View Full Version : How the hell do you use pastels?? :P

09-06-2003, 02:00 AM
Sorry for the hostility lol I've been wanting to do pastel portraits for a while. I've got the concept of colour down, but I can't get them to blend at all. First off, do you go light to dark and leave the highlights, or dark to light and make the highlights? What kind of paper should one use? Whenever I try and lay down the tones and do a little blending on the face, it all just turns different colors like green and turns to muck. Just like painting. lol

Any way I can get over this? The pastel portraits in this forum are so inspiring and beautiful, I'd love to try it :)


09-06-2003, 02:02 AM
Try a web search for pastel tutorial. You'll find lots of different projects of varying difficulty that will take you step by step from start to finish.

09-06-2003, 02:18 AM

I am a new starter to pastels as well. Although I haven't tried portraits yet, that will eventually be my ultimate goal. My plan is to do flowers, still life, animals & then portraits/landscapes as they are the most difficult to do.

Since my 1st & only posting, all I've been doing is reading through WC forums as far back as I can & learning from it. There are so many WIP that have been posted by various artists which I find are more than helpful. And believ me your answers are all there...Perhaps that's one reason why I have not jumped in so quickly.

So far I have found that it is definately worth the time to read and observe the postingsin the pastel forums if you intend to improve your pastel skills.


09-06-2003, 05:03 AM
What paper and pastels have you tried? I found that the paper and the pastels really make a big difference. I do not do portraits but I'm sure the technique is very similar. Try laying down your harder pastels first, such as Nu Pastels. I than spray a workable fixative over these (not everyone does but I found it works for me) Then I use very soft pastels such as Schminke or Unison. The paper I use is Mi Tients, only because I can not find a big selection around here. I hope this helps.

09-06-2003, 08:42 AM
There is a wealth of excellent information within this Forum. You just have to nose around a bit to find it.
Right now there are a couple of tutorials by Jackie Simmonds which should be helpful:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/1805/333/ (This is about composition but is excellent).

Jacke also has a book called Pastel Workshop which you can buy through AMazon which is excellent.

But poke around the threads here and you will learn a lot.

I just found a couple:



And to answer a couple of specific questions of yours, most of us start with the darks and layer lighter on top. Also, begin with harder pastels and layer the softer, creamier ones on top. Mostly, you have to try different methods and see which works best for you. A lot of people blend, but some of us really don't. I mostly use the pastel itself to blend, although I do a bit with my finger or a pastel blender (there are different types).

Good luck!


09-06-2003, 06:00 PM
Thanks for all the great information! Maybe I should have looked around a bit before I posted my query :o

But a few things said here, I found out. I have 2 packs of oil pastels, and that's probably why my layering turns to muck, because it has an oil painting effect. I wasn't even aware of hard pastels.. That must be the problem, I need some of those. I also don't have any fixative (eek) but all of this advice really makes sense. Hard pastels = Is that what they're called? So far I've only tried on regular sketching paper and some more toothy scrapbook paper, just to try different surfaces.

I typed in 'pastel portraiture tutorial' in Google, and the first link that came up was awesome:


There's my ultimate goal. lol (Long way to go)

And thank you Sandy for all of those links, I already have them bookmarked :)

I'm going to try playing around with these a little more, see if I can "fake" anything to make it look good.


09-06-2003, 06:17 PM
Aha! Although we have information in the forum about both oil pastels and "regular" pastels, they are different. And included within the regular pastels are all kinds of hardness and softness levels.
I suggest you do some more poking around here. I know there is a lot of information about oil pastels and several people here who use them. They can probably help you more than I can since I have not been using oil pastels.
Have fun!


09-06-2003, 08:19 PM
I have only used oil pastels so I cannot compare the two, but I can recommend a great book by John Elliot entitled "Oil Pastels for the Serious Beginner." I think you'll really find it helpful, I know I did!

Mikki Petersen
09-07-2003, 01:29 AM
As Sandy says, there is a world of difference between oil pastels and "soft pastels". Oil pastels are made from pigment in an oil base. Soft pastels are made from pigment and a binder, usually clay based. You will have difficulty blending oil pastels in the traditional ways because they are tacky and it is more like pushing soft wax around. Soft pastels lay down powdered pigment on the support and can be blended in a variety of ways. If your choice is oil pastels then be sure to read articles on specific technique for oil pastels. Drawing and composition applies to all mediums so those articles all apply.

there is only one fixitive on the market for oil pastels that I know of and that is from Sennelier. It is not really necessary in my experience. For blending and recovering some tooth in the support, I have found that using a cotton swab (Q-tip) dipped in turps works well. Good luck and good fun!

09-07-2003, 04:14 AM
Just "getting some hard pastels" is not the whole answer. I rarely use hard pastels and have never felt the need for them! I use some now and again purely because I was given some!

If you have oil pastels, you need to learn to use those exclusively, because they are COMPLETELY different to chalk pastels, they apply differently, and they work differently.

If you decide to try chalk pastels, then by all means buy some, but they won't mix well with your oil pastels - some poeple do work chalk over oil, but it then turns into mixed media, and it is VERY difficult for a beginner.