Pastels are sticks of pure pigment held together with glue or binding. Assess different grades of pigments by the purity of the pigments that they are made of. There are also different degrees of pastel hardness. Hard pastels are able to be shaped and sharpened to achieve more exact lines but are made with less pigment than soft pastels. Regardless of the type of pastel you choose to work with, there are a few basic techniques to keep in mind as you explore the medium.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Create a colored background when beginning a pastel painting. Crush the pastel into a powdered form and mix with water. Apply with a large brush used for washes or apply to the surface with a cloth. Cloth application tends to yield a very even background wash.
Hold your pastel stick like you hold a pencil. Experiment with line and pressure. The amount of pressure you apply affects the depth and the boldness of color. Experiment with different types of paper and different application techniques such as hatching, smudging, blending and dabbing.
Experiment with layering. Layering is one of the most important elements in any pastel drawing. Each layer adds to the over all richness of the piece. Apply a fixative to the finished layer in order to prevent the pigment from falling off the paper and or to provide a foundation for the next layer. Apply fixative sparingly. Applying too much darkens the pigment. Paper with a significantly textured surface allows you to use the least amount of fixative with the best results.
Achieve distance and depth in a pastel painting by applying the "soft edge" or "hard edge" techniques to your work. Soften and blur the edges of distant objects by blending. Outline objects in the foreground or those closer to the front of the image with distinct edges to give them a hard line.
Use tissues, brushes and your fingers to investigate different blending techniques. It is easy to forget that some of the same color techniques used in acrylic or watercolor painting are also applied to drawing with pastels. Blending allows you to achieve a limitless array of color and shading options on the paper.