Using a few, well chosen pastel accessories with your pastels can greatly enhance the quality of your work.
Regardless of whether you use soft and hard chalk pastels or pastel pencils, these items can all be used successfully to expand the creative possibilities.
We'll look here at some of the items available and what their uses are.
Before we do, I'll just mention oil pastels which for the purposes of this article, I've not included. They have a completely different texture having oily and wax-based binders.
They're much more closely related to oil paints and many of the oil paint accessories are equally suitable for oil pastels, so have a look at the oil paint articles for more information...
Right with that point clarified, let's start with the first of our pastel accessories that we use to take images out of our picture.
Softer erasers are usually much better than harder ones as they won't damage your surface.
A putty eraser is very soft and can be formed into points or thin edges to take out tiny dots or thin lines of color from your picture, without damaging adjacent areas.
The picture at the top of the page shows several sizes of putty eraser.
A good example of its use is portrait work, where individual light hairs can be created from within a darker patch of color or charcoal.
Once the edge you've created has become dirty or flattened, it's easy to remould the rubber to form a clean, sharp edge.
If you haven't got a putty eraser, then try 'Blu-Tac' or a similar product to get the same effect. Remember, as with most things in art, there are many everyday items you can use as pastel accessories, without relying on the art supply stores!
Tortilions or paper stumps as in the picture above are a type of 'paper pencil' used to blend pastel and smudge in colors.
They can also take some pigment out, but more subtly and not as much as a putty eraser.
You can buy types which can be re-pointed with an ordinary pencil sharpener.
Alternatively, you can buy ones which you unwrap as you need a clean area.
Still on the blending theme, you can purchase specialist blending brushes to achieve soft, feathery effects in your work.
A bit like a make-up blusher - so my wife tells me. Have a look at this set to see what I mean.
It consists of a hard brush and a soft fan brush and some rubber tipped 'color shapers'.
Although these are sold as pastel accessories, you can use them for other art media as well. The color shapers would be ideal with oil pastels, for example.
However, see if some of your older paint brushes - or even your finger - will do this job just as well...
I must also mention just here that depending on which pastel paper you use - its color, texture and 'roughness' etc., the effects will vary greatly. Have a look at the pastel papers article for more ideas.
A craft knife and/or a piece of medium grade sandpaper are useful pastel accessories and should be on hand to whittle down a pastel to an edge or a point.
Bear in mind though that the creamier, softer pastels are prone to breaking easily.
Glue a small piece of sandpaper about 4" x 1" to a piece of wood or thick card to provide a flat surface for sanding. Watch the dust though if you're susceptible to this.
Finally, as I've mentioned in another article, fix your pastel or charcoal work in between layers with a cheap hair spray, rather than spending out on the expensive fixatives sold for pastellists.
Don't forget that any fixative or hairspray will darken your image slightly, so go easy - and don't use it near a naked flame or in a confined space!
Above all, remember that the range of pastel accessories is almost unlimited if you're constantly on the lookout for household items that can find a use that their maker never intended!