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Passion for Pastels

Updated: Jun 19, 2019

A pastel is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of pure powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used are the same as those used to produce all coloured art media, including oil paints. The colour effect of pastels is closer to the natural dry pigments than that of any other process. (source - Wikipedia)

Did you know that an artwork made with pastels is called a PASTEL? The word PASTEL, as a verb, means to produce artwork with pastels: as an adjective it means pale in color.

Soft Pastels

This is the most widely used form of pastel. The sticks have a higher portion of pigment and less binder, resulting in brighter colours. The drawing can be readily smudged and blended resulting in a higher proportion of dust

Finished drawings requires protecting, either framing under glass or praying with a fixative to prevent smudging.


Pastels can be painted on specific types of paper to yield the best results. The term "tooth" refers to the manner in which the paper can retain the most amount of the pastels. The more the tooth the better the paper. Some examples are listed below.

1. Laid Paper - A type of paper having a ribbed texture imparted by the manufacturing process. Laid paper is still commonly used by artists for charcoal drawings, but overall its use has been diminished since the 18th century. Some examples of brands of laid paper are - Canson Mi Tientes, Ingres)

2. Abrasive Supports - A type of paper that has a surface of finely ground pumice or marble dust.


The best way for the pastel to stay affixed to the paper to spray a coat of fixative evenly over the painting. These fixatives are aerosols and are poisonous so please ensure that you are in a well ventilated space with a mask on before you spray the fixative.

Mounting & Framing

The best way to frame a pastel is by making sure that there is a mount ( a type of board tht ia vailable in a range of colors). Even a 2 - 3 mm thick mount will be suitable.The mount ensures that the pastel does not touch the glass.

Storing your Pastel Art

Glassine envelopes are now easily available even online and they are a perfect way to store your completed paintings.

Taking Care of your Soft Pastels

Make sure that you clean your pastels after each painting. Use a tissue paper to do this by gently rubbing off any other colour that has adhered to the pastel stick. Place the pastels in their individual places in the box they came in. Alternatively if you have a chest-of-drawers or set of drawers that can be used to store your pastel, you need to make sure to line them with lining mats before placing your pastels in them.

Now that you have an overview allow me to take you through the process of pastel painting using soft pastels.

To say that I fell head-over-heels in love with soft pastels is an under statement. I simply adore the medium and I have actually painted a range of subjects and genres using pastels.

As you can see there are surreal themes,a monochromatic theme, scenery & portraits that I have painted using soft pastels.

The process is not daunting in the least and can actually be very time efficient.

TIP - Place a tissue paper under your hand while doing your painting so that unwanted smudges do not occur

The following are the progress shots for a painting titled "Bare"

Sketch on Paper
the sketch of "Bare"

Soft pastel painting titled Bare by Leeza A. Harris, 2019
"Bare" - Leeza A. Harris, 2019

I encourage you to give it a try. Its fantastic!!!

Continue painting :-)

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