home - pastels
In this section of the site, we'll look at the unique challenges of painting with pastels.
Before we start, it's important to know that there are several different types of pastel and broadly speaking you can split them into two groups:
Oil pastels behave more like oil paints than dry pastels, so we'll get to them elsewhere. The dry, 'chalky' pastels is what we'll cover here...
If you've read any beginner's guide to pastel painting, it will invariably start off with the characteristics of a pastel - how they're made, the type of paper you need to use, the difference between soft, hard and pastel pencils.
Yes, you need to understand the characteristics of the materials you're using, but those things are fairly straightforward and quick to pick up with a little experimentation.
To paint successfully with pastels (or any medium for that matter), you have to master concepts that are universal to ALL types of painting and drawing. Things like:
When you understand those fundamentals, it makes any medium that much easier to pick up.
If you haven't downloaded our free pastel painting ebook yet, that will give you great insight into one of those fundamentals - tonal value. You can get it here.
You should also visit the drawing and observation section of this site too. You won't find any that talks specifically about pastels, but everything in the that section is relevant to the would-be pastel painter.
Once you're comfortable with the fundamentals of what makes great-looking art, learning to use pastels comes down to getting a feel for the medium itself - how they layer on top of each other, how they blend, how soft pastels react with the paper compared to hard pastels, how velour paper feels compared to sand paper or pastel paper, and so on.
And how do you do that?
Well, what most newcomer and struggling artists do is try to paint full pictures from the get-go. But this is NOT a good use of your time!
Instead, you want to focus on what I call 'sketchbook studies'. These small isolated, studies are quick, fun and they don't bring the same sense of pressure to get it right as full paintings do.
You'll learn so much faster, you'll get more playful with your pastels and you'll experiment!
Artistic talent can be learnt by anyone but you need to take the right approach to learning. See our article How to Practice Your Art for more.
A Guide to Soft & Hard Pastels - The different types of dry pastels and their characteristics, and recommendations for a starter set...
Pastel Paper - A guide to the different types of pastel paper available and the effects you can achieve with each...
Pastel Painting Accessories - Other than pastels and paper, you don't need a great deal of anything else. This quick guide talks about a few other handy essentials...
Pastel tips from visitors to the site - Short pastel painting tips from other visitors to the site