Pastel Art Prints

Pastel Painting Tutorials

What are the Different Pastels?

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Welcome to part 3 of our 10 part Painting with Pastels Course.

In this section, we are going to talk about the different types of pastels.

'Pastels' usually refers to soft pastels, as these are the type that are most commonly used, the most useful, and the type that give pastel paintings their distinctive look.

However, there are a couple of other types to consider.

First let's consider soft pastels in more detail.

The distinctive characteristic of soft pastels is that they are made mostly of pigment, with a little 'binder' (this is the ingredient that holds the stick together) added. This makes them soft, crumbly and easy able to smudge and blend, after they have been laid down on the paper.

Hard pastels are a little different from soft pastels, as they have a ratio of pigment-to-binder that is slanted more towards the binder. This makes them harder and consequently a better option when applying fine lines on the paper.

It is quite common to use hard pastels with (rather than instead of) soft pastels. Typically, you might use hard pastels for initial sketching and layout work.

You would then switch to your soft pastels to lay in most of the artwork, particularly large areas of colour. Finally, you might switch back to hard pastels for detail work.

Unlike hard pastels, oil pastels are normally used as an alternative rather than an addition to soft pastels. They have a different kind of binder, one that is oil-based, making them soft, buttery and sensitive to heat. They are not powdery like normal pastels, which means they are less likely to smudge and are perhaps easier to control.

They can also be used on a wider variety of surfaces than normal pastels. On the other hand, they are not water-soluble, making the clean-up process more of a chore and their sensitivity to heat means they are more difficult to handle. They also require more care while being stored.

The choice between soft pastels and oil pastels is an individual one, as both have their strengths.

Hard pastels, on the other hand, are a great complement to soft pastels, and most artists using soft pastels will want a set of hard pastels to use alongside.

The best thing to do is to try both soft and oil and see which one you prefer.

Other types of pastels that we haven't covered here in detail are;

Pastel Pencils - great for fine detail work.

Water Soluble Pastels - a blend of two art forms.

Pan Pastels - a completely new twist on pastels.

In our next module, we will delve into how best to keep everything clean, which is an important part of using pastels.


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