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How to Make an Artist's Smudge Stick

Enhance your pencil drawings by using a smudge stick.
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Smudging is a common technique used by artists to enhance drawings done with pencil or charcoal. This method adds depth, texture and shading. An artist's smudge stick or tortillon is a piece of tightly rolled paper. These can be purchased from an art supply store or made at home using a piece of thick drawing paper. After some use, a tortillon is cleaned and sharpened by rubbing it against a rough surface such as a piece of fine sandpaper.

Things You'll Need:

  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Drawing Paper
  • Sandpaper (Optional)
  • Tape

Place a piece of thick drawing paper horizontally on a table in front of you.

Measure 1 inch down from the top left corner and draw a small dot to mark the place.

Measure 1 inch up from the bottom right corner and draw a small dot to mark the place.

Draw a straight line from one dot to the other. This line will go diagonally across the paper, not quite corner to corner. Cut along the line, so you end up with two pieces of paper that are the same size and shape. Each one of these can be made into a tortillon.

Roll one of the pieces into a tube-like cylinder as tightly as you can, starting at the narrow end. Keep the paper facing in the same direction, with the flat end facing downward.

Hold the roll and press a thick needle or wire hanger through the bottom of the roll. Press the object firmly through the roll to create a pencil-point shape at the other end.

Apply a few pieces of tape to keep the tortillon rolled tightly. Remove the needle or wire hanger you used to push out the point.


Making your own smudge stick is cheaper than buying one in an art store and also saves you the trip.

The thicker your smudge stick, the greater the surface area you can smudge with each stroke.

Different types of paper can be used to make your smudge stick depending on the feel and texture you are looking for. Try using hot pressed, laid, wove, watercolor, rough-grained and craft papers to see which one you prefer.

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