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Keep those fingers clean: Pick up a tortillon or a blending stump to blend, soften, and smudge your creative marks. Made of paper that is compacted and shaped into a pencil-like design, these handheld implements look similar but are used for different effects, most commonly with dry media such as charcoal, graphite, and pastel. A tortillon is hollow, features one pointed end, and is shorter, lighter, and less smooth than a blending stump; it is ideal for applications requiring precision, and it can create interesting textures. A blending stump is a solid tool that’s pointed at both ends and ideal for smooth blending; it can be cleaned and sharpened with sandpaper. Blending stumps usually have a number on them indicating their thickness, with #1 being the slimmest and #8 the chunkiest. Explore the characteristics of both with our favorite products, below.
Pro Art Blending Paper Stumps
Perhaps it’s the paper type or a particular manufacturing technique, but for some reason, blending stumps from Taiwan are considered by many artists to be the best around. These are constructed of gray felt paper that is soft but tightly wound to create a dense and firm stump. The tips remain sharp and resist bending even with a decent amount of pressure. You can, of course, use these with dry media, but they also perform well with oilier materials like hard pastels and even a fluid medium like Gamsol or wet watercolor pencils. They are sold in a medium size (in packs of three) or a large size (in two-packs)
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Jack Richeson Blending Tortillon Stumps, Package of 5
This option provides blending stumps in five sizes, making it a great basic set to cover most needs. Also made of a soft gray felt paper, these are solid stumps that stand up to many uses. Their tips resist crumbling even when used with acrylic, watercolor, or oil paint, but they are easy to sharpen with a sanding block. Richeson’s product is a close second to Pro Art’s stump
ANOTHER GOOD CHOICE
Artist’s Loft Blending Stumps & Tortillons
This option offers blending stumps and tortillons in one convenient package. You get a diverse assortment of tools: four stumps in four sizes and six tortillons in three sizes. The variety means you’ll be able to blend out larger areas. The stumps have very smooth tips to prevent scratchiness on the paper, and each tool maintains its structure well unless you are extremely heavy-handed.
Creative Mark Jumbo Rice Paper Blending Stump
Looking for a jumbo stump? Creative Mark makes a one-inch-wide stump that’s ideal for blending large areas. Made of soft rice paper coiled into a solid spire and suitable for all dry media, this stump won’t burnish your paper’s surface. It can be cleaned by sanding it lightly.
TOP OF THE LINE
Caran d’Ache Blending Stump
Caran d’Ache’s blending stump is pretty pricey for a handheld tool made of paper, but these little tools are the most dense on the market and will last you a very long time. Their tips are well rounded to form a very smooth point of contact for precise and consistent blending, and they retain their shape for quite a while. When the tips do need refreshing, you can do it with sandpaper or simply use a regular pencil sharpener. In other words, this is a stump you can keep returning to while spending little time on maintenance.