Solvent Substitutes-blending coloured pencils with oils

Since last year’s solvent search flop (zest-it) I hadn’t really pursued other options. This January I was reminded of this again, (thank you Steve for writing to me about this topic). I have heard of people using baby oil as substitute. So I gave it a first try with coconut oil.

coconut oil first try on smooth sketch paper

I just threw randomly colour on smooth sketch paper (190g/m^2-90lbs; Hahnemühle sketch paper), transferred some of the coconut oil on the back of my hand and dipped my finger in it and was able to blend with it. This seemed to work so well, so I made my own little experiment the next day, with oils and other stuff I stumbled upon.

What I used:

  • mixed Media Paper (250g/m^2-169lbs; Daler Rowney) with a rougher surface
  • safflower oil
  • coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • transparent lip balm
  • seed oil
  • baby face&body lotion
  • cotton buds (brand doesn’t matter, mine are vegan, waterneutral ones by Hydrophile)
  • coloured pencils (Polychromos, Faber-Castell)

All the oils blended pretty well, of course it will not be as potent as if you use real terpentiny solvents, but they are all safe to use, a healthier alternative and you probably will have some kind of oil for cooking already in your home and kitchen.  And you only need little of it. You can  see from the inserted pics that the smooth paper was (I think) a better option for the blending, but it depends on how you want it to look.

Here are my results (drawing on mixed Media Paper (250g/m^2-169lbs; Daler Rowney; using cotton buds for blending) :

  1. Seed Oil: blends well, you can draw on top while it is still wet and get colour down, it leaves the least residue on the paper after drying (you feel it being smoother on top of the drawing in comparison to the rest of the paper); it does soak through the paper a bit (2nd worst)

    seed oil blended (forgot to take a  before-pic)
  2. Coconut Oil: blends well, drawing on top while wet not as good (pigmented) as seed oil; dries very well-same as the seed oil; only little soak through (2nd best of all the oils)
    coconut oil unblended

    coconut oil blended
  3. Safflower Oil: blends  well, drawing on wet surface not as good as the seed oil but same level as coconut oil; hardly residue when dry; hardly soaks through the paper (best of the oils)

    blended with safflower oil
  4. Olive oil: blends well, drawing on wet surface not as good as seed oil, dries well, you can feel it slightly more on the paper than the other oils; does soak through the paper, but not a horrible amount (worst of all the oils)

    snozzleberry duckling- blended with olive oil
  5. transparent lip balm (with shea butter): not really blend-able (just smudging-glaze), you cannot draw on top, it still dries on the paper, but you feel it in comparison to the oils, definitely on the paper; scratching over it will take the balm layer of and the mark is visible on the drawing; does not soak through the paper .

    blending with lip balm -forgot to take a before shot
  6. baby face&body Lotion: not blend-able (just very light, pastel glazing possible), dries as well as the oils, stays on the paper surface and doesn’t leak through to the  paper back.

    blending with baby face&body lotion

I cannot tell you whether the oils change the lightfastness or other properties of the coloured pencils. All the dried up blended oil drawings withstood water on top of them and light water smudging. The only oil which reacted and was smudged with water and light pressure was the safflower oil. All drawings with the here used oils withstood smudging through light pressure using a single finger or doing a sweeping motion with the whole hand. With hard pressure, the drawings will be lightly smudged.

Again, in my first try I used smooth and lighter paper (Hahnemühle sketch paper), this means the oil will seep through more than using the thicker paper (Daler Rowney, mixed media paper).                                                                              Don’t store the blended oil drawings on top or in direct contact to your other drawings, the best is you put a paper sheet on top and another one underneath.                                                                            I scanned all the blended drawings (dry), and my scanner doesn’t have any oil film on its scan surface, so that is pretty good, because this was one of also one my concerns, leaving a film on the scan surface.

Maybe you want to give it a try.

I will look out for real coloured pencil blending solvents this year, but in the meantime you can give oils a chance.

read here about the Zest-It flop:







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