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.
1. 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. As they become blunt, you can revive them with a sanding block. You can, of course, use these with dry media, but they also perform well with oilier materials like wax pastels and even fluid mediums like Gamsol or wet watercolor pencils. This #2 stump comes in a pack of three.
2. Jack Richeson Blending Tortillon Stomps
This option includes blending stumps only in three sizes—#2, #4, and #6—making it a great basic set to cover all your blending bases. Also made of a soft gray felt paper, these are solid stumps that hold up to many uses. Their tips resist crumbling even when used with acrylic, watercolor, or oil painting, but they are easy to sharpen with a sanding block. Richeson’s product is a close second to Pro Art’s stumps.
3. Art Alternatives Stumps and Tortillions
This option offers blending stumps and tortillons in one convenient package. You get a diverse assortment of tools: four stumps and six tortillons in different 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 is made of gray paper felt. This material is relatively soft, but that makes it ideal for blending more delicate tools, like soft pastels or soft-core colored pencils. Each tool maintains its structure well unless you are extremely heavy-handed. Sold in packs of two sets.
4. Creative Mark Medium Tortillions
Made of soft paper felt coiled into a solid spire, Creative Mark’s tortillons come in a shareable 12-pack—perfect for classrooms and workshops. Each measures 3 1/4 inches long, making them especially friendly for children to use. They are suitable for all dry media, including charcoal, pencils, and pastels, and the tips won’t burnish your paper’s surface. These stumps can be cleaned with light sanding.
5. Caran D’Ache Blending Stump
Caran d’Ache’s blending stump is pretty pricey for a tool made of paper, but these are the most dense stumps 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.