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  • Writer's pictureBel Mills

Most Overlooked Bookbinding Tools Part 3

Welcome back, bookmaker!

If you are new to this series on tools, I would recommend starting HERE, at the beginning, to better understand basic bookbinding tools, and how the tools in this series are different.

Now let's get on with our overlooked tools!


Wait, a blending brush?

I know, I know. You will NEVER find this tool on any standard bookbinding tool list.

But that's exactly why I'm talking about it! Otherwise, how would you know?

The blending brush is among the tools I value most as an upcycled bookbinder. It is singularly sensational at elevating ordinary paper and making it shine.

Essentially, you use a blender brush to push ink through a stencil. You lightly brush the ink pad with the brush to collect the ink, then you lightly brush the ink over the stencil and onto your paper.

Obviously, you can use make-up sponges or stencil brushes for this purpose, which is what I used to do. But since discovering this tool, I won't go back.

That's because the blending brush bristles work magic. They are so very fine that your stenciled images come out super high resolution. For me, it was like going from an old, tube television to a 5k flat screen.

Suddenly, my stenciling looked professionally printed. I know that, maybe, as an artist I shouldn't get such a thrill from producing something that looks like it could have been made by a machine, but I couldn't help it. I was thrilled.

That being said, not everyone will embrace blender brushes as a spectacular addition to their tool kit. Only a subset of artists will try them out and feel like they're waving a magic wand.

If your work is guided by a "get messy" approach--and you are all about splashing & splattering, this tool might not be for you. The blender brush is all about: Sharp. Clean. Lines. Ombre? Why, yes. Splashy/ Splotchy / Smeary? Well, sorry, no.

Let's have a look, shall we?

In the photo below, I used the blending brush to embellish ordinary drawing paper that I used to cover a small book. First, I applied the fine red lines with a rubber stamp. Then, I added the blue pattern with a blending brush, ink and stencil. Notice how the blue pattern has variations resembling watercolor but absolutely sharp, crisp edges. Divine!

In the book below, I started again with the red lines and then blender-brushed the alphabet on top. Again, there are variations in the blue ink, but clean edges. The look is distressed but without mess.

Another fun use for this technique is embellishing patterned scrapbook paper. The paper below started as simple red dots on a white ground. I added the mustard crackle with a stamp wheel but the script was applied with red ink, blender brush, and stencil.

You might think the result is ridiculously busy, but I thought embellished scrapbook papers looked pretty sharp as covers for my tiny origami stamp collections, below. All the script you see on the papers was applied with blender brush and stencil.

I used this technique to create background patterns on the little envelopes in this hinge accordion....

Blending brushes also applied the air mail stripes and "addresses" to the Kraft-tex cover of this Air Mail Journal. Are you starting to see the potential? The versatility?

So have I eliminated make-up sponges or stenciling brushes from my tool kit? Heck no! They're still wonderful for stenciling with acrylic paint. But when I'm using ink, and I want to get neat, sharp patterns from my stencils, blender brushes are my best friend.

So those are the Big Three Tools--Corner Rounder, Crop-a-dile, Blender brush--that help me upgrade ordinary paper and make it shine. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few other tools that I feel grateful for EVERY time I use them.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of this series where I'll talk all about the sharpest tool in my studio!

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