View Full Version : Your Pastel Box

07-07-2008, 11:43 AM
Hi fellow WC users. I am curious about how you organize your brands of pastels. I have seen lots of people who have their palette sorted by value, or color, but it looks like it is all the same brand and possibly softness.

Do you take into consideration hardness/softness, brand, or shape? I have a bunch of different brands now and they just sit with each other. The NuPastels together, the Senneliers together, etc. These are then all organized by value within each brand. It seems that I have a bunch of mini palettes. Is there a benifit to lumping them all together and sorting by value?

I feel like I am doing things strange, but I have been associating softness/hardness with different brands, so I have like 4 palettes that I use at different levels. For instance...I use the Nupastel palette for line drawing, the Rembrandts for blocking in, the Senneliers for building color, and the Unisons for highlights.

Does anyone else work like that? The problem I have is that they are pain to transport sorted this way.

Adriana Meiss
07-07-2008, 12:07 PM
Having the pastels mixed in a large pastel box has helped me a lot.
At first, it was kind of painful --almost a sacrilege, cutting some of the pastels in half (one for the studio box, the other for the plein air one), but this way, it's much easier to select the color you need, and also easier to determine what colors you need to buy.

In most cases, it's easy to determine pastel hardness just by looking. Eventually one learns which pastels are softer by touch.

07-07-2008, 01:17 PM
Phill, I do something similar. The bulk of my pastels are Rembrandts (used for everything) and Schminckes (for top layers, or special colours). I keep them separated, and sorted in roughly the same manner, switching palette as the painting progresses.

But, I've gotten a few very dark and very light Ludwigs in one separate original box. A small set of assorted AS. And 32 luxurious Unisons laying like gemstones on black velvet in their original boxes. Will get more, so I very much need a solution too, and hope you get many interesting answers.

Maggie P
07-07-2008, 01:18 PM
I mix mine all up. For my plein air set-up, I use the Heilman backpacker box. I use the six divisions of the box to organize by value: darkest dark, middle dark, lightest dark; darkest light, middle light and lightest light.

Within each value section, I organize from warm to cool. Cool blues at one end, reds and yellows at the other. In between I can make judgments as to warm and cool; reddish-purples move toward the warm end, blue-purples toward the cool end. Greens go in the middle.

As Adriana says, you know when you pick up a stick whether it's hard or soft. The shape usually is an indicator--you know a long skinny square stick is a NuPastel or Faber Castell, both toward the hard end, while a fat round stick is probably a Unison or Mt. Vision, and a fat square is a Ludwig. If you ever have any doubt a quick test stroke will tell you.

I also take all the wrappers off and break the longer sticks in half so I can use them on their sides.

My studio set up is simply a larger version of the plein air set up.

There are many advantages to this set up, but for me the biggest advantage is how I think about color selection: value first, temperature second, then hue. If you don't have the "right" color but choose an accurate value and temperature, it will work. As you constantly replace pastels in the set by proper value and temperature, you're sharpening your perception of these important factors, and will thus be more accurate in your painting.

I've had people in my workshops switch to this value organization after the first or second day of class, and by the end of the workshop their paintings have been visibly stronger in value structures. It's made a huge improvement in my own work as well.

07-07-2008, 03:46 PM
Adriana - Thanks much for the info from a pastelist that puts them all together in a large box. I really think that I will end up doing that when I can find a box that fits my taste.

Charlie - I am glad that I am not the only one that seems to set up palettes according to stages. The other downside that I notice regularly is when I have sticks close to the same softness. I tend to remember a certain color that might look nice from another brand and hunt it down, which kills the spontaneity.

Maggie - I actually set up my "mini" palettes with regard to value, temperature, and hue thanks to the picture of the palette box in your book. (I must add a little brown nosing and say that it is a invaluable resource to a beginner :thumbsup:)

07-07-2008, 11:18 PM
I started arranging my box the way my teacher does with the neutrals off to the right, separated from the other pastels. Here is a picture of Richard McKinley's pastel box. It is so clean and neat, amazing isn't it? Richard puts his darks on the bottom but I work with mine on the top and my lights at the bottom. Maybe because I am left handed.


07-10-2008, 04:48 PM
Inspired by this thread, I've started to organize my Rembrandts according to value, separating cool and warm, too. I think it was Michael who said one could set one's digital camera to b/w, and check the values, and I used that idea. Found a few glaring mis-sorted that way, but mostly they needed shifting up or down just one notch. Very easy process with the camera, as I immediately could see the result, without having to actually shoot a pic and upload it to the 'puter.

And there were some surprises!

Will see if this makes the actual painting easier, or if my pastels just got a thorough cleaning.

07-10-2008, 11:25 PM
Hi, I started out with my plein air box by color - then I went to a Maggie Price workshop and she suggested changing to her method. I made the change and feel it's much easier to find the values and temperature I'm looking for. I also cut all my pastels in half - that way I have twice the color assortment in my box.