View Full Version : Any Tips?

07-01-2008, 10:35 PM
I've been into art all of my life, and like many different mediums. Pastels, however, don't seem to work well for me. I always think they look so fun, but when I try to work with them, I just have frustrating results. The work I do always looks 'scratchy' and doesn't seem to blend well. The pastels I have are soft and I've tried them on both pastel paper and drawing paper. The pastel set I own is a pretty cheap set; could that be the problem? I'm afraid to invest in an expensive set because I don't want to spend a lot and realize that they aren't much different.
Any general tips on working with pastels are welcomed! Thanks!

K Taylor-Green
07-01-2008, 10:47 PM
Hi Jenna! Welcome to the Pastels forum! Try the link below. There is tons of info for new pastel painters there.


07-01-2008, 11:02 PM
Thanks! I'm reading up at the link now.

Maggie P
07-02-2008, 12:00 AM
Jenna, there is a huge difference between what they call "student grade" (translation: inexpensive) pastels and professional quality pastels. There are also some specific techniques for pastels that are important. And you'll probably be a lot happier if you try working on sanded paper such as Wallis Sanded Pastel Paper. It accommodates a lot of layers and results in that wonderful rich look.

You'll probably learn a lot from reading the info Katherine recommended. But after that, if you have questions, ask! We were all once where you are now--I remember thinking I'd never figure out how to get anywhere with this medium, and being so frustrated I nearly quit. There are a lot of people here who will help you, so don't be discouraged!

07-02-2008, 12:12 AM
Hello jenna and welcome to the wonderful world of pastels. some of the cheapie pastels have grit in them and they do tend to scatch and ever wax up when used, some papers are very hard to work with as well. if cost is the issue try the Gallery Mungyo pastels they are student grade but I think they are very nice and still use them because I like them. if cost is not the issue try the Schmenckes or the terry ludwigs.some of the better papers are the Canson Mitenis or the Frabriano Ingres, even better papers are the sanded papers like the colorfix or the more expensive paper like the Wallis. but the best way is to just buy a few of assorted papers and pastels and try them out, see what you like as many of us like different brands of pastels, and papers. Good luck and we look forward to seing some of you work. :)

07-02-2008, 12:37 AM
Hi Jenna,

I am going to chip in a few cents here as well.... I picked up on this part of your lament... "I just have frustrating results. The work I do always looks 'scratchy' and doesn't seem to blend well." Some pastelists love to blend when paintings, I too end up blending sometimes, just can't seem to keep my fingers out of the pie so to speak. But, I get disastrous results when I overblend and my colors turn to mud! Papers have a "Tooth" to them that allow you to build up multiple layers of color, and when they aren't blended the underpainting just sings through the overlaid colors and make your painting POP! When you blend you sort of loose this visual optical effect. Pastels are unlike paint, they tend to muddy up fast if too many colors are used. Only for experimental purpose...take a high grit (200) sandpaper and draw a few inches of dark purple on it, rub that color in to the sandpaper, cover it well...then take a yellow or even orange or green pastel and lightly pass it over the top you will then see the effect I am talking about. Take the same colors and draw them on regular paper and "blend" the colors together with your fingers and you end up with mud. In the old days (10 years ago) they actually would use sandpaper for pastel paintings, but it isn't archival or acid free so paintings wouldn't last, the materials they have now are.
Two additional cents worth of caution:
1. Beware you don't sand your fingers off with this experiment.:)
2. Pastels are a highly addictive medium.:)


07-02-2008, 06:55 AM
Hi, well, I have this simple check-list for scratchy results:

a) quality of paper (yours is ok, so on to-)
b) quality of pastels (get some artist quality, and you don't have to buy a whole set. Is it Dakota pastels who have a sample of many different brands? try those, and find your favourite.)
c) break off halves or thirds of the pastels, and use them on their side, not only on their tips/points.
d) blend and smudge with your finger, especially, or even only, the first layer, to get it to cover the paper. Anything you paint into the first layer ought to go down more smoothly.

As someone said, we've all been there when we started. :-)

07-02-2008, 11:15 AM
:wave: Hi, Jenna,
I agree with all those great tips above.

I especially suggest that you work on the best paper you can afford.
That may or may not be the most expensive, but probably not cheap, either.

My most favorite is Wallis sanded paper, museum grade.
But, I also have some of the "professional grade", too, for quick study and trying out stuff.
The sanded surface is great for getting down layers without over-blending.
I just can't do that on non-sanded paper.
Just when I blend and how much I blend and with what, makes a big difference. There is nothing like experience here and experimentation!

One way to proceed is to get a paper sample pack from Dakota Pastels and
do a bunch of experimenting before you buy whole packages of paper.

You might want to do the same with pastel brands. Dakota also sells sample sets to compare and experiment with.

Hang in there and keep asking questions here!:clap:

07-02-2008, 11:24 AM
Good morning, all!
Wow, you've given so much helpful info! I'm looking forward to shopping around to get better quality papers and pastels! Thanks, everyone!:)

07-03-2008, 12:26 PM
I started with a set of Grumbacher circa 1980's . They & the current Grumbacher are softer than even older ones. The older ones are round & the newer ones are rectangular. They are good quality but pretty cheap. Ebay often has some good bargains on used pastels. They had 2 sets of Grumbacher this week. I agree that some of the student pastels aren't worth using. I hope you find some that help...I love pastels.

07-03-2008, 05:34 PM
Thanks for the tip, Artistammy! I hadn't thought of EBay!