How Would I Use Colour Shapers, and Can I Make My Own?

Colour Shapers
Colour Shapers have flexible tips, and can be very effective in creating texture in paint. Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans

Question: How Would I Use Color Shapers, and Can I Make My Own?

"Please explain how I would use Color Shapers. How are they different from painting knives in terms of strokes and color application? And can I make them myself?" -- Harmeet A.

Answer:

Color Shapers come in a range of shapes and sizes, as well as differing in how flexible the tip is. They're designed for moving paint around, for blending and mixing colors, for creating texture and lines in the paint.

Unlike a brush, the marks made by a Color Shaper are solid, there's no hair or bristle texture. They're great for sgraffito!

Except for the larger or scoop-style Color Shapers, you can't pick up much paint with one as there aren't any hairs to hold the paint as with a brush. So they're not very useful for taking large quantities of paint from your palette to your painting. (Use a palette knife instead.)

Where they are useful is for creating texture in thick paint, or in thin paint that's begun to dry (so it doesn't simply spread to fill the area again). Or for blending colors or softening edges. It's a bit like using your finger except not such a blunt, rounded tool (and there's no worry about getting paint on your skin). They're also great if you hate cleaning brushes; usually, all it takes is a wipe on a damp cloth. 

The tips of a Color Shaper are manufactured to be flexible and not break, even when bent repeatedly.

You could make a similar tip by carving one from something that's flexible and won't scratch the surface of the canvas or paper, such as a white plastic eraser. I'd hold it in my hand like a short pencil, rather than trying to attach it to a handle of some kind (though if it's a long eraser, you could wedge it onto a pointed stick.) A temporary one could be even carved from a carrot, which would give you a longer "handle" than an eraser.