View Full Version : Making your own pastels

07-05-2000, 09:23 AM
Making your own pastels is one of the easiest things an artist can do. It's also a wonderful way to save money (costs about 1/3 of store bought), you can make custon colors and produce an endless range from light to dark. This is one home made artist's material that will easily rival anything made by the factories.

To learn how, read the article on making pastels at http://studioproducts.com/demo/demo.html It will answer all of your questions.

Here's a Pro's Tip: don't ever use a fixative. The spray fixatives change the colors and, besides, who wants to breath that stuff? Instead do what the masters like Degas and Lautrec did -- steam them. STeam softens the pastel that's on the paper an activates the glue (Gum Tragacanth) causing it to stick to the paper without discoloring. The paper turns dark when the steam is on it but dries back to it's original color...so do the pastels. I use an inexpensive drapery steamer and it works well.

Cennini Catalogue http://studioproducts.com/quickcatalog/catalogframes.html

[This message has been edited by rhoward (edited July 05, 2000).]

07-06-2000, 01:51 AM
Using steam sounds interesting - I'll definitely try it on the painting I'm currently working on, since it's one I have to ship, and I've hated the effects of any fixatives I've used as a final step.

Two questions do come to mind, though:

Have you tried it to fix between layers? If so, how well did it work to 'freshen' the surface as compared to a light spray of a reworkable fixative?

Are there any particular pigments, brands of pastel or brands of paper that you've encountered that haven't 'liked' this technique? If so, which?

I've had very good luck making pastels using the pre-moistened Wallis mixes, but I've encountered a lot of problems obtaining consistent texture when mixing from 'scratch' - some very hard, some crumbly. I'll likely try mixing from scratch again ... schedule myself some time to experiment and take notes of what results I get from which mixtures.

Thanks for the info!


Judith Northwood
Northwood Studios (http://www.northwood.org/studios)

07-06-2000, 02:48 AM
Originally posted by EquusAlba:
Have you tried it to fix between layers? If so, how well did it work to 'freshen' the surface as compared to a light spray of a reworkable fixative?

My technique is the tried and true technique of beginning with hard pastels until the paper loads up and move to medium pastels and finally to the softest pastels for the final touches. I can steam between layers, which is what Degas did. He even steamed the pastel sticks before making a stroke.

As with anyone's advice, try it on a small sample of paper and then give it the torture test.

Making the Gum Tragacanth solution and mixing with pigment is not difficult. Gum Tragacanth must sit for a day or so before it forms the right consistency.

Cennini Catalogue http://studioproducts.com/quickcatalog/catalogframes.html