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Blending with a Tortillon

Tortillons are rolled tubes of paper that are used to smudge drawings. This is a very useful skill and it adds quite a lot to your drawings. This smudging is a technique that many artists use.

Tortillons come in many different lengths and widths and you can buy them very cheap in art stores. Or you can make your own!


Tortillons (Smudge Sticks)

Picture of Tortillons

I recommend you buy or make a large selection of tortillons. They are very handy and if you work with color in your drawings you will need to be careful with them. The color and graphite is transmitted to the smudge stick so when you re-use them you stick with the same color. Another good thing about them is that all you have to do is sand them down with a little bit of sandpaper and they are cleaned off, sharpened and ready to use again.


using a smudge stick

Smudging with a Tortillon - Here is an example of how a smudge stick can add to the quality and look of your drawing. This is a closeup of the fantasy art school logo. Take a look at the body and the wing. See how the body is composed of a lot of scales? See how there are dark areas? These dark areas really add shape to the body. It makes it look round and real. The wing also has some nice smudging to show the dark areas. Also, The left side of the dragons head is darker than the right. This part of the head is slightly shadowed as if the light is coming from the right.

How to Make a tortillon (smudge stick)

How to make a tortillon 1

Take a regular piece of drawing paper. Notebook paper works too but if you have drawing paper it is better and printer paper works really well but the drawing paper is a bit thicker and more durable. Draw a line right down it about three inches from one side. Then Cut this three inch piece right off. This piece will be your tortillon. If you want a bigger or smaller tortillon then adjust this three inches anywhere between two inches and four inches.


How to make a tortillon 2

Now take your three inch piece and draw a line like this the cut along the line and discard the corner.

How to make a tortillon- Roll it up

Now starting at the pointed end roll it up into a tube. It will look something like this.


finishing the tortillon

Now push a wire coat hanger or similar object right into the middle of the rolled tube. This will push out the other end into a nice point.


finish making your tortillon

Now wrap a layer of tape around it to hold it in place and you are done.


It may take a little bit of practice to make tortillons well but they are not that hard and you will quickly make some great ones. And it is very much worth the effort because they add a really good skill to your repertoire as an artist and your drawings will improve significantly once you start smudging.

Remember: You can use your tortillon over and over and clean it and sharpen it with a little bit of sandpaper. Me, I like to keep my tortillons full of graphite this makes the smudging easier and smoother but sometimes you have to have a very clean one for delicate work.


Stumps and Tortillions Set -

  • Stumps are excellent for blending and smoothing pastels - charcoals - graphite
  • Tortillions are excellent for rapid - thin blending on pencil - charcoal - pas
  • Both can be sharpened with sandpaper block
  • 10 piece set includes six tortillions - 4 stumps in mixed sizes





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