View Full Version : Making Pastels

06-22-2009, 07:56 PM
:wave: Hi! I've been attempting to make my own pastels, but have problems getting them soft enough. I don't use ANY binder at the moment- pigment, water, talc and Guilder's Whiting. Does any one have any receipes that work? I've heard of China Clay but don't know what it is or where to get it!!! I need help! Thanks.

06-22-2009, 09:05 PM
There are several pages of instruction.

I believe the standard binder is gum tragacanth.

I suspect that the proper 'binder' can actually contribute to the apparent softness. Also, how the pastel is rolled and dried. I believe the idea is to get the mix into pastel form, but with as little compression force in making the pastel as possible. I have read more than once that machine-made pastels end up being harder because of the pressure applied by the machinery.

Good luck. If I had time, I would try making them too.


06-22-2009, 09:57 PM
Does any one have any receipes that work?
-- Making Professional Pastels (http://www.danielsmith.com/content--id-77)
-- Pastels and Chalks (http://www.paintmaking.com/grinding_pastels.htm)


06-22-2009, 10:00 PM

I've made some and I think the trick is to make sure to add in a bit of Champagne Chalk - it doesn't change the color much, and that's what seemed to help me the most. You can get a lot of supplies from Sinopia, and they used to have gum tragacanth, but I looked recently there, and I couldn't find it - I know Mount Visions are made with methyl cellulose (a glue) and I looked for that once and found it at Jerry's Artarama, or you could find another source probably for the gum tragacanth. I remember reading somewhere the rock hard pastels are usually made with too strong a concentration of the gum solution. Also, when I made my gum t. basic mixture with distilled water, for a preservative, I used a few drops of Campo Phenique and that seemed to work well and was much of a bothersome odor than beta napthol. I used a wand blender to get the gum completely smooth, too, and let the gum sit overnight to soften before blending. Hope this helps.

Here's the thread where I started when I made a few about 2 years ago -

06-23-2009, 07:15 AM
And some pigments dry hard as rock! (Violets, and phthalos, for example, of the Createx liquid pigments. Don't use them only.)

Wouldn't surprise me if China clay is called kaolin (caolin?).

Some commercial brands use talc, too, like Schmincke.

Calcium carbonate and Champaigne chalk is the same thing, only the champaigne comes from the district in France, and is a very light grey near white that doesn't have much covering strength, which is why it is used instead of white pigment, as the original colour pigments retains a bit more chroma than when mixed with white.

I hope memory serves me, it was a year ago that I researched this. (And tried it, and got too hard pastels that worked only on the sanpapers.)


06-23-2009, 07:25 PM
Thank you so much!!! Of course I can't shop in those places cos I'm in Australia!! My art shops don't know anything about this. It took me 6 months to get the talc! Thanks.

06-24-2009, 01:25 AM
If you have a health food store around you can get calcium carbonate inexpensively. Talc is good to use but it takes to much as some pigments are very strong (even some earths, red oxide, raw umber). As a wetting agent you can used iso alcohol (basically rubbing alcohol) because most pigments will not dissolve with water and if you use water, use bottled because tap water can potentially bleach a pigment. Using any kind of binder like tragacanth will give you a firm texture, but if you just use alcohol and calcium carb, you will have the texture of almost a unison, but the feel of a sennelier. You just have to make sure you keep your ratios consistent.

Ive made pastels off and on for while now, its just a matter of space (and the fact that i like to paint more than i like to spend time making pastels). Ill try to help though as much as i can, there are a few threads on here and what has been mentioned above on the subject. :D


Donna A
06-27-2009, 12:40 AM
Hi, Catherine! I've made pastels, too! I used recipes in Ralph Mayer's book. One of the things I most strongly remember is that each pigment requires a different amount of binder!!!! Mayer suggests making 4 different strengths beginning with the strongest, then taking something like half of it and cutting it---and then so on for the others! He tells you which pigments need more or less binder.

I didn't use much if any clays or such, tho I have them. I did definitely use something to prevent mold, etc.!

I thought it was fascinating to make a number of pastels---but only a couple of times! I'd rather paint---and leave the pastel-making up to those who are very focused on it! It's really interesting to work with making pastels and can give us a marvelously deeper appreciation for them! My making them the first time took place over the better part of a week and a fellow pastellist came over to make some, too!

Do understand that you need to use different amounts of binder for different pigments and use less binder and far more pigment for softer pastels! Take good care! Donna ;-}

07-07-2009, 07:44 PM
Thanks! I do use tap water- but we're on tank water so it's good old rain water! I'm not using any binder at all at the moment- they seem to hold together well without it. I like to make pastels- I still love my unison and schminke (spelling?) and have discovered Terry Ludwig but these are so expensive by the time I get them here. i just love being able to make colours I just can't find- a good cream that's not too yellow, warm greys, light blues,and I'm obsessed with making browns!

07-10-2009, 04:29 PM
Hi Katherine, :wave::wave:

Just stumbled on this thread and I am fascinated as I have long considered trying to make my own colors too. Since i don't have any rich relatives lurking in the wings to donate a FULL set of Terry Ludwigs, this could be an answer.:p

Where do you get your pigments? Do you need a lot..a pound or more? As a potter, I probably have some Kaolin around but definitely some talc. Who would have thought pottery and pastels would connect this way???

I want soft pieces like you, so a binder probably is not a problem. Any hints would be appreciated. I teach pastels at the local community college and am getting a group that is really interested in them so maybe we can do a group pastel "kitchen" one day. :eek:

Will keep watching this thread for more hints...and check out the above threads too. :thumbsup:


08-22-2009, 10:16 PM
I know this book is hardget (out of print i think) but there is some recipes.(hope i dont typoed anything)
The Artist's Handbook
and writer is Pip Seymour. and i have this book and pastels what are Seymours made i think these are very soft (only soft pastels what i tested but i still thiking this).
ps. one says there some pigments are harder its quinacridones these ?

Donna T
08-23-2009, 05:48 PM
Here's a link (http://brendaboylan.blogspot.com/) to our own Brenda Boylan's (aka Baby Beeb) blog. She shows all the steps she uses and lists all the supplies needed to make pastels from her leftover pieces. I know it's not the same as making them from scratch but it looks fascinating just the same and I thought some of you might like to check it out.


alaskan rose
08-24-2009, 11:13 AM
Thanks, Donna, I was just going to ask if anyone has a recipe for making them from leftovers. I need more neutrals and was thinking of using my bits to see what I can come up with.

08-26-2009, 02:53 PM
I know Kitty Wallis use to have a white paste compound you could buy and you just add pigment. The pastels look great from what I remember.

Not sure if you can get it anymore though. Has Kitty even been around lately?

08-27-2009, 02:29 AM
Yes, Kitty is still around! She may even be peeking in on this thread. :)

I know she is busy with her paper and producing art and teaching workshops. She still makes the pigments but not sure how she distributes it. (We meet up occasionally with a plien air group over Bfast in the Portland area) I'll be picking up some of her white pigment soon which is sold in a powder form with a small jar of liquid binder that has a special recipe. I roll her pastels pretty much exclusively so, yes, they are awesome but ya gotta know which ones need a tad of white so they don't dry hard as a rock. I think that it is one of the Darks. But, yeah, the Wallis pigments take all the hard work out of the process and give you the most brilliant pure pigments. All you have to do is mix your own spectrum from the core colors offered.
I'm wondering if she will pipe in here....

09-03-2009, 10:36 AM
Thanks, Donna, I was just going to ask if anyone has a recipe for making them from leftovers. I need more neutrals and was thinking of using my bits to see what I can come up with.

Margie, I do this all of the time. I save the dust in a trap below my paintings and use it to make neutrals. You can do the same thing with bits and pieces by crushing them in a mortor/pestle and mix to whatever color you want.

After I have the dust, I mix in a little bit of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). I add the alcohol with a dropper drop by drop while mixing with a palette knife. When the consistency is workable like wet clay, I shape the mixture into a roll and let it dry for a couple of days.

Water also works, but I'd advise using distilled water.

You'll have to experiment with the amout of liquid you use. I find that if I make the texture quite dry when I roll it, the resulting stick tends to be hard. If I make the texture sticky, then the pastel tends to be softer. Of course, the softness/hardness also depends on the nature of the original pastels.

Good Luck,