Techniques for Working with Pastel


Pastel is a versatile and beautiful medium that is used by artists all over the world. It offers a unique and delicate quality to artwork that cannot be achieved with any other medium. However, working with pastel can be a bit tricky and can require some specialized techniques in order to create a successful and stunning piece of art.

One of the first techniques to keep in mind when working with pastel is the importance of your surface. Unlike painting, where any kind of canvas or paper can be used, using the right surface for pastel is crucial. The best surface for pastel is a toothy paper, also known as pastel paper, which has a texture similar to sandpaper. This texture allows the pastel to adhere to the surface, creating a more vibrant and textured look in the final piece. Smooth surfaces do not allow for much layering or blending, which are essential techniques in pastel work.

Layering and blending are two of the most important techniques when working with pastels. Since pastel sticks come in a variety of colors, layering them on top of each other can create a unique and rich color palette. This technique is especially useful when creating landscapes or still-life pieces, where blending colors can give the illusion of depth and dimension. It is essential to start with light colors as a base and then gradually add in darker shades. This will prevent the colors from becoming muddy and will create a harmonious and balanced composition.

Blending is another fundamental technique in pastel work. There are different ways to blend pastels, such as using fingers, blending tools, or even alcohol. Blending with fingers allows for a more direct and intuitive approach, while using blending tools can create more precise and controlled blending. Alcohol can also be used to create a unique effect, as it breaks down the binder in the pastel, allowing for a smoother and more blended look. Experimenting with different blending techniques can lead to stunning results and help artists find their own unique style.

Another technique that comes in handy when working with pastels is using different types of strokes. The most common stroke in pastel work is the side-to-side stroke, which is used for filling in larger areas. However, other types of strokes, such as circular, diagonal, and cross-hatching, can add texture and interest to the piece. Artists should experiment with different strokes to see how they affect the overall look and feel of their artwork.

Pastels can also be combined with other mediums, such as watercolor, ink, or acrylic paint, to create mixed media artworks. Combining pastels with other mediums can add another dimension to the piece and give the artist more control over the textures and colors. For example, using pastels over a watercolor painting can create a beautiful contrast between the soft and delicate watercolors and the vibrant and textured pastels.

When working with pastels, it is crucial to keep your workspace clean and organized. Pastel dust can get everywhere and can easily smudge your artwork. It is recommended to have a separate, dedicated space for pastel work to avoid any accidental smudging or mixing of colors. It is also helpful to have a sheet of paper or cloth to rest your hand on while working to prevent any unwanted smudges.

In conclusion, pastel is a versatile and delicate medium that offers endless possibilities for artists. By choosing the right surface, using layering and blending techniques, experimenting with different strokes, and combining it with other mediums, artists can create stunning and unique artworks. However, it is important to keep in mind the fragile nature of pastels and to work in a clean and organized space. With practice and patience, artists can master the techniques of working with pastels and unlock its full potential in their artwork.