with our Challenge at CCC Digi Creations. We would love to see you again. Anet DT x

  3. Your card is so cute and happy! Fabulous instruction. Thank you for joining our challenge at Craft Your Passion. We hope to see you again!
    ~ Bonnie DT

  4. Love the bright sunny card and image great tips on colouring have never used pencils but great result---Thank you for joining us at CCC Digi Creations
    Carol DT x

  5. Fabulous card and a well documented tutorial. Thanks for sharing with us at Crafting from the Heart.
    Hugs, Sandy

  6. Thanks for the tutorial Shani - I have always wanted to use more pencils in my coloring - but have shied away from it due to the blending. I absolutely love the final card you made with this one... another great CAS card! Your choice of papers are spot on for this design - they take this simple image and elevate it to a very classy level in my opinion! So glad you are once again sharing your project and creativity at 613 Ave C – thank you!
    ~ginny, DT for 613 Ave C : [#137 – ATG / no Twist]
    Owner: RubberMAD (

  7. This is amazing! I'm definitely pinning this for reference. I have always used Gamsol when coloring with pencils. I will try this next time.

  8. Excellent tutorial! And the finished product is fantastic with the brilliant colors and embellishments! I would like to feature your tutorial on the 613 Avenue Create blog tomorrow if that's ok with you. Please let me know if you do not want me to feature it! Thank you!!

    613 Avenue Create Owner

  9. Great Summer card! Thanks for joining us at Crafty Cardmakers and More for our warm Summery colours challenge.


  10. Thank you for the enlightening tutorial! Your coloring and directions are fabulous.

  11. Brilliant tutorial! Thanks for the tips :o) Clare x

  12. Great Tutorial! Lovely card! Love the way your design makes the simple image pop... just perfect :)

    Thank you for joining us at LTSCB #60 Anything goes! Best of luck with your entry!
    Tammy - DT

  13. Love your colour palette, and cute image.

    Thanks for sharing in our 'add a charm' challenge

    Dream Valley

  14. Such a lovely card and thanks for sharing at LTSCB with our ATG challenge.Great tutorial
    Aunty Sue DT

  15. Anonymous6/9/15 01:38

    This is a very cute and cheery card. I love the layout. Thanks for the tutorial and Thanks for joining us at Love to Scrap.

  16. Thanks for teafching us this! The more I learn about making cards like you do, the more tempted I am to give it a go. Great tutorial!

    Anett | Tall Girl's Fashion


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