This is a picture of the two types of pencils that are out there right now. I have to apologize, one for the photo (I took it with my phone) and two, my rudimentary Photoshop skills. :) But this shows relatively well what I look for when I am getting a colorless blender pencil - I'm looking for the one that is more of a tan translucent.
I was able to speak with Sanford (Prismacolor's parent company) last week. What great follow up they have! I called their 800#, sounding pretty much like a rubber stamper with no formal artistic training (hmm, wonder why?), and they took my questions seriously, forwarded it on to the correct person who called me back a few days later. She and I spoke for a little while regarding the two shades of colorless blender (which she was aware of) and their different capabilities (which she was not aware of). Essentially, the conversation ended with both of us agreeing to spend a bit more time with it to determine it a bit better. She did say, however, that she was not aware of any formulation changes and that the manufacturer was still the same (two questions I asked that seemed to be logical reasons behind the difference). I will keep you up-to-date if I hear back from her.
OK, knitty gritty: when I go to color an image, (like most of you, I expect) I pick the color that I want it to be. My next step may be a bit different, though, because I then determine three shades of that color, going from light to medium to 'dark'. For this example, I want to start by using pink and brown (step 1). For the pink, I want to then use seashell pink (light), blush pink (medium) and magenta (dark) - this is my Step 2. If I'm using a combination of colors that I haven't used before, I like to take a piece of scrap paper, or the back of the paper I'm using for my image, and play to see how they're going to react together.
When I use my blender pencil, I do use a fair amount of pressure. I start on the edge of my darker color and go in small circles, allowing the darker color to come into the lighter a bit. Since you're not using any liquid, this is a much different process than with watercolor pencils or Copic markers, and you will notice it right away. Truthfully, at the beginning, it may even seem more laborious. Once you get the hang of it, though, it isn't and due to that lack of liquid, I think you have more control. (I'm a recovering control freak - it's a constant battle, lol.)
Now you want to clean off your pencil tip. How? Simple, scribble off the color that you've picked up on the corner of your paper. This is really important in using this correctly.
Now, my Step 2 with the brown. I chose Ginger Root (light), Light Umber (medium), and Terra Cotta (dark). Again, take the time to determine how they're going to look together. Here you can also see that I see how a color looks by itself with the blender pencil, as well. I used the same circular motion, going from dark into light.
So far I've just shown you some not-so-fancy scribbling, and you're probably wondering how this really transfers to stamping, right? I knew that I wanted to show you an image that had a large area to color, as well as a small one so you could see how to apply this to both, so I chose the Teapot image from Lockhart Stamp Company. Here's how I colored it before the application of the blender pencil:
And using the technique I outlined above, here is what it looks like with the blender pencil:
Isn't that a wonderful difference? You get such great highlights and shadows - and remarkable control. The key here is to PLAY - experiment, see what you get when you use different colors, different pressures, different papers (I used Papertrey Ink's Stamper's Select on these examples). These steps are what work for me, and as you use them more, you will likely make your own discoveries (which I hope you will share with me!). Just remember, it's just paper and pencils, so don't be afraid to try different things. It's costing you pennies and time, so don't be afraid to spend a little extra to get a great look.
I hope this has been helpful for you! I would love if you wanted to link back your results. Be well.