View Full Version : conte crayon help?

02-06-2009, 06:52 PM
not sure where exactly I should post this.

I want to make a portrait drawing using conte crayons (which I have no experience with-- nor do I have any pastel experience). I'm wondering if anyone has any tips or suggestions on how to do the details? I was working last night and having a hard time getting the pigments to go exactly where I wanted them, so I ended up just putting it down in a general area and using a tortillion stump to push it where I wanted it. I'm not sure how much detail I can achieve this way though...

02-06-2009, 07:02 PM
I figure anything that creates dust goes under pastel. I think Conte Crayons are made in a way similar to nu-pastel and I use them interchangably as I do charcoal and pastel. To my knowledge, there is no wax or oil in the mix and the word "crayon" may be a misnomer.:confused: Dunno, as there are now watercolor "crayons" out too.:rolleyes:

02-07-2009, 08:10 AM
I also have problems getting the point to go exactly where I want it. I usually use my fingers to push the pastel where I want it to go. If I'm working in a spot where my fingers are too big, I use a colour shaper tool. Most blending tools seem to take way more dust off the painting, then actually blending it. Not counting your fingers, the colour shaper IMHO leaves the most pigment where it belongs. You can find the colour shapers here at Dick Blick. http://www.dickblick.com/products/colour-shapers-tools/
Hope this helps.

Kathryn Wilson
02-07-2009, 09:10 AM
Actually, here is what Wikipedia says about Conte crayons:

Conté, also known as Conté sticks or Conté crayons, are a drawing medium composed of compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with a wax or clay base, square in cross-section.

We've had this discussion before about Conte's in this forum, but most people using them are over in the drawing forum. You might visit over there for more help, but Kym gave you good advice on using the Colorshapers, they are a good tool to have and use.

02-07-2009, 02:01 PM
Actually, here is what Wikipedia says about Conte crayons:

Conté, also known as Conté sticks or Conté crayons, are a drawing medium composed of compressed powdered graphite or charcoal mixed with a wax or clay base, square in cross-section.

I don't think so.

What I found at
"Chalk-Based" (http://trueart.info/chalk-based.htm) is even more interesting. It says that Conté Crayons "were originally a mixture of graphite and clay formed into hard drawing sticks. The process Conte used was similar to that used for his pencils. Today, Conte crayons are made with an alumina chalk (aluminum oxide) base. Because they are readily available in differing degrees of hardness, a range of effects can be consistently produced with these crayons. The white crayons are pure alumina chalk; the blacks and grays are carbon and alumina chalk. The reddish-browns, or sanguines, are ferric oxide (rust) and alumina chalk."

02-07-2009, 02:19 PM
Dandylioness here are some tips I found online. It seems what you can do with these things depends on the type of conte you have. Conte no longer owns Conte, the company was bought out by BIC about 30 years ago, though I don't know if it is still owned by them. Anyway, the way conte is made has changed, and they've added colors and various softness, competing with the pastel market, no doubt. If you are using the colorful conte, they handle about the same way as hard pastels (though there are some softer "contes" on the market)


I learned that I could use my fingertips to give an area a smoother look, and to blend colors and soften edges, etc. (I have since started using torn-off pieces of thick, soft paper towels to do this same thing - It saves a lot of handwashing, but often I regress and use my fingers anyway.)

other tips I found:

Since Conté crayons work very similarly to dry, hard pastels, many of the techniques used for working in pastel apply. With most pastel works (especially those in soft pastel), the layering of color through strokes and blending creates a heavier coat of pastel dust than what I’ve described above with my “dry washes”. I use this approach, too – often applying heavier strokes in certain areas of a drawing right on top of areas of my “dry wash” so that the undertones show through in places. However, when you build up heavier coatings of dust (either in Conté crayon or pastel), you then have to rely entirely on the various shades of color available to you – or that you are able to blend – rather than on using light layers of the same color to build intensity as I described above.

Here's a site where you can find lots of info. Hope this helps.


Kathryn Wilson
02-07-2009, 03:35 PM
Good, they are trying to get inline with more archival materials.

Maybe Wikipedia should have that information?

02-07-2009, 03:46 PM
Hi all just wanted to note that there are Conte "pencils" out and I have used them in the past for doing portrait work. Much like a colour pencil, they can be sharpened to a very fine point. I don't know if they work with the crayons as far as color matching but there may be someone in the portraiture forum that would be able to advise. Take care and good luck!

02-10-2009, 08:21 AM

My first ever introduction to using any form of Soft Pastels was to do a portrait of a Masai Warrior which I did almost exclusivley with Conte Crayons, and a few added Soft Pastels for his garments and neck wear. If you go to my Avatar and CJMonty and go to 'Threads started by CJMonty' you will find one dated 07/08/2006, this was my Very First attempt at doing Soft Pastels.

I have generally used them interspersed with Soft Pastels, of which I generally use Rembrandt, Schminke, Art Spectrum and Windsor & Newton. I find they work just like the harder versions of Soft Pastels and tend to use my fingers for blending, or as some others have said if you need to get into really tight places a Colour Shaper is perfect, they come in a large variety of shapes and sizes.

You will find Everyone here so friendly and helpful and so happey to teach you whatever you wish to learn. There are also some amazing Demos and Step by Step lessons here too.

Good Luck.
Love Carolynn :):):heart::heart::heart:

02-12-2009, 10:17 PM
I've been using the color ones as hard pastels, since I like them a bit better than NuPastel and trust their lightfastness more. I've been using them the most out of all the hard pastels I've got, though I am looking forward to trying Polychromos as well.

I agree the black and sanguine and grays et all are more of a drawing instrument but the color ones are just too good for hard pastel uses and I tend to paint more than draw with them. I love how they mix. They were always good mixers.