How to Draw With Soft Pastels

Written by laura myers
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How to Draw With Soft Pastels
Blend soft pastels together to create new colours. (George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Soft pastels, with their multitude of available colours and smooth, chalky texture, are popular with novice and experienced artists alike. Soft pastels were used by notable artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas and Pablo Picasso. They are versatile, working well for colour blending. Drawing with soft pastels can be a rewarding process. Get the most from this medium by following a few simple steps.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Paper
  • Drawing pencil
  • Paper stump
  • Small knife
  • Soft pastels
  • Dark pencil
  • Fixative spray

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  1. 1

    Choose your paper. Ideally, paper for soft pastel work should have a somewhat rough texture. This "tooth" will enable the pastels to adhere to the paper. You can purchase paper that is specifically manufactured for pastels. Watercolour paper also works quite well.

  2. 2

    Make a sketch on your paper with a drawing pencil. Apply a light touch; the pencil should not show when your pastel work is complete.

  3. 3

    Shave flakes of the pastels directly on your paper to create your background. Use the small knife for shaving. Blend the flakes either with a paper stump or your finger. Blend several colours together for depth.

  4. 4

    Apply pastel colours over your light pencil sketch, starting with the darkest colours. When using soft pastels, to avoid producing cloudy-looking colours, always work from dark to light. Mix and blend the pastels into the paper with the paper stump or your fingers. By blending the pastels, you will be able to create an unlimited number of colours. Try putting one colour on top of another for a vivid appearance. Place them next to each other and smudge them for a softer look.

  5. 5

    Outline the parts of your work that you want to accentuate. Do this with a dark pencil. These finishing touches will complete your picture.

  6. 6

    Protect your soft pastel picture by spraying it with a fixative. Otherwise, the pastels may rub off or the colours may smear.

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