View Full Version : Pastel and water

06-18-2005, 11:15 AM
Is anyone aware of any techniques that involve mixing pastels with water?

06-18-2005, 12:23 PM

In one of my books they mention it, altough not in a developed way since it's a beginners book.
I'll have a look then will tell you.
I don't know if all brands are water mixable - I know Senneliers are.
Meanwhile what you can do is to try a search the about.com site. This site has been a great source of help to me.



06-18-2005, 12:38 PM
Some folks have dipped pastels in water before applying- it gives the stroke a thick, almost impasto look, and a bit of texture. There is also a more subtle blending between colours and strokes seen, because the dampened pastel blends a bit easier. Others have worked on dampened paper to nearly the same effect. However, I doubt detail can be well-captured using this technique because the pastel will flow much more loosely off the end of the stick, so you'll have to experiment to see what works for you.

All soft and hard pastels are water soluble; pastel is pure, dry pigment mixed with water and a very small amount of gum tragacanth (usually) as a binder- which is also water soluble. Oil pastels are usually not well-soluble with water, however, they dissolve beautifully with turps, etc.

06-18-2005, 02:12 PM
Hi again,

In one of my books - a beginner's book - is said that one can apply dry pastel over humid paper or humid pastel over dry paper. I suppose one can apply humid pastel over humid paper, also.
One can also turn a pastel into powder and either apply it dry into paper and then «play» with it using a wet brush. Or use a wet piece of cotton ?
Of course that the paper one uses must support water.
Being an oil painter of course you know that one should dip the brush into water between colours.
I know this is not much, but it was all I could find in my book.



06-18-2005, 06:29 PM
Water acts much like any fixative- although in itsself it has no binding power. If you brush water over a pastel you basically make a gouache, which makes since because gouache is only pigments, chalk, and binder mixed with water. It can be an interesting way to start a work. Water can also be sprayed or misted onto pastels to help push them into the surface. Degas used a similiar technique although I believe it involved steam.

06-18-2005, 11:14 PM
The book that im making right now (its a book full of my art for a family member) ive used soft pastels and charcoal with water, i have a charcoal painted horse posted over in the cafe forum and animal forum, im almost done with a new horse but i gotta figure out the highlights on the horse to finish it.....ill post a pic of it soon......water and pastels work great together , there is just a very tiny slight colorchange when you do this tho, but when ya use layers it cant even notice it........i say try it, im loveing it so far......

Oh and as far as water being a fixative.......not really, the pastel is still blendable with your finger, a blending brush or tort......even after being dry the pastel still says workable but it has set into the support enough that theres alot less dust.........

UPDATE: I just posted the stuff ive been working on over in the soft pastel forum if you wish to see how i used water with pastels and charcoal :wave:

06-19-2005, 02:21 AM
Thanks everybody...I appreciate all the responses. I imagine the possibilities are endless and may well be worth the time to experiment a little. I have used turpenoid mixed with pastel on Wallis paper to establish a foundation but not much with water.

Kathryn Wilson
06-19-2005, 01:51 PM
I tried working with pastels and water - one clue, don't use your good pastels. I dipped my pastel stick into water and it practically ate up a whole stick. I liked what it produced, but you need to work fast and work in shapes rather than detail.

06-19-2005, 09:33 PM
The first time i tried to experiment with water and my pastels all i did was scribble some pastel on a piece of watercolor paper and go over it with a watercolor brush, i was impressed with how well it worked, after that i just dipped the tip of a #6 round in water and go over the pastel sticks themselves, the water gets soked up VERY quickly, but the pastel came off on the brush ok, when i tried this on the ludwigs, it worked VERY well........ i couldnt bring myself to dip a pastel in water, i was to afraid it would fall apart before i took it out lol.......

06-22-2005, 02:50 PM
I did try applying some nupastel on Wallis paper and using a stiff brush worked the color in...it established an excellent foundation for working on top. Also gave me some nice rich darks.

06-22-2005, 03:20 PM
I think the amazing thing about pastels is the varied ways one can use them other than the obvious, direct method. I'm finding the same sort of versatility with colored pencils, non-soluble and soluble, and it's opening up a vast array of possibilities I'd never imagine before. I've been fiddling around with possible mixes of the two media, as well. Lots of fun to be had just playing around with stuff I had but had ignored for the most part. With good quality supplies, I guess the sky's the limit! Whoopee!!

06-23-2005, 09:53 AM
I have only tried watercolor soluable pencils and normal colored pencils over watercolor, but the wet pastel technique sounds pretty neat too.

06-24-2005, 11:18 AM
By the way, Caran d'Ache makes a water-soluable pastel- wouldn't that work better than trying to soggy up your pastels? It is called CARAN D'ACHE NEOART AQUARELLE STICKS, and no, I don't have them, but have most of the other Caran d'Ache aquarelle products- and they are simply amazing!

06-27-2005, 12:45 PM
One thing to be mindful of when mixing water with pastel -- you often get a "graying" effect. While pastel liquifies when water is added, the water does not break down the binder, and the liquified binder can effect the color. Turpenoid will break down the binder, leaving you with pure pigment again.

06-27-2005, 12:49 PM
Ive only had that happen when i mix turpinoid with caran d'ache oil pastels,but only slightly and when the turp evaporates the color seems to go back to normal.......i have not had a "graying" effect to my soft pastels using water........the senns, unisons and ludwigs seem richer, and alot of colors stay the same color and dry the same color..........now all those are considered top of the line patels with minimun binder......i am going to start a painting this week with nupatels and faber hard pastels ( hard pastels have more binder than water, not more binder than pigment, that sort of thing is found in cheap or student grade products) and see what i come up with there...........but so far no "greying" effect.

06-27-2005, 04:20 PM
I have the Caran d"ache Neoart crayons...they are great for water mixing, but I did notice that they leave behind a kind of impervious layer of color which neither oil pastels or softies will adhere to...has anybody else had this problem? Maybe I'm doing something wrong? Anyway, I think they should still be good for underpainting colored pencils.

06-28-2005, 08:00 AM
Underpainting for color pencils? On paper?

Leena :)

06-28-2005, 10:51 AM
I do find that Nupastel, Ludwigs and Great American's mixed with turp provide some rich foundations. I agree with Sketchcny that when mixed with water I get more of a graying effect.

06-28-2005, 01:29 PM
I haven't tried doing that with pastels yet, but have used alcohol to do an underlayer ala an article by Carly. That worked fine! It's fun to experiment tho. Thanks for the ideas!

06-28-2005, 03:51 PM
Sooz, the caran d'ache crayons that are watersoluable are just that- they make a different product entirely that they call a watersoluable pastel- they are CARAN D'ACHE NEOART AQUARELLE STICKS and are here at Jerry's:
I don't have any to tell you what they are like- just their oil pastels, water soluable crayons, etc.

06-28-2005, 04:17 PM
These are the things that i use TOGETHER in paintings that i do that require other mediums besides pastels:

1. Aquarelle sticks (mine are faber)
2. Watercolor pencils (faber, derwent, prisma etc. )
3. Ink (black bombay, pastel will go over this nicely and its waterproof once it has dried on paper)
4. Createx Pure liquid pigments (Terrific for underpainting on Wallis, Kitty uses it as well, i use it like watercolors sometimes)
5. charcoal (i ALWAYS use water with charcoal, it sets it in the paper)

I have NOT used colored pencils.........

But all the other stuff ive used in one painting with no problems and it was alot of fun...i say experiment, do anything you want. HAVE FUN lol

06-28-2005, 05:37 PM
Sooz, the caran d'ache crayons that are watersoluable are just that- they make a different product entirely that they call a watersoluable pastel- they are CARAN D'ACHE NEOART AQUARELLE STICKS and are here at Jerry's:
I don't have any to tell you what they are like- just their oil pastels, water soluable crayons, etc.

Oh, yeah, those are definitely different. DON'T get me started on another wish list!!!! :wink2:

07-19-2005, 08:34 PM
I know this is a fairly old thread- but I did have to try (of course) the caran d'ache neoart water soluable pastels.. had them sitting here awhile before trying them out.... they are really large sticks- really pretty colors, but do seem to behave a lot like the caran d'ache crayons... for the painting, it is much more like using the oil pastels except for getting it wet with a brush afterwards to beautifully merge and blend it all.... but then, neither oil pastels or the water soluable pastels seem to me to be much like painting with soft pastels...I cannot bring myself to get the soft pastels wet... but do have a perfectly bad picture I can play with I guess !

03-21-2007, 03:46 PM
While Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer aquarelle sticks seem pretty hard to come by these days. They can be found mostly in online clearance sections and in remaining stock in display in a few brick and mortar stores. They were said to combine the qualities of watercolour, colored pencil, and oil pastel not soft pastels. Yet if anyone cares to try this coloring media, Jerry's Artarama is currently featuring the full range wooden boxed ALBRECHT DURER AQUARELLE STICKS 60 COLOR SET in their Close-Out section.


Colored with Faber-Castell Aquarelle Sticks
Colored with Caran D'Ache Neoart sticks

08-11-2007, 04:35 PM
There are two common ways that pastellists use pastels with water.

The first is to apply the pastel and then go over it with a brush using water. This disolves the pastel on the paper and it takes on a watercolor type effect. This can be great for an underlay to another painting or as a painting in its own right.

The second way is to take a sheet of either heavy duty watercolor paper or some print making paper (this is not the same as newspaper). Spray the paper with water until it is saturated, then apply the pastel as you would normally. As it touches the wet paper it disolves on contact taking on an impasto type texture.

I have only tried the 2nd method but the results were good. You have to be really quick to get your painting completed and you may need to re-apply water to the paper. I suggest you use harder pastels (I used Rembrandts) as the pastels dissolve quickly and I can imagine that you would "use up" a stick of sennelier or schminke really fast.

Here are my results:

Paintings done using these methods do not suffer from the particles falling off like a dry pastel so you won't need to use fixative in either case.

maggie latham
08-11-2007, 04:56 PM
Hello everyone,
I often lay down the first layer of pastel, and then using an old bristle brush (especially on Wallis which eats up your brushes) ‘scrub’ in water with the brush. You have to be a little controlled as it does make a mess, and darker colors will infect you lighter colors if you have too mush water. It dries pretty quickly and can have a good tonal unifying effect to your finished pastel painting. I never dip the pastel in water, but have scrubbed the wet brush on the side of a pastel. I like the loose painterly effect it creates, but always have a problem being able to stop myself from covering it all over with more pastel!
If you are using thin paper the water will make the paper cockle…even on Wallis museum paper it cockles with water…I always use Wallis mounted to rag board or gator foam when using water for under painting.

08-11-2007, 07:54 PM
I never use my pastels sticks with water..... I would not have any left ! If I want to use water with pastel, I do so by using a pastel pencil. Even with a pastel pencil, dipping it in water does harm to it...better use it dirrectly on paper than add water with a brush.