Smudging: The Emotional Art Technique

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smudging technique - smudging with pencils is an easy art technique

What the what am I talking about? The emotional art technique? Before you start flipping me off and throwing tomatoes at the screen for being melodramatic, hear me out:

When you draw with pencil, it can be lovely and soft, what with the romantic grey color and all. It’s not harsh like marker or pen; it’s a little slower- plus you can erase it so it’s not as intimidating to use as other mediums.

Are you starting to realize the emotional nature of pencils? Good. So then what happens when you take your finger and start smudging pencil around the page?



Smudging gives pencil and even softer quality, it jettisons your drawing right into dream territory, where everything seems as if it is being viewed just beyond the realm of consciousness. Okay, feel free to throw tomatoes at me now. In all seriousness, I have used smudging as a drawing technique since high school, and it was my absolute favorite thing to do back then.

smudging technique - smudging with pencils is an easy art technique

I haven’t smudged in a while, mainly because I haven’t been using much pencil lately, so let’s play around with smudging.

You can use your finger, or you can use a smudge stick (tortillon). I much prefer to use my finger, because the sensation of rubbing a smudge stick across paper makes me want to hurl. Your skin also lets out a tiny amount of oil as you are smudging with it, and I’m convinced there’s a difference in how this looks on paper as opposed to the smudge stick.

smudging technique - smudging with pencils is an easy art technique


Two things:

When you smudge pencil with your fingers, they will get dirty and they will ache a little. But remember, no pain no gain. You suffer for your art, or die a lonely death under a bridge somewhere wishing you had been brave enough to finger-smudge.

Want to see what I mean, anyway, about the emotional difference in pre vs. post-smudging? This totally harsh geometric drawing can be softened up dramatically with a bit of smudging. Isn’t that cool?

smudging technique - smudging with pencils is an easy art technique

Are you crying yet? There, there, my weepy little artist friend. Go smudge something, post it on Instagram, and tag me.

Check out my cross hatching technique post and the wonderful world of pointillism here.


  1. 11/01/2015 / 7:57 am

    Makes me want to run off for pencil and paper. You post inspire me. Thanks?

    • 11/01/2015 / 1:14 pm

      Smudge away! I’m glad they inspire you, and thanks so much for your comments- 🙂

  2. 11/01/2015 / 4:32 pm

    Hmm… I just bought my daughter a pile of of those torchon smudge sticks because they sell them crazy cheap at Walmart. Rethinking that…

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