The tortillion (or tortillon) is a tool made of paper and used for blending your graphite and charcoal.
It's very small (looks like a paper pencil actually), very light, and very essential for blending the graphite on your drawing!
Sure, there are other ways to blend, and some are more appropropriate for larger areas of 'dark' on your paper, but for the detailed areas, there is nothing better than the tortillion.
Let's say we are drawing a portrait.....and we are just starting into a pair of eyes. The outlines are there, and we are starting to fill in the details....the pupil is going to be nice and dark for the first eye.
We have some options at this point....primarily, how we are going to create a soft, yet dark/firm 'blend' of the graphite on that pupil area. It's too small for a paper towel or even a finger tip!
However, the point of our tortillion does just the trick for this detailed blending task.....we can pinpoint the pupil in our drawing and slowly work the graphite into the paper....the perfect blend with teh perfect tool.
How about that shadowed row of soft, dark shingles on the roof of a housetop? That's right, pull out the tortillion....to the rescue.
See, the tortillion works much like a sharpened pencil point, penetrating even the most minute detail on a page to work its magic. The difference is of course, that rather than drawing on the paper, you are actually using that fine point to blend the smallest of details.
In fact there is more than one 'style' of tortillion for purchase....one version can actually be sharpened or 'sandpapered' similiar to a pencil point! Howeever, the more traditional variety is the rolled version pictured above.
With this version, as you work the tool and blend it to a dark black, coated with graphite powder, it becomes time to simply pull back the used portion of the tortillion to reveal a fresh coat of blending paper below.