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Pastels Pastels
Hard and Semi Hard Pastels Hard and Semi Hard Pastels
Oil Pastels Oil Pastels
PanPastels PanPastels
Pastel Papers Pastel Papers
Pastel Pencils Pastel Pencils
Soft Pastels Soft Pastels
Water Soluble Pastels and Crayons Water Soluble Pastels and Crayons

Pastel sticks or crayons consist of pure powdered pigment combined with an inert binder. They are easy to use as compared to paint. Pastels are valued for their long lasting beauty because they do not degrade over time as they contain no liquid binder

A great media for artists who wish to use intense color as they can be used to achieve a wide range of drawing effects, from crisp lines to soft feathery textures. Pastels offer brilliant colors and high pigmentation and are mixable, wipe-able, and water soluble. As there is no drying time, they make it easy to be spontaneous.

Pastel paintings, being made with a medium that has the highest pigment concentration of all, reflect light without darkening refraction, allowing for very saturated colors. 

When fully covered with pastel, the work is called a pastel painting; when not, it is considered as a pastel sketch or drawing. 


Pastel Types
Dry Pastels: These are available in varying degrees of hardness, the softer varieties being wrapped in paper. They have historically used binders such as gum arabic, gum tragacanth. Methyl cellulose was introduced as a binder in the twentieth century.  Most brands produce gradations of a color, the original pigment of which tends to be dark, from pure pigment to near-white by mixing in differing quantities of chalk. This mixing of pigments with chalks is the origin of the word "pastel" in reference to "pale color" as it is commonly used in cosmetic and fashion venues.

Dry pastel media can be further subdivided as follows:

  • Soft Pastels: This is the most widely used form of pastel. The sticks have a higher portion of pigment and less binder, resulting in brighter colors with a velvety texture or “bloom.”. The drawing can be readily smudged and blended, but it also results in a higher proportion of dust which can be a problem for some people. They can easily be blended or smudged with a finger or soft tool.  However the same softness also makes them prone to be accidentally smudged, therefore its a good idea to use a spray fixative once you complete your work. They are also more delicate and can break easily.
  • Hard Pastels: These have a higher portion of binder and less pigment, producing a sharp drawing material that is useful for fine details, but the colors are not as vivid.. These can be used with other pastels for drawing outlines and adding accents.  They are good for making crisp lines and details as they can be sharpened to a point. Hard pastels are recommended for preliminary sketching.
  • Pastel Pencils: These are pencils with a pastel lead. They are useful for adding fine details.

Oil Pastels: Oil pastels are more permanent and offer intense pigments. While Hard and Soft Pastels could be described as "chalky", Oil Pastels have a "buttery" or crayon like consistency.   However, they are slightly more difficult to blend than soft pastels, but do not require a fixative.. They do not rub off as much and do not pose any health risk in terms of breathing dust.

Water-soluble Pastels: These are similar to soft pastels, but contain a water-soluble component, such as glycol. This allows the colors to be thinned out using a water wash.


Pastel Supports
Pastel supports need to feature a "tooth" for the pastel to adhere and hold the pigment in place. Such as...
  • laid paper (e.g. Ingres; Canson Mi-Teintes)
  • abrasive supports (e.g. with a surface of finely ground pumice or marble dust)


Protection of Pastel Artworks
Given appropriate consideration to archival, Pastels can be used to produce a very permanent form of art. This means...
  • Pastels use only lightfast pigments. Pastels which have used pigments which change color or tone when exposed to light have suffered the same problems as can be seen in some oil paintings using the same pigment.
  • Works are done on an acid free archival quality support. Historically some works have been executed on supports which are now extremely fragile and the support rather than the pigment needs to be protected under glass and away from light.
  • Works are properly mounted and framed under glass in a way which means that the glass does not touch the artwork. This avoids the deterioration which is associated with environmental hazards such as air quality, humidity, mildew problems associated with condensation and smudging.


  • Fixatives: Some artists protect their finished pieces by spraying them with a fixative. Abrasive supports avoid or minimize the need to apply fixative. A pastel fixative is an aerosol varnish which can be used to help stabilize the small charcoal or pastel particles on a painting or drawing. However, fixative will dull and darken pastels beautiful colors. It is also toxic, therefore it requires careful use. It cannot prevent smearing entirely without dulling and darkening the beautiful colors of pastels. For this reason, some pastel artists avoid its use except in cases where the pastel has been overworked so much that the surface will no longer hold any more pastel, The fixative will restore the "tooth" and more pastel can be applied on top. It is the tooth of the painting surface that holds the pastels not a fixative. Pastels must be framed under glass to prevent damage.


  • Glassine (paper) is used by artists to protect artwork which is being stored or transported.


Artist Grade V/s Student Grade
The main difference between Artist Grade and Student Grade is the amount and quality of pigments, as well as the proportion and grade of binders, fillers, or clay. Artist grade pastels have much more vivid colors, and offer a broader range shades and hues whereas Student grade pastels make a fine low-investment way to experiment with pastels



The simplest way to clean pastels is to wipe each stick individually with a paper tissue.


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