View Full Version : If you could only have one tool?

10-09-2014, 02:27 PM
Hello everyone! Just thought I'd drop in with a question to all you pastelists out there (mainly chalk). I wouldn't say I'm new to pastels per-say, but I've only been using them for about a year now. Sadly, since it was not a medium we covered in school, (Darn them! ) I've been all but teaching myself. So, my question is, besides your fingers, (Gloved of course, I prefer nitrile as it's more durable) what tools to you find indispensable (ex. if you were stranded on a desert island...) . For me, it would easily have to be my color shaper, the rubbery end only. http://www.dickblick.com/items/04972-1001/#photos It's just perfect for fine detail blending without pulling up the pigment. It also pushes the pastel into the paper a bit more and helps with layering. How about you guys?

10-09-2014, 04:05 PM
Well, that depends on whether you leave out my Pan Pastels. If I couldn't have the Sofft tools to use with them, they'd become useless. But if Sofft tools for Pans didn't count it'd be my Size 6 soft Colour Shaper for soft pastels, of all the pastel tools that's the one I actually use most on soft pastels.

For oil pastels it'd be the size 0 Clay Shapers that push those around better than the softer Colour Shapers.

Truth is I don't like stripping down to just one tool though. All sorts of things are useful. Would I have to ditch my kneaded eraser? Forget it, I use my kneaded eraser more than any colour shaper on many media - but Pans are useless without Sofft tools.

Multiple mediums take different tools. But that one Colour Shaper is my favorite of the several that I have.

10-09-2014, 04:53 PM
You know, I've never tried pan pastels. They seem like they'd be great for blocking in colors. Are they pretty hard in the case similar to makeup, or powdery?

Barbara WC
10-09-2014, 04:53 PM
I don't really use any tools when using soft pastels, unless you count the stiff hog bristle paint brush that I use to remove mistakes.

I think many of us here blend with the pastel sticks themselves. I have a bunch of color shapers and torillions (?) that never get used...

So for me, if I were stranded on a desert island, I'd be happy with just the pastel sticks, paper and maybe my hog bristle brush, although I don't use it often...

10-09-2014, 05:04 PM
I'm the same way, most everything I do is with my hands. My color shaper only gets use on eyes, noses and mouths.

10-09-2014, 06:24 PM
Vine charcoal and charcoal pencils. I use them for the initial sketch, most often vine charcoal. They are easy to correct, and don't interfere with the pastel sticks.

10-09-2014, 06:39 PM
Allydoodle: I've never tried vine charcoal for sketching under anything besides oil paintings. I'll have to give that a try.

10-09-2014, 07:44 PM
I'd have to say that I never use any tools other than my fingers (no gloves, although a dust mask is a must). Never found a brush, sponge, shaper, tortillon that I found useful. Perhaps I just never figured out how to use them!

Welcome to our forum, by the way!


10-09-2014, 07:46 PM
I'm with Chris. I have become dependent on vine charcoal for the sketch and I also would want my little spray bottle for alcohol to wet pastel for underpainting or dripping

10-10-2014, 05:35 AM
My favorite tool is a sponge on a stick. It can flick pastel or charcoal off with a corner or carve into pastel with the side edge. You can blend with it flat on the paper to tone. I have a color shaper but have yet to use it in a painting. I don't usually blend with my fingers. The sponges I like are about two inches wide from a hardware store.
This is a fun thread. Thanks

10-10-2014, 06:11 AM
I don't use anything but my soft synthetic round brush for correcting edges. It knocks the pastel right off and can either soften or sharpen.

Mamalynn, you spray the alcohol in a spray bottle? That sounds interesting. Does it give you a different effect than putting it on with a paintbrush? I might have to try that!

Oh wait . . . better put me down for a flat paintbrush for my underpainting instead. I forgot about that one. It's important. :)

10-10-2014, 06:29 AM
Lot's of interesting responses. I was hoping you guys would mention some techniques I'd never thought to try before! Using alcohol, I never even considered :D Question, does the alcohol warp or compromise the paper a lot? Can it be used on any type of paper that would be considered suitable for either pastels or printmaking? (I love Stonehenge paper, though it's technically a printmaking paper, it's sturdy, 100% cotton rag, and made in the USA)

10-10-2014, 10:10 AM
hmmm. Only one? Apart from pastels and paper, I find a hog hair brush for brushing off unwanted areas very useful; also I regularly use a mirror, to look at my work over my shoulder, and I always use a viewfinder. I see no need for anything else at all.

10-10-2014, 04:33 PM
I use Stonehenge sometimes too, but find it to be too absorbent for alcohol on a brush. It doesn't really spread the pastel around like it does on other papers. I have tried it on a q-tip for small areas on printmaking papers, and it removed the pastel rather than fixing it in.

Alcohol is just a substitute for water in a wet underpainting, since it has less body than water and does not warp the paper as much. It also dries faster. I think it also sort of fuses the pastel to the surface a bit more when applied with a brush.

I bet, though, that you could get nice effects on the Stonehenge using a spray bottle.

10-11-2014, 12:28 PM
I bet, though, that you could get nice effects on the Stonehenge using a spray bottle.

I guess I'll never know unless I try :wink2:

10-15-2014, 03:29 PM
with regular pastels (ie not pan pastels) the only "tool" I require is a near-by sink as I tend to only use my fingers but am constantly washing them as not to contaminate other areas.

10-16-2014, 02:11 AM
Pan Pastels are pretty firm in the pan, not powdery like loose powder. They pick up easily with the Sofft tools and sponges but not so much with anything else. It is really important to use the Sofft tools with them. They are very soft and painterly, but go well as underpaintings because they blend well and make a very thin layer of color that doesn't fill up the tooth of the paper.

I'm going to have to try them in combination now too, not just by themselves.

10-16-2014, 08:11 PM
Justin: I pretty much use only my hands as well. It was one hell of a thing to get used to as I have an aversion to rubbing or scrubbing surfaces since my fingertips get too sensitive after a while. I found nitrile gloves do the trick to avoid the problem. Not only do they protect my paper from natural oils in my hands, but they are easy to wipe off on a microfiber cloth.

Robert: Thanks for the info on Pan pastels. I tossed a few in my cart for the next time I order, just a couple blues since I favor the color for my portrait backgrounds.