A great crafter knows the value of a blending stump. And if you, too, are a crafter, you understand the trickiest part of working with these tools- cleaning them. Blending stumps can be hard to clean, as they don’t always fit into a pencil sharpener and brushes can result in chunks that get everywhere.
So, how do you clean your blending stump before your next project? One of the best ways to clean your blending stump, or tortillon, is by rubbing the tip with a kneaded eraser until it is pristine again. You can also use sandpaper, which will sharpen it back to a usable point.
To keep those pesky smudges off of your kneaded erasers and to have them ready for next time, stretch them all over and then give them an old-fashioned hand-kneading treatment.
Sounds easy enough, right? But this isn’t the only way to clean your blending stump. Here, we will discuss a little more about these drawing tools and how you can take care of them.
How Do You Clean A Blending Stump?
A blending stump is a stick of tightly rolled paper that is sharpened at one end like a pencil. It is used to blend graphite and charcoal to create a seamless and ralistic shading effect.
It’s also used as an illustrative technique in comics, where the artist will smudge pencil lines with a blending stump to create grey tones and add depth and texture.
This is an incredibly useful tool that will likely get a lot of use, so it’s always a good idea to keep it clean and in working order. Sometimes it might take up a lot of time, but remember that any dirt or grime will build up over time on the tool, which could eventually stop performing as intended.
Allowing your blending stumps to get dirty can also significantly affect how long they’ll last. Have a look at the various ways you can clean them.
1. Clean it Using a Kneaded Eraser
An excellent way to clean a blending stump is by using a kneaded rubber eraser used for drawing.
This will help remove any graphite or charcoal from your blending stump if you move it in small circles until it’s all gone. Make sure you twist and rotate the stump to make sure all sides are clean.
However, it’s not enough to use a dirty kneaded eraser on your blending stump or paper and expect great things. Make sure to always knead your erasers to keep them from smudging your paper.
This is the easiest way of cleaning your blending stump. These erasers pick up graphite and charcoal more quickly than other cleaning materials.
However, if the eraser is already dirty, it would make the blending stump even messier instead of cleaning it. Also, you’ll need to be really careful while cleaning them this way since these tools are a bit delicate.
2. Clean it Using a Sandpaper
If you’ve tried using your kneaded eraser to clean your blending stump and it isn’t working, grab the sandpaper. Gently sanding the tip of your blending stump will not only clean it but also help sharpen it after all that shading.
If you want a faster approach with more intensity, use a knife to carefully carve away the dirty paper from both sides of the pointy end. There are some blending stump kits that come with sandpaper boards for this purpose.
Sometimes, sandpaper might irregularly scratch the surface, removing the layers of the stump. Moreover, it is recommended that you use coarse grit sandpaper very gently, or use fine-grit sandpaper, as coarser grains might ruin the stumps.
Everything aside, it’s important to make sure that your efforts are not going to waste. In other words, if the stump is too dirty to be cleaned, or has damaged its tip, there is no point cleaning it; it’s time to get a new one.
How To Sharpen a Blending Stump With Sandpaper
In order to sharpen a blending stump, you must first find sandpaper that will abrade the surface slowly, gently, and cleanly. Begin by gently using coarse grit sandpaper (#60) and then continually switch to progressively finer grits until reaching #220 (coarse sandpaper).
Furthermore, for a sharper and more durable edge, make a dent in the very tip with your fingernail. Then, place the tip down it on a piece of leather or heavy cloth such as denim and use your index finger to push down until you feel resistance.
You want to create a folded tip but you don’t want to push hard enough to damage it or make it blunt again. Rotate the blending stump and push down on all sides to create an even tip.
What Are The Other Methods Of Sharpening A Blending Stump?
There are several ways to sharpen these valuable drawing tools, such as rubbing them on wood or stone, using the carbide blade of a craft knife, or sanding sticks.
We’ve discussed how to sharpen a blending stump using sandpaper above. If this isn’t available, though, we recommend trying to scrape off some extra adhesive on either side where they meet before rubbing rough material across it like stone or brick.
In addition, scraping with a knife is another efficient way to sharpen your pencil. It will make it much easier for you to get more pressure on paper when drawing. The same technique applies to cleaning off dirt from stumps as well.
However, sometimes, this technique might get the job done but make for an inconsistent point. So, instead of risking that, you’ll end up frustrated and irritated by having such a blunt tip on your writing instrument. Therefore, use it wisely.
If you’re looking for an extended sharpening session where you want a gentle touch-up along your lines as well as an even beveled edge from tip to base, then we recommend using something like Japanese whetstones.
Lastly, you can also turn your old credit card to scrape it off. But make sure that you are gentle with these since they damage the whole outer layer if scraped with too much pressure.
How To Use a Blending Stump?
There are a lot of methods on how a blending stump can be used. Here are the best ways to make use of your newly cleaned and sharpened blending stump:
1. For Smudging
The paper tip of the blending stump is perfect for absorbing and releasing graphite and charcoal to spread it around your page. This action destroys the harsh lines created by using a pencil, effectively making messy drawings and crosshatching look neater.
Furthermore, using it in circular motions can help you create different patterns like shrubs and trees.
2. For Shading
A blending stump works best for shading when the surface is uneven and unpolished. Tools like this are perfect for applying gentle to dark values on flat surfaces to create depth. They can also be used to pick up pigment and add shadows. This is what most people associate with using a blending stump.
3. For Blending
Blending stumps are a fantastic and inexpensive alternative to using your fingertips or a napkin. Blending is used to create gradations from light to dark colors so that there aren’t any harsh lines in your drawing.
Just push the graphite on the drawing back and forth until you see the tones blending. Initially, it is advised to do so with low pressure. It might take some time, but you will end up with a neater finish.
4. Light And Dark Values
If you use a clean blending stump, you will get light value strokes in the drawing. However, you will be required to sand the stump from time to time for a clearer picture.
However, if you use a stump already loaded with graphite or charcoal, you can create darker smudges and build them up for dark shadows.
You can blend light and dark values by using light strokes in the same direction between values to blend them into each other. For this part, we recommend a freshly cleaned stump or lightly dirty stump. On top of that, you don’t have to use nearly as much force as other tools would require for such delicate work.
For you visual learners out there, here’s a tutorial on using blending stumps from Agam Johar on YouTube.
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