View Full Version : Learning the hard way

10-23-2010, 03:43 AM
Hello I'm new to the forum. Glad to be amongst so much talent on this wonderful forum

I've been doing some work with Pastels for some time and found out the hard way that it can be toxic.

I couldn't understand why I was getting flu like symptoms 24 hours after I had done a Pastels painting.

A local professional pastels artist (Tas Severis) put me right. I had been doing the work on a flat table and leaning over the work and breathing in the dust.

I have since used a vertical easel and I have not had a recurrence of these symptoms . But is there something a little better than this? Something that would be useful when doing Oils also.

Many Thanks


10-23-2010, 11:31 AM
Many pastelists and artists in general use a hepa air cleaner next to their easel. the filter takes the tiny particle out of the air. I think it could also help with the oil painting fumes as it takes in the air and cleans it through the hepa filter. there are some more expensive ones at art store sites online and I know "the Artists Air" filtering system is top of the line. this one attaches to your easel and sucks the dust and fumes as they are being produced. But, I also know many who just go out to walmart or Home depot and get one that sits by the easel or sometimes two depending on how big the room is and how much you paint. honeywell makes a good one and i myself just bought a Holmes. i am not involved with those companies in any way but they are two brands I know of. It is important to get the hepa filter not just any filter. i'm not an expert and i am sure there are more artists out there with better information but this is just my two cents on the subject. another thing to think of is either using gloves when painting with pastels or a barrier cream such as "gloves in a bottle" there are other brands that do the same thing and they can be found at art stores online. some of the pastles may be made with toxic pigments and in my opinion it is best to be aware of this and to use what you can to protect yourself. Last but not least, many pastelists use a mask to help keep the dust out of their lungs. some use the disposable ones and there is also one on the market that Paula ford sells called the totobobo mask(hope I spelled that right.) i have yet to buy it but it is on my list of things to get soon. this is a mask that is more permanent although I think you need to buy replacement filters. Paula is here on wet canvas. She sells this because she found it to be invaluable for herself and as a way to help other artists. Again, I have no affiliation with this or any other product mentioned. just trying to let you know of some of the options out there to help with the dust problems using pastels. sorry if there are typos, my fingers don't always go where I want them too:)


10-23-2010, 12:31 PM
My first recommendation - and the easiest (and cheapest) - is to use a simple dust mask when using your pastels. After that you get look into air filters. Also try to avoid stirring up the dust - so blowing on the pastel is to be avoided!

Here are some threads on various health topics:


The dust masks and most air filters won't be of help for the fumes from oil painting, although there might be some air filters that have more expensive filters that might be effective for those fumes. I'm not sure there is anything better than making sure that you provide enough ventilation when using solvents (turpentine, mineral spirits). It is the solvents that are the biggest health risk when using oils (provided you are not ingesting the paints :). You can check out the oil painting forum and search for threads about solvent-free painting. If you use solvents, Odorless Mineral Spirits is a better alternative than turps, but you still need proper ventilation.


10-23-2010, 07:39 PM
If you invest in an Artist's Air, you can get it with just a dust HEPA filter, or you can add a VOC filter, to remove the "volatile organic chemicals" that oil paint and turps put into the air. I have just the dust model, and it is wonderful. I don't know if other HEPA filters offer you the additional VOC filter - but that is what you need to paint in oils indoors to avoid the fumes. If you go to the Artist's Air website, you can find more information on their filter options.

Don is right - start with a mask - and then investigate from there!!! However, even odorless turps put VOC's in the air. The only way to avoid that is to use the water-miscible oils.