View Full Version : How do you get those tiniest details and spots of color?

07-09-2007, 05:20 PM
I love pastels worked loose and free, with some blending and lots of lost edges. . . but how do you get those tiny details, like a line or a dot or a "flick" of color? You know, the eyelash that defines the portrait. . . the tassel on a pillow that defines the setting . . . . even the features on a face that is not too near?

07-09-2007, 05:27 PM
I get incredibly close to my paper, with my pastel in hand, looking at where the sharp spot is, then aim best as i can and just do it! after all, if its not right, i can brush it off and try again.

some lines, for me, are best done with the side of a harder stick, held longways against the paper. (small distant trees for instance) then if i use up the hard edge, i can get it back with a sandpaper block.

a charcoal pencil does a dandy job if its a deep dark spot, or a white charcoal for a white spot. those little pencils are gems!

07-09-2007, 05:38 PM
Here is the progression and where I am currently. The piece is 8"x16" and I am wanting to add fancy bridles (I guess I just want to suggest fancy bridles) that would be the finishing touch. . .plus add eyes and othe finishing details.


So, how do I get the tiny details I need to finish this piece? I have never been able to shave or sand a piece of pastel to get a suitable point. . . .so I need some "pointers."

07-09-2007, 05:43 PM
I would use a pastel pencil to get very fine detail ,or sometimes I go the other way and put a thick mark with soft pastel and take it down with a very fine knife untill it fits the bill.
Regards, Will

07-09-2007, 06:08 PM
Like willG, I use pastel pencils for fine detail work eg: eyelashes. The hard edges of square pastels are ideal, too.
As an aside to this: pastel pencils seem to be going out of favour and I am wondering whether this could be due to their fragile nature (well, using a pencil sharpner was never a good idea in the first place !).
Kind regards,

07-09-2007, 06:29 PM
On something this size, I'd use either a black or white charcoal pencil like Chewie suggested. I find a can get finer lines with those than with pastel pencils. If it is more just a suggestion you wanted without a specific color, they should work for you. Otherwise go for the pastel pencil

Like willG, I use pastel pencils for fine detail work eg: eyelashes. The hard edges of square pastels are ideal, too.
As an aside to this: pastel pencils seem to be going out of favour and I am wondering whether this could be due to their fragile nature (well, using a pencil sharpner was never a good idea in the first place !).
Kind regards,

Eggy: Question for you - out of favor by whom? :confused: I use pastel pencils extensively, as do several other artists - some here on WetCanvas. I agree that some brands are prone to breakage but they are hardly fragile. I've been using pastel pencils for years with a standard electric pencil sharpener without too much of a problem. Definitely not falling out of favor with me!

07-09-2007, 06:46 PM
Hi, Kathy !
Five years ago 72% of the art students at a top notch Art Academy were for Pastel Pencils and now that has gone down to 58%. I asked the question why this should be and 41% of the last group said that they find that even the major brands they use are more fragile than when they first stated using them. I took this up with a friend of mine who uses PP and he thought it may well be a matter of some concern to the major manufacturers. Needless to say, a letter was sent and the response was: "The quality of our Pastel Pencils is the same, if not better, than ever before". One very well known brand manufacturer of PP responded with: "We are thinking of changing the wood we use for casing the pastels".
Personally, I use them for sketches and fine details (as mentioned before) and as a mere matter of preference, I use the best sqaure pastels I seem to love the most.
Horses for courses, I suppose.
Kind regards,

07-09-2007, 07:08 PM
I use pastel pencils all the time - the kind I prefer are CarbOthellos. A lot of times the brand of pastels depends on how much breakage you get, but I've had the set I have for about a year and they are still good as new.

A lot of times, the brands that everyone uses on WetCanvas are not heard of in local circles, just due to the international nature of this site - i.e. I've talked to several local pastel artists who only use Canson and Rembrandts, and have never heard of sanded papers or higher end pastels, just because that's all that is readily available to them.

Do you know what kind of pastels the students were using?

-- Linda

07-09-2007, 07:09 PM
your piece is lovely, with lots of action! i am wondering tho., why are you concerned with detailed, fancy bridles? as it is, the looseness of this is very appealing. for my money, i'd like to see a few splashes of color to suggest those fancy headgears, and leave it at that! you dont' want to take away from the whole, tinkering with tiny bits.

as for the pencils, i think its a personal preference. i used to use them more than i do now, not really the 'fault' of the pencil, just changing the way i work. i also dont' use the super-softies either, just too heavy handed, but others work miracles with them. to each their own....!

07-09-2007, 07:16 PM
Yes, Linda, I do know the kind of PP the students used and that is why my friend and I took action by writing to the two major manufacturers concerned.
May I say that these PP are extremely well known. Their oil and soft pastels sticks are excellent...just the PP.
Kind regards,

07-09-2007, 07:48 PM
I second the vote to be careful about dinking around with details. Just a tracery for reins and nose halter and a tiny streak of color to suggest decorated tack. The greatness of the piece is in the flowing, loose, expressionism.

07-09-2007, 08:39 PM
Thanks everyone! The little details I was talking about are the tiny little dashes of color to suggest tack. . . as you can see, I am not all about details!


I think I am going to call it done. . . . now I have to clean off the table and get out my mat cutter and get this thing framed. . .

07-09-2007, 08:45 PM
perfect! that is exactly the perfect way to finish this off! i love it!!!!!!!!!!!!

07-10-2007, 09:54 AM
Nice thread, and something I'd always thought about, though I must admit, I don't seem to get that much detail in most of my work, but very interesting nevertheless.

K Taylor-Green
07-10-2007, 11:03 AM
This is absolutely wonderful! I'm glad you are calling it done.

07-10-2007, 11:28 AM
Stunning piece of art. It has wonderful movement and the colors are breathtaking. I think your bridle details are perfect. Thank you for sharing and can't wait to see more of your work.


07-10-2007, 11:58 AM

I'm glad you were able to finish, and it looks good. I thought
I'd add that from going to Albert Handell's workshop a few weeks ago, and watching the little jewels of color that were added to his work, for general areas, he would rapidly tap the surface of his work, with enough speed and force you could really hear a 'tap-tap-tap-tap' sort of like a woodpecker while he was applying the color. I also noticed when he added individual notes of color, it looked like the pastel stick surface he was using had edges so he could really guide where the color was added.

If you have problems applying notes of color where you really want, you might try using something like a pointed colorshaper (or even a pink pearl eraser that you've altered), and shave a little dot of the color you want to apply on a loose piece of spare paper, and then pick some of it up on your colorshaper and then apply it with that. Maybe that will give you a little more control over where the color lands on your image.

Don't kill your work with too many details, and it is usually a lot more interesting to have only a few areas with more details, and other areas with general information. Hope that helps.

07-10-2007, 12:08 PM
I've also struggled with details with the tops of fir/pine trees where the branches do not contain much substance, usually showing considerable sky holes. I tend to get them too thick. The pastel pencils are limited in color and my hard pastel is hard to control on smaller trees. I end up messing up the surrounding sky and the trees themselves.


Gammy Hayes
07-10-2007, 01:17 PM
I am extremely impressed with the action in this piece and the flow from one form to another. I like the details you added to suggest the tack...as they cause a rhythm and variety to the beat as the eye goes from form to form. Great piece! I am interested in knowing how you plan to present the piece....framed with a mat for without?

Lynette (Gammy Hayes)

Alachua Artist
07-10-2007, 05:24 PM
great progression series - nice to see it all at once. You were able to add enough highlights to bring out just enough detail, but still keep it fresh with lots of movement.

and yes, this is DONE!!!

07-10-2007, 07:28 PM
Well, the piece has officially been entered in the Emerald Downs Equine Art Exhibit, along with two others I finished just so I could enter them . . .

I had fits framing this piece, but ended up in a very simple smooth black painted wood frame, and because I did not have time for custom framing, I heavily weighted the white mat at the bottom museum-style.

So, out of three pieces entered, I forgot to sign one, forgot to photograph one, and found a tiny pice of lint inside the third. . . .but it was too late to unframe and reframe at this point. Does anyone else have trouble forgetting to sign their paintings? LOL!

07-10-2007, 08:33 PM
I'm just beginning to have the nerve to sign some of mine.

I love your painting. I love the movement and the colors and ... everything about it. I have lots more to say about it (all nice), but have to get off the computer now... just turned it on, and wouldn't you know it, the storm is here now.

Dayle Ann

07-10-2007, 09:14 PM
You have finished it off wonderfully with those tiny spots of colour and detail, i just love this..i bet it looks amazing framed. Well done..

07-10-2007, 09:16 PM
Very nice painting! I love all the stages of this, too, as paintings of their own.
You have some good advice from everyone.

bauble girl
07-11-2007, 08:17 AM
love your end result... and it seems everyone here are so helpfull with advice

07-12-2007, 02:23 AM

The piece took a third place in its category at the show! I was so shocked and elated!

Guess this is a hint to just keep on painting! I have been so discouraged lately . . .

A hearty thanks to all of you for your encouragement, hints, help and tid-bits of truth.

Mary Brigid
07-12-2007, 03:11 AM
well I am not a bit shocked that this painting won a prize. Its wonderful. You I can hear those horses thundering by. Congratulations and very well done
Mary Brigid

07-12-2007, 06:57 AM
Congratulations! Your competition must have been very good indeed, as this is a wonderful painting. I'd love to see it in person. Every time I look at it, I almost anticipate ducking as the horses swing by and the dust rolls over me!

Dayle Ann