Tortillons, Blending Stumps, & Gamsol--What Is All of This?

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Article Courtesy by Patter Cross


Tortillons, blending stumps, gamsol?  What are these?  You may have seen or heard the words but what exactly are they and what do they do?  This article will show you what the fun is all about.

Tortillons vs. Blending Stumps

Tortillons and blending stumps are both made of tightly wound pieces of grey paper.  They are used by artists and paper crafters alike to blend, shade, and smooth colored pencils when coloring in an image.  The difference between the two is that tortillons are hollow in the middle and blending stumps have a solid paper core.  Both come in various sizes.  Some people prefer ones made in Taiwan over those made in China. My understanding is that the ones made in Taiwan are made of softer paper so you can move around the color much more easily.  I personally have only used stumps made in China, and they work fine for me.

Now why would you choose the hollow tortillon over the blending stump or vice versa?  I think most paper crafters prefer the blending stumps because they are solid.  The tips hold up much better.  Tortillons tend to soak up way too much of the blending liquid (discussed below) and get too soft.  Tortillons are also pointed only at one end while blending stumps have points at both ends.


Using Tortillons and Blending Stumps

To use them, you will also need a blending liquid like baby oil, Gamsol (odorless mineral spirits) or Goo Gone.  Mona Lisa's odorless brush cleaner will also work in the same way as odorless mineral spirits.

I personally use Goo Gone.  I have a make-up sponge that has been soaked in Goo Gone, and I store it in a baby food jar.  You can also use a sponge or felt in the bottom of your jar.  Some use a plastic dauber bottle filled with the blending liquid.  Note that Goo Gone can evaporate pretty quickly so some people do not like to use Goo Gone for blending.

Cleaning Your Tortillons and Blending Stumps

The best and easiest way to clean them is to use an emery board or sandpaper to file off the color.  If you hear a squeaky sound when trying to blend colors, it usually means that you need to clean your stump.  It will not move the color around if it hasn't been well cleaned.

Where to Find Them

Most of your local craft stores will have tortillons, blending stumps, and Gamsol.  And of course, you can purchase baby oil at any grocery or drug store.


Here is a sample of an image I colored.

First, stamp your image in a dye-based ink or a non-smearing ink.  I used Memento ink here.


Color your image with your colored pencils.  I personally use Prismacolor Colored Pencils.  For a richer color, you can use two different colors as I have for each cupcake.


Dampen the tip of your stump by putting it into the soaked sponge.  If your stump is too wet, tap it onto some scratch paper. Rewet your stump as needed.


Below you can look at the frosting and see the difference between just coloring your image and blending your image.  You can see how streaky the frosting looks on the left; however, on the right it looks much smoother after blending with Goo Gone.


And here is the finished product:


In person you can really see a huge difference in an image that has been blended and an image that has not.  It really gives your work a beautiful look.

I hope this article has helped you learn a new and fun technique.  If you love coloring, you will love giving this a try.  Happy coloring!


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