8 Solvents for Beautiful Blended Coloring Results
Make blending your adult coloring pages faster and easier with these special tools.
By Thea Voutiritsas
From gentle gradients to loud and proud rainbows, beautiful blending can truly bring your adult coloring pages to the next level. It’s not always easy to create smooth transitions between colors, but there’s a surprisingly simple group of tools you can use to help: solvents. Solvents are liquids that can dissolve the resins, oils, waxes, and fats that often make up coloring tools (like colored pencil wax, marker ink, and paint). These properties make solvents great for creating smooth blends between colors and erasing small mistakes.
When it comes to coloring with solvents, you’ll want to make sure you’re using the right solvent and paper for your tools. Since solvents are usually liquids, we recommend using a sturdy paper like 60-pound or heavier cardstock or multimedia paper, both of which should be able to withstand some moisture. For the solvents themselves, it’s best to try and match the chemical makeup of the solvent with your coloring tools. For example, if you’re coloring with water-based markers or watercolors, you’ll want to use water or a water-based solvent to blend. The same goes for alcohol-based and wax- and oil-based products.
The Best Solvents for Adult Coloring Pages
Good For: Gel Pens, Water-based Markers, Water-based paints
Water makes the top of our list because it’s cheap (or free!), ubiquitous, and works for a variety of tools. Often called the “universal solvent,” water is great for blending gel pens, water-based markers, and any kind of water-based paint. We recommend using a paintbrush to apply the water on top of your gel pen or marker ink to gently blend it out. You can use a large paintbrush and more water to create an organic, watercolor look or a smaller paintbrush and less water for more precise blending.
2. Baby Oil
Good for: Colored pencils, gel pens
For oil- and wax-based products (liked pastels and colored pencils) baby oil is an affordable and easy-to-find solvent. However, it can be a bit more difficult to apply. You can use a paintbrush, cotton swab, or dip your tools directly into baby oil—just be sure to dab them off on a paper towel first to avoid over applying the oil and creating a greasy blob.
3. Petroleum Jelly
Good for: Colored pencils, gel pens
Petroleum jelly is a great spill-proof, odor-free option for blending colored pencils and gel pens, but it’s best applied sparingly. Much like baby oil, it can leave an oily look if it’s over applied. Use a stiff paintbrush or cotton swab to work the petroleum jelly in on top of your colors and blend them out.
Good for: Colored pencils
Gamsol is an odorless, clear mineral spirit. Much like baby oil, it can be applied with a paintbrush, cotton swab, or by directly dipping your colored pencils. We recommend pouring the Gamsol into a jar with a few cotton buds inside for a sealable, spill-proof container. The good news? It’s a bit easier to work with than baby oil. The bad news? It’s a tad more expensive and you may have to go to a craft store to find it.
5. Eco-House Xtra Mild Citrus Cleaner
Good for: Colored pencils, oil pastels
Eco-House Xtra Mild Citrus Cleaner is a popular solvent for eco-friendly painters. It’s often used as a mild brush cleaner but is also great for blending colored pencils and oil pastels. Plus, the light citrus scent is delightful compared to most paint thinners. You can usually find it at an art supply store or online.
Good for: Gel pens, colored pencils
Glycerin (AKA vegetable glycerin) is a great tool for blending gel pens. Glycerin can be found at most craft stores, but sometimes appears in the beauty aisle at pharmacies as well. There are two main ways to use glycerin to blend gel pens: You can apply it on top of your ink with a paintbrush to blend colors together, or use it underneath to make blending easier as you color. For more specific instructions, check out our video on blending gel pens with glycerin. Glycerin can also be used with colored pencils. Much like Gamsol, you can use it on top of your coloring to blend it out or dip colored pencils directly into the glycerin.
7. Rubbing Alcohol
Good for: Alcohol-based markers
Rubbing alcohol is great for blending Sharpies, but you have to work quickly because both the Sharpie ink and alcohol dry ultra fast. If you plan to use alcohol to blend sharpies, it’s best to color on a separate piece of plastic then use an alcohol-dipped paintbrush to pick up the color and apply it to your coloring page. But it also works surprisingly well on top of sharpie for correcting small mistakes. Just dab the blemish with a cotton swab until the color lifts away!
8. Nail polish remover
Good for: Alcohol-based markers, colored pencils
Nail polish remover works surprisingly well for blending sharpies and colored pencils. The only down side? It has a pretty strong odor. It’s great if you’re in a pinch and have some lying around, plus it dries relatively fast so you can build up layers quickly if you like. Just be sure to pop open a window if you’re going to work with it for a while!
Head spinning from all the solvent options (or maybe the fumes)? If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend either colored pencils and petroleum jelly or water and water-based markers. Colored pencils and petroleum jelly are spill-proof, easy to control, and give you plenty of options for experimenting. If you’re looking for a more painterly effect, water and markers are an affordable place to start experimenting. Once you’re comfortable, try experimenting with some of the other solvents to see all the different results you can achieve! With a little practice and the right paper, solvents can make the blending process surprisingly smooth and incredibly fun.