View Full Version : Organizing pastel palette - Help?

KA Obee
04-02-2006, 04:58 PM
This may sound like a silly question, but how do you organize your pastel palette?

I have a Heilman box (my pride and joy!) which has 8 sections that will hold all my pastels (for the moment anyway.) I started to organize them by color and value, but somehow that got very confusing. I'm fine with mixing differnt brands of pastels, because I'm usually looking for a specific color and once I find it I can choose which stick to grab - but as they go from blue to green, they are also going from dark to light... argh!

Is this stupid? I just want to be able to find the color I need when I want it! Is anyone willing to post photos of their methods?


04-02-2006, 05:28 PM
It's been a while since I took a picture of my pastel box, but it is still the same system, so this old photo will work :)

I sort by colour and then roughly from light to dark.

04-02-2006, 05:32 PM
Not stupid by any means! I have thought about this a lot. At first I simply took a color wheel approach. One section for each of the primary, 2ndary, and tertiary colors plus greys. Then I decided to resort them all by value-- rather than hue. But I found it very awkward to use in practice. So now I'm back to the color wheel but have also separated out the 'earth tones'.

One thing I do is make sure all the pastels fit on one layer so none are hidden. I mix hard/soft of all brands together in the same section-- but I do keep the pencils separate

Probably this doesn't help much but would love to hear what others say.

04-02-2006, 07:33 PM
it's not a dumb ?? I just organize it how I like it. Like by color group usually and the most assesible part I put the grouping I use the most. Right now I have them in some boxes and have them grouped by color and brand. What works for ou. I say, play. just play around and find what you are most comfortable with..so many people are just afraid to play and experiment.

04-02-2006, 08:07 PM

For long time that I've organized mines by colour and as best as I can, also by value.
I've also painted some strokes on a canson grey paper according to what's in the box. And of course that I keep that paper in the box.
This way, before getting the pastel out of the box, I always look at the paper to try to choose the right colour; always remembering that when applied that colour may seem different than what it looks on that paper.



04-02-2006, 09:48 PM
In an ideal world, mine would be sorted by color and then by value. However, in reality I'm lucky if I get them back in the right color drawer. :lol: This picture was taken in that brief moment in time when they were neatly sorted.

My Polychromos and Nupastels are stored separately in the top. The medium and soft pastels are together in the drawers

If you have eight compartments go with 1 for each primary and secondary color and then 1 for browns/neutrals and 1 for grays/black/white.

KA Obee
04-02-2006, 09:49 PM
I ended up re-organizing my pastel box in the middle of doing a painting. This, by the way, is a BAD idea if you want there to be ANY consistency of color in your painting! It's close to how I want it - but not quite there.
Cori, your photo actually helps alot.

I just got a box of 60 Rembrant half sticks (that were on sale) to help round out my colors. I have to integrate them into the box and will probabaly redo the entire thing at the same time. But I will do it BEFORE I start my next painting!

Thanks again for all the help,


KA Obee
04-02-2006, 09:50 PM
Ooohhh, Kathy, our posts must have crossed. That's an awesome setup! Thanks again,

Donna A
04-02-2006, 11:49 PM
I like organizing my colors first based on brands---because each behaves a bit differently----and then by color----in "rainbow" order----and then by value, beginning with the darkest.

I have a lot of pastel sticks so keep them on banks of tables on either side of my pastel easel. I keep some rectangular glass dishes with rice immediately to my right hand to put colors I'm working with. I keep the brands I use most nearest to my right hand, and those I use least the farthest away. Is really handy that way.


This is the only photo I have of my set up----a photographer friend took a couple of years ago when I was doing a live telly broadcast from my studio.

In my travel set-----the larger one-----I again keep the colors I use most in my main tray----actually, one brand. Then keep the others in other trays. In my tiny travel set----I just mix them all together by color first----and then value.

An important thing-----like typewriter keys-----is to keep colors where you can find them-----and unlike typewriter (or computer keys!) you need to be able to have them arranged in ways that let you understand the relationships to each other! That is surely THE most important thing!!!

And it will be different for each of us. It needs to be the way that feels best to you and serves YOU best!!!! If you need to (a wonderful idea, I think!!!)----experiment! Pay attention to what "flows" best when you are working, how you are sensing and thinking about the colors you are reaching for, etc.!!!! And----what visually appeals to you, as well! I love walking in and seeing the array of colors. It is thrilling and----rather comforting to see them arranged in their series of gradated rainbows. Also inspiring! Nice to have your tools inspire you!!!! Best wishes!!! Donna ;-}

KA Obee
04-03-2006, 06:57 AM
Wow! Loveley work, beautiful pastels, and a great shot of you too! What a beautiful studio you have!
Thanks for the advice. I'll be playing with my set up this week.

Dot Hoffman
04-03-2006, 12:41 PM
Donna, I am SO ENVIOUS of your studio and the size of your inventory of pastels!!! I'm still slowly building mine, and at the rate I'm going, I'll never have a collection like yours! I'm drooling :lol:

04-03-2006, 04:29 PM
In reading the various responses, I am gathering that arranging your pastel palette is kind of like a personal preference. What works for one, may or may not work for you.

My interest in how to arrange my pastel palette is due to a space issue and the fact that since I became retired and am now learning how to paint with pastels. Lack of a room that I can devote strickly to my pastel work forces me to look at all sorts of arrangement.... maybe someone knows of a system whereby I can do my pastel painting in the dining room and yet when its time to store them for the eveing, I can store them close by for use the next day...


04-03-2006, 05:08 PM
i have the same "problem" and am trying to work out my case...put in a
search here on wetcanvas and found that there were various threads in the past that touched on the same issue. I had copied some of the photos onto my computer so i could refer to them easily - i will attach them here and
thanks to everybody that took the trouble to post these to help the helpless ones.....

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Apr-2006/65872-1805-pic_and_pastels2.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Apr-2006/65872-13766-Dakota_case_packed_500_jamie.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Apr-2006/65872-13766-Pastels_reorganized_500.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Apr-2006/65872-13865-heilman_backpack_size.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Apr-2006/65872-37743-pastel-palette.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Apr-2006/65872-23609-palette_deeartist.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Apr-2006/65872-51175-Pastels2003smsusan_ogilviesst.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Apr-2006/65872-box%20of%20eye%20candy-1.jpg http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Apr-2006/65872-mypastelbox4wc.jpg

i hope these come thru at least as links

04-03-2006, 08:03 PM
This a timely thread for me as I have been struggling to sort my pastels and have looked in the Pastel library at the various threads to try and get a handle on it.
Tatijana - Thank you for taking the to post all the photos you have collected from the pastel site. To see them all together is very helpful.

I have decided I am not advanced enough to try and arrange by cool -warm and am going to try again with color and value.
For me one reason for trying to sort them is to have a hands lesson in color theory.

Thanks again to everyone for the great information and photos.

KA Obee
04-03-2006, 08:21 PM
Thank you so much for posting those photos! Did you end up getting the Heilman box? If so, which one did you get? Mine has 4 compartments on each side - I'm starting to think maybe I should put a horizontal divider in to help with sorting the pastels (although I'm not sure how I'd do that.) But then I could divide the colors by temperature (eg. Blues: red blues, green blues) and then sort them dark to light. Again, I'm just trying to make it easier to grab what I need, whithout loosing my train of thought, while I'm working on a painting.
These photos are great! Thanks again,

04-03-2006, 08:55 PM
i just received the large box last week- ;) - and now that i am finally starting to fill it(trying to figure out how has been a major dilemma!:eek: ) i dont feel confident enough to mix the brands up yet, so i decided to work from outside in, from both sides - GAs darks on one side and mt.vision darks on the other with the lights of both meeting somewhere in the center?
the reaL SURPRISE WAS how many pastels i was actually able to fit - i did break most of them in thirds to halves, but still was strange seeing 150 ga's take up so little space. now i am in the process of breaking the mt visions:crying: have to steel myself and keep going - will use them more now:D :D :D
btw - i think that not having the divider in the center may be a little more flexible - that way if you have more of a certain color/temperature you wont feel constrained.
look forward to seeing your painting

Donna A
04-03-2006, 09:34 PM
In reading the various responses, I am gathering that arranging your pastel palette is kind of like a personal preference. What works for one, may or may not work for you.

My interest in how to arrange my pastel palette is due to a space issue and the fact that since I became retired and am now learning how to paint with pastels. Lack of a room that I can devote strickly to my pastel work forces me to look at all sorts of arrangement.... maybe someone knows of a system whereby I can do my pastel painting in the dining room and yet when its time to store them for the eveing, I can store them close by for use the next day...


Hi, Dennis! What might work well, if you have space for one small-ish rolling cart with shelves, is to store your trays or boxes of pastel and other painting items on the shelves and roll everything over into a corner-----or another room. If it was a nice-looking piece of furniture with doors, you could use it as a serving surface at dinner and keep everything stored away below for painting times!

Or, make several wooden or foam-core trays to store everything in and then put every thing in to the one or two trays and slide them beneath a bed.

There IS a way!!!! :-) Even a wire rolling table (I have one in my painting studio) could be used. I put a sheet of plywood over the "handles" that come up about 2" or 3" on both sides and that makes another thin shelf----and works as a larger table top. You could always use a plywood top and drop a nice table cloth over it during the evening. On my antique dining room table in my painting studio, I have a 4'x8' sheet of 3/4" plywood sitting on my table top giving me a tough, gritty working surface that I can do horrid things to-----but keep a gorgeous paisley cloth over it, so it looks ever so lovely the rest of the time (if not piled high with "stuff.") :-)

I believe in starting from "what do I need" and then going from there. As I often say in class-----"desparation is the mother of invention!" Hee hee hee (but it doooo seem to have some great truth!) :-) Very best wishes!!! Donna ;-}

04-03-2006, 11:03 PM
I like those little plastic drawer units on wheels. I use one as a tabouret and it holds all of my art supplies. On the top, I placed my large pastel box and it is now a mobile and very usable piece of studio furniture. Just another option for you, Dennis.

04-04-2006, 02:45 PM
Great thread! Thanks for asking KA! I have 2 handmade, very shallow wooden drawers, or trays really, that I picked up at a neighbor's garage sale for next to nothing. They are perfect for storing pastels so I lined them with felt and have started putting my little collection in them. Stopped when I wasn't sure about putting the hard pastels with the soft and what do I do with my pencils? LOL These wooden trays were so nicely made I kept saying to DH - they are so shallow - its like they were made for pastels!?! He walked away saying one word - ammunition.
Alot of guys load their own bullets where we live. My neighbors ex was one of them. Just a thought though - might have some good pastel storage options at the gun store. :)

KA Obee
04-08-2006, 11:08 PM
Hi All,
I finally got my pastel box organized and I just had to show it off. It actually took much longer than I thought it would to do this little project, but it was a great way to re-immerse myself in a little color theory. It forced me to look at the colors and think about values and temperatures, purity of color, etc. It also made me realize that I better stop buying pastels, at least until Iíve used up some of these! I think Iíve run out of room.
I am enjoying looking at this simply because itís the neatest, most organized little corner of my house at the moment. It was such a cold, yucky day; I found it hard to motivate myself to even do the laundry. Looking at all these colors made me feel much better.


04-09-2006, 01:40 AM
I felt the same way the first time i got my large box set up - I loved looking at it so much, I made the the desktop on my computer from a photo of my pastel box. It still makes me smile when I see it :)

The box looks fantastic!!!

Piper Ballou
04-09-2006, 11:03 AM
Does anyone follow how Albert Handell indexes his pastels?...when he gets a new box he cuts off a small piece of each pastel stick with the label and number on it and keeps it in the box it came in, that way when he uses up that color he knows extaclly which one to order when it is about used up.

KA Obee
04-09-2006, 01:50 PM
Wow, that is WAY to organized for me! Just getting the sticks in order in the box was a big deal for me. I figure using up a stick, and not knowing the exact color is a good excuse for buying two or three to replace it with!