View Full Version : How To Make Soft Pastels

10-30-2010, 10:04 AM
I've Just Embarked On Making My Own Pastels, But The Problem Is: They're Turning Out Very Brittle. I Have Kept The Formula Very Simple (followed The Advice From An On-line Pastel Site)
My Formula Is This: Pigment / Calcium Carbonate & Talk. / Mixed With Filtered Water From A Domestic Use Brita Filter. Most Recipes Suggest The Use Of Gum Tragacanth (but None Of Them Explain What It Does) Only That If You Use Too Much Of It, It Will Make The Pastels Hard.this Would Mean That My Pastels Should Be Very Soft As I Do Not Use Any Gum T'. The Other Difference Is That I Use Filtered Water Instead Of The Recommended Distilled Water.(i Can Get Dist' Water But It Is Very Expensive Because It Has To Be Shipped To Me, And My Logic Says That As Soon As You Take The Lid Off The Boittle The Quality Of The Water Is Compromised ?)
Does Anyone Know How I Can Make My Pastels Soft ?
Many Thanks To Anyone That Can Advise !

10-30-2010, 02:06 PM
I've never made my own pastels, but from reading a number of articles, this is what I have learned:

Gum Tragacanth is one of the binders used in making pastels. While some pigments bind well enough without it, with others you would need a binder. The Calcium Carbonate and talc are just fillers, I believe.

It is very difficult to get the ratio of materials correct. Some pigments will need little or no binder, others quite a lot. Lots of articles recommend mixing up 4 or 5 strengths of binder to experiment with.

Here are a few other links that may be helpful:





Please keep in mind that many pigments in their pure form can be hazardous. Please make sure that if you are using any of those pigments that you are using a mask and/or other precautions.

And I have to ask, with all the incredible brands of soft pastel at our disposal, why make your own? Or do you live in a part of the world where the wonderful variety of brands we have is not available? Just curious!!

Welcome to our forum, by the way!


10-30-2010, 03:02 PM
Many thanks for your reply Don.
I will try adding Gum Trag' as soon as it arrives from my supplier.It just seems odd to expect softer pastels from adding an ingredient known for hardening pastels ? Or am I missing some finer point ?
To answer your question about WHY do I want to make my own ? well, I'm beginning to wonder myself. The cost was one issue,Unisons costing 1.90 each (approx $3.4) here in the UK. But I also thought it would be fun. Thanks for your advice about the health hazard. Although, are we not at risk when we are using them to paint ?
Thanks also for the links - much appreciated !
Kind regards

10-30-2010, 03:40 PM
One book which have info making of them is:
The Artist's Handbook by Pip Seymour

10-30-2010, 09:25 PM
I think your terms "hardening pastels" is being misunderstood, so it is confusing to you. Gum T is a binder, which means it keeps pastels together vs. falling apart or crumbling. It makes them hard in the sense that they stay together. It doesn't make them hard as in less soft, or so I understand it.

10-31-2010, 09:11 AM
That's a welcome thought Potoma. I'll give the Gum Trag' a go and see what results I get.
Many thanks for your help !
Kind regards

10-31-2010, 09:46 AM
.(i Can Get Dist' Water But It Is Very Expensive Because It Has To Be Shipped To Me, And My Logic Says That As Soon As You Take The Lid Off The Boittle The Quality Of The Water Is Compromised ?)
-- How To Make Your Own Distilled Water (http://www.ehow.com/how_4728943_own-distilled-water.html)
-- and a YouTube How To Make Distilled Water (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSlcHuPXwiw)

And nope, I don't think that taking the lid off re-contaminates the water. I think you'll be okay taking the lid off, to get at the water. :thumbsup: