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WHAT is pastel ?
Pastel is an ancient colouring medium which has its roots in the caves when prehistoric artists used soft coloured stone to mark the outlines of animals on the hard rock walls.
Modern soft pastels are made up of pure ground pigment mixed with a binder and varying amount of filler into a soft paste and then left to dry into sticks. Soft pastels have less binder than hard pastels and are therefore tend to be more crumbly. They allow fast lay down of colour which can be blended on the paper or card support but have the relative disadvantage that the picture surface is merely held in place on the support by gravity and the roughness of the surface. For this reason, pastel images need to be framed up quickly with a special way of mounting and a protective layer of glass or plastic to prevent damage. The high level of pigment and relative thickness of the medium mean that the images are usually safe against all but the strongest Ultra Violet light fading.
Traditional pastel comes in sticks of the medium which vary a great deal in hardness. The softest pastel tends to leave a layer of chalky dust over everything within range in the studio -
The medium is a wonderful one for speedy working and gentle blends of colour -
Senellier ( France ) -
as do Unison (UK ) -
Middle of the road pastels ( for hardness ) come from Daler Rowney and Winsor & Newton ( UK ) who offer something like 200 different colour shades each.
Harder pastels are also manufactured -
Hard sticks of pastel are also produced by the Pastel Pencil companies ( such as Derwent, Cretacolour and Faber-
Most colour ranges of soft pastel comprise a pure colour and up to 10 shades of that colour mixed with white, and 10 shades mixed with black. Some brands then give graded mixes of two colours ( grey greens and green greys etc ), This gives a huge variation in tints and blends of colours.
Softer pastel sticks tend to break more easily and, as with
Coloured Pencils, softer mediums do not keep an edge or point very easily.
However, a broken edge can provide an ideal tool for a fine line.
If you wish to fix the surface to lock to pastel pigment down,
spray fixatives are available, but they have the effect of
darkening and dulling the colours so that it becomes necessary
to add a final ‘unfixed’ coat of colour to highlights and
areas of high contrast and colour.
There is a section on fixative spray on a later page
WHY use Pastel ?
Because it produces beautiful pictures rapidly
and also on the positive side, colours can be blended easily on the working surface,
and delicate transitions of colour can be readily obtained.
The colour in the image has a clear crystal appearance where the pigment reflects
the light without any added medium which might interrupt the eye seeing the artist’s
The media is dry and immediate -
The medium is very ‘tactile’ and repays getting your fingers involved in blending colours
(But keep a damp cloth handy -
WHAT advantages do Pastel Pencils have over soft pastel ?
They are cleaner to work with, and, because they are usually harder than soft pastel sticks, they tend to keep a point or edge better for fine working.
In summary -
WHAT disadvantages do Pastel Pencils have over soft pastel ?
A smaller range of colours
Not so easy to lay down large areas of colour
Pastel Pencils can be used with Soft Pastel (or hard pastel sticks) for detailed work and finishing touches.
some pencil brands include pastel sticks of some or all of the main colours in the pencil sets, so that basic layers of colour can be applied and then the picture completed with detail using Pastel Pencils.
WHAT is pastel ?
WHY use Pastel Anyway ?
WHAT advantages do Pastel Pencils have over soft pastel in sticks ?
WHAT disadvantages are there ?
WHAT are the best types of surfaces to use ?
DO the brands differ ?
HOW can Pastel pencils best be used together with traditional Coloured Pencils ?
WHAT are the best surfaces to use ?
Paper or card specially made for pastel, with a soft, slightly rough surface to grip and hold the pigment.
There are a number of special papers which have a soft surface -
It is best to avoid traditional smooth (watercolour type) art papers. They are not designed to hold the Pastel medium
Do the brands of Pastel Pencil DIFFER ?
The question everyone asks !
I will go through the different brands in detail on adjoining pages, but in summary, there are several manufacturers making pastel pencils, and -
Much of the difference lies in the colour selections. Generally speaking the different brands can all be used together, so a mixed selection of brands works quite well.
Most are too soft to use a power sharpener on, and should be sharpened with a craft knife or scalpel.
The main manufacturers produce purpose designed pastel pencil sharpeners which use a blade and are designed to accept the diameter of the manufacturer’s pencils (many differ). These are inexpensive and excellent when new. A blunt blade can be a pain though, and lead to multiple breaking, so as soon as your sharpener starts breaking points regularly, dispose of it.
Knife sharpening is probably the safest choice anyway and the best style of point can be obtained easily and reliably. You can also sharpen a point up to a special shape for a specific purpose. Cretacolor advise that their Pastel pencils are best sharpened with sandpaper as they use a soft variety of wood. A sandpaper block or pad is very useful to hone up and shape the point of any brand.
I have been asked to include a more detailed section on sharpening pastel pencils
and I have inserted this (October 2010 ) in the Techniques section
Which brand to choose ?
A lot depends on the feel of the pencil, and only the artist can decide what he or she likes best.
The one brand which stands out as markedly different from the rest is Carbothello from Swan Stabilo which is made to an entirely different carbon based formula. Anyone considering buying Pastel Pencils should test one of these if they can, to see how they compare with the traditional formula pastel pencils, most of which have a chalk or calcite mineral base. Carbothello may appear harder than others but are actually no harder in use.
They have a ‘crunchy’ feel, more like charcoal than chalk. Pastel artists generally use a mixture of brands to give them the best colour range.
Derwent have made Pastel Pencils for many years and in 2010 launched a new formula Pastel pencil which has been road tested and will be discussed on the later ‘brands’ page . The Derwent pencil set now extend to 72 pencils and the new set has some new colours.
72 is a good range for pastel pencils. Lightfastness rating will be available on the Derwent web site
Pencils from Derwent are usually available singly for replacement of used pencils in sets, and the new formula pencils are now available in this way.
There is also a set of 36 pastel blocks matching colours in the pencil set. These are handy for faster lay down of colour on larger pictures
Daler Rowney market a pastel pencil sold in sets of up to 36 in number. Not tested. Actual country of origin is European and believed to be Austria, which makes it probable that they are manufactured by Cretacolour.
It is difficult to get information from Daler Rowney on their pencil brands as they have not replied to mail on questions of the products. Though they do have wide circulation in retail outlets, these are usually sold as sealed boxes, and individual replacement pencils are not easily available.
Swan Stabilo. Carbothello pencils. ( Germany ) Manufactured with a high carbon content rather than chalk and have a different feel to other brands -
Conte ( France ) More limited colour range (48) a thicker barrel with more pastel content and a harder pencil than the other brands. Not always easily mixable with the softer brands.
Bruynzeel ( from the Sakura Group .... sourced through the Netherlands)
more limited colour range than some makes (48) but good pencils. Hard enough to sharpen in a power sharpener but soft enough to use easily. I still suggest a knife to sharpen them.
Sets sold in attractive foam lined drawer boxes but not easily found other than through the Internet.
Individual replacements not seen.
Cretacolor ( from Austria ) Good pencils, wider than average colour range ( 72 colours ) also can be power sharpened but probably better maintained with a knife or with sandpaper as the manufacturer suggests.
You are unlikely to find them in shops but they are readily obtainable from Bob Elcock in the UK both in sets and as single pencils (useful) and like most other brands, they are watersoluble. (see link on brands page).
This is a brand I like, they sharpen well, the colour range is good and sticks of the colours are also available.
Cretacolour has a very good reputation for using lightfast pigments
Caran d’Ache have introduced a range of pastel pencils and hard pastel sticks ( ‘Cubes’ ) in the Spring / Summer of 2012. The new line was launched in Europe in January and has now become visible in retailers and at some shows through 2012
This new product has had extensive testing during 2011 and we have seen samples at most stages of the development. There are 84 colours in the range -
The product is a good one and I have sampled them with a number of my students who were all impressed by the quality.
Individual pencils are on sale at major retailers and also via the Internet at a price of around £2.50 each. See the section following on Brands for more details
A box of traditional soft pastels stored in colour sets.
Mainly Winsor & Newton, but a sprinkling of other brands.
The sectional box enables the artist to keep the colours separate and reduces the amount of surface build up from other colours which make colour identity difficult.
The colours are graded downwards from dark to light and across in yellows, blues, greens, greys & purples and finally reds & blacks.
This box of mine is in need of use !
WELCOME to this separate section of the website.
Some of you will have come from other pages within the site and will therefore possibly have a basic knowledge of what we call ‘Coloured Pencils’ -
PASTEL PENCILS ARE DIFFERENT IN A NUMBER OF RESPECTS
This pastel pencil section introduces the particular techniques for Pastel Pencils and the information you need to work with them and to understand the differences between the two pencil disciplines.
Please remember that as far as the UKCPS and CPSA are concerned, these two International societies specialise in promoting the wax type of pencil, and do not accept pastel pencils (at the moment) as a medium for competitive Coloured Pencil exhibition except where specifically allowed in a Mixed Media context. If you use Pastel Pencils in a competition entry for either these two societies, make sure you read the rules carefully and if you are in any doubt, ask the Exhibition Director!
For those of you who come direct from an Internet search and are looking for information on Pastel Pencils,
we also welcome you warmly.
We need, first of all. to make the point that whilst the two types of ‘Coloured Pencil’ ( wax and pastel ) are similar in many techniques, the main difference from a working point of view is that Pastel Pencils ( and pastels generally ) are an OPAQUE medium, so we are talking mostly about layers of pigment colours which are blended ON the paper. The final picture surface is also more fragile and requires protection from damage by a mount and glazed frame.
As this section progresses, any information which is of particular note for those WITHOUT a Coloured Pencil (CP) background will be contained within a coloured block like this to highlight the special nature of the information.
Otherwise the script will assume that you are coming from a background using the wax type -
Either way, I am sure that all the content will be worth reading by all those who visit the site !
So let us have a look at Pastels -
The pencil, and near pencil, brands on sale in the United Kingdom
The differences between them
The surfaces they can be used on
And how they can be used
Somerset Farm -
Thornborough Bridge. Pastel Pencils on Grey Fabriano Tiziano paper.
I have included in the pastel pencil section of this web site, the picture shown below of an old bridge on the A421 near Buckingham. I sat out in a field alongside the bridge and watched the swans come down the river with their cygnets -
As a matter of interest, the road now by-
There is a deserted mediaeval village site nearby.
The basic picture done on the spot was mostly completed in just under 3 hours. Another 2 hours fiddling at home enabled me to complete the picture for framing.
The completed image is 9.5 ins x 13 ins. It was fixed twice in the painting process , once when I had all the basics blocked in with Faber Castell Pitt Pastel sticks, and once when I packed up to come home at the 3 hour point.
The finishing off was with Pitt pastel pencils. A relatively hard pencil which releases low levels of dust in use.
Thornborough Bridge © 2010 Peter Weatherill
NEW PASTEL PENCIL COURSES
with Peter Weatherill
Knuston Hall have scheduled new one day courses and a full weekend one
Introduction to Pastel Pencils
Friday May 19th 2017
This May 2017 day course is followed by a Friday to Sunday weekend which will give the opportunity of extending the tuition to a full three days.
The day and weekend can be booked together or separately
Some accommodation is available for those who need to travel but the day course starts 9.15am and finishes around 4-
All materials necessary will be loaned/ supplied.
You just need to bring yourself.
However, you are welcome to bring any artists grade materials you have.
The day course will look at basics and the completion of a small picture.
The weekend gives us the opportunity of working on a larger picture and possibly different surfaces
Contact Knuston Hall, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire on
(UK) 01604 362200 if you are interested
This course will be included in the next brochure
Latest revision March 2016
|Glossary of CP Terms|
|Introducing step by steps|
|sbs basic shapes|
|sbs fruit bowl|
|sbs polperro B|
|sbs rectory garden|
|The Bowerman Stone|
|sbs to come|
|Price and Content|
|Papers for Wax type pencils|
|Papers for Watercolour pencils|
|Papers for Pastel pencils|
|Papers for mixed media with CP|
|Black Paper Fade|
|Non standard papers for wax pencils|
|Application of colour|
|Density of Colour|
|Results on Different Papers|
|Ways of using Aquarelles|
|Why Underpainting ?|
|Backgrounds with Aquarelles 1|
|Backgrounds with Aquarelles 2|
|A Brush with W/C Pencils|
|Foliage in W/C Pencil|
|Step by Step - Coventry Canal|
|Cottage Garden - Step by Step PDF|
| Italian Street step by step 1|
|Italian Street step by step 2|
|Brokken Bridge Step By Step PDF|
|Coventry Canal 2|
|CP & Pastel|
|CP & W/c Pencils|
|CP & Other media|
|Archway - Mixed Media sbs|
|Cottage Entrance Mixed Media sbs|
|Annecy Reflections 1|
|Annecy Reflections 2|
|working on coloured paper|
|Still Life Points|
|BURNISHING, Blenders and Burnishers|
|Landscape Tutorial- Grand Union|
|clouds & skies|
|Brick, Stone & Tile|
|Brick stone and tile 2|
|Colour and complementaries|
|Boats & Water|
|Form & Space|
|Drawing from Life - introduction|
|using a camera|
|transfering an image|
|keeping a record|
|printing 2 - layout|
|Life Drawing 1 - the basics|
|November 2011 Landscape SBS|
|July 2012 - Kitten Step by Step|
|Old Blog Posts as at Dec 2014|
|Aix En Provence series|
|New input ( from Dec 2014)|