Drawing supplies; Paper blending stumps are also sometimes referred to as tortillons. These are a super handy and popular art tool made from a roll of soft compressed paper, sharpened to a point at both ends.

You will find them great to use with a variety of dry mediums, such as chalk, pastels, compressed and willow charcoal, conté crayons, graphite and soft pastels. Basically, any media you can smudge.

These nifty paper stumps let you manipulate your media in new subtle and varying ways. You will find them indispensable for free form drawing, as well as more structured and controlled styles.

This set of six paper blending stumps offers you a range of thicknesses. Different diameters allow you to work at different levels of detail.

Take the smallest diameter paper stump and you can concentrate on the duct of an eye in a portrait. Blend larger areas like hair with broader sweeps by using the large paper stump.

Paper stumps are amazing tools which can be used with a great deal of subtlety and finesse. You will find that the angle and pressure you employ, plus choice of media, plays a significant role in the results you achieve.

Try using the side of the stump rather than only the tip. Different stroke movements will also produce different qualities and textures.

Here’s some techniques to get you thinking and experimenting.

Blending. You can blend a single colour to easily create a broad range of tones. Working with two, three or more adjacent colours can produce stunning results. Blend red, yellow and orange into a mesmerising sunset. Or, lay down some rich and vibrant blues, then blend to create depth and add subtle colour gradations in a seascape illustration.

Smudging. Drag the stump across some colour areas to pull the colour from one into the other. Some small circular movements could produce the perfect pattern for some fluffy clouds or the fuzzy skin of a peach.

Blending stumps are superb at letting you make really dark and really light values.

Soft shading. If you are using something like charcoal or graphite, sometimes drawing directly onto the paper will not produce a soft enough stroke. Instead, draw a dense patch of your media on a scrap piece of paper. Pick up some of the media onto your blending stump and then use the stump to draw. If necessary remove any excess media from the stump, and use very light strokes. Beautiful soft shading can be built up this way.

Intense dark shadows. For the darkest areas of a drawing a blending stump can be used to properly work the media into the paper surface. This will eliminate the fine light dots which occur naturally due to the uneven surface texture of most papers. Thus you will create a darker, more intense shadow area.

For the best results you will need to keep the tip of your paper stumps fairly clean. This will keep your colours clear and crisp, rather than muddied and smeared looking. A piece of kneadable eraser is excellent for a quick clean-up of the stump.

When the paper stump becomes dull or too dirty from use you will know it is time to sharpen it again. This is very easy to do. Grab a stainless steel sharpener or a sanding block to create a fresh clean tip for use. A piece of sandpaper or an emery board will also work. For a nice point, it is best to sharpen with strokes only in the direction of the point.

In this way, these paper stumps can be re-used many times over.

Each paper stump is about 15cm in length. They are comfortable and simple to handle and use. And, also a good size for throwing quickly into a pencil case or art box along with your other drawing supplies. Just don’t throw them in with anything that will rub colour onto them.

Drawing supplies: Pro Hart Swagger blending stumps the finer details

6 paper blending stumps

15cm length

Various diameters