View Full Version : Hard to soft organization?

11-03-2010, 04:28 PM
Is there anyone out there who organizes their pastels, in separate boxes, hard to soft? As I was painting today, I pulled 6 or so hard pastels out of my paint box and placed them in a cigar box, to make room for more softies. I need and like the harder types or at least until I use them all up, or decide what is best for me. It would be nice starting with the harder to go to the hard box, then, put it aside, and so on. Anyone do this? I just ordered 2 of those stacking Dakota studio boxes and was thinking about puting nothing but hard pastels in one of them. Is this a too wacky idea?

11-03-2010, 04:38 PM
I keep my hard pastels in a separate box. One for warm and one for cool. I dont think its wacky...Do what works for you.

11-03-2010, 04:49 PM
I've recently re-organised my pastels....again! And decided to separate the harder ones (mostly rembrandts and art spectrum) because I need to educate myself to use them for the first layers or, for portraits, all but the last layer.
So I have one tray for the hards, arranged by colour as I find it easier to choose from them than if they were arranged by value,
one tray for neutrals, soft, including white's greys, browns and black,
2 trays for soft "pure" colours.
My "softs" are mainly Unison with a few Schminke and Sennelier thrown in.

So far it's working. easy to pick up the ones I need. It's just when I come to put them all back I get a headache!

11-03-2010, 05:34 PM
Good luck. I've tried several time to organize by value like Richard McKinley (http://pastelpointersblog.artistsnetwork.com/default,date,2010-07-12.aspx) does. But by the end of the day is ends up looking like Albert Hadell's. (http://pastelpointersblog.artistsnetwork.com/default,date,2010-05-03.aspx)

11-03-2010, 05:41 PM
I keep my hard pastels separate from all the soft ones.


11-03-2010, 06:00 PM
Yep, it's tough putting them back in the right or roughly the right spot! I do like the idea of separating the hard ones and I especially like the idea of not worrying about value, just the color. Think I will try that first and see how that goes. It is so frustrating to pick up a stick that looks soft only to find it's a hard one and won't go over the pigment that is already there! This should help a lot!

Thanks for the ideas. :thumbsup: I think this can work!

11-03-2010, 08:14 PM
OK, just to be contrary - I do have my pastels ordered like Richard McKinley and find it works very well for me. The key is to replace the pastel back in the same place immediately after you use it!! I also have some hard pastels in my regular plein air box. They are arranged by color and value, along with the soft pastels. I also have a box of hard pastels that are all mixed up!! Need a better system for that, but I find I only use hard pastels plein air in certain situations and certain colors, because I underpaint with watercolor. When doing still life, I find I use more of the hard pastels to "mix" layers and add more subtle detail on top. Hope I haven't totally confused you :-)


11-03-2010, 10:48 PM
How I organize my pastels is an ever evolving process. I don't really care about the hardness of a pastel other than Schmincke, and Sennelier half sticks, which are very soft. I save them for the end, the icing on the cake so to speak. I just purchased Great Americans, and I hear they are very soft also, so I'll have to see when I get them.

After many years of doing it by color, I have come to the realization that it's really all about value first, then color (at least for me it is). I don't know why, but for some reason I keep my pastels organized by brand first, then value. I've completely reorganized my Unisons by value, then my Mount Visions, Art Spectrums, and so on (even my Pan Pastels are organized by value). The only brands I have mixed together and organized by value are my Giraults and Nupastels, with some 'lost Rembrants' also mixed in. If I'm looking for a particular value, I look at that value in all my brands to see what I might want to try. I've been working with this system for about a year now, and I'm pretty comfortable with it. I found when I had everything sorted by color, I had a much more difficult time finding what I needed. I was jumping all over the place, and spent more time looking than I should have. Just because I'm painting a green lime doesn't mean I always need a green, sometimes it's a blue, or blue green. Now I'm more apt to try different colors, because I'm going for value first, so I get more adventureous.

Everybody has a different process that works for them, the key is to find out what that is.

11-03-2010, 11:39 PM
You mean to say there is a way of organizing pastels? Mine usually end up cluttered in my easel tray until I pull everything out and replace them in the original containers! I am just now starting to branch off into the softer pastels. Most of my stuff until lately was done using hard pastels, Rembrandts and Gallery being my softest.
Actually I was planning on designing a tray/ladder. I'll share this with you when it is finished. I do need to come up with some type of organization.

Phil Bates
11-04-2010, 02:59 AM
I keep hard and soft pastels in the box together, but carefully sorted by hue and value. If I need one or the other it's easy to distinguish the harder pastels because their shape and size.


11-04-2010, 06:41 AM
Hue, value, and chroma, and hard/soft. That's how I start out, but quickly it becomes a mess...

As Rembrandt used to be the only brand I could get locally, I have tons of them, so the top layer in an ond Remb portrait box is filled with thirds of Rembs and AS. I only use about 100 different sticks, so they fit, with a squeeze. This is the box I start with. It sorted very much like McKinleys.

All the near whites at the top and near blacks at the bottom, going from yellows to the left passing over the rainbow to purples on the right. A special section for earths (I use very few of those, mainly the deep 'yellows'.)

Then I move to Unisons, sorted the same way. Whole sticks broken in half. I'm starting to mix in Schmincke with the Unis, and feel by touch which is which, otherwise the Schm have their own layer, sorted the same way.

I *start* by putting a stick back in its slot... After a while, all sticks I've used are in a pile on the folded towel in front of the table easel. The purpose of that towel is to wipe my fingers, it is not supposed to be a palette, but...

Working with my concentrated plein air box, and easel, I manage to keep the sticks in their slots, as there is no other place to put them.

11-04-2010, 10:09 AM
It looks like although most people have their boxes "roughly" organized the same; like McKinleys. Me too. Also, I usually tip up any pieces I have used, but lately as my pastel collection is growing, I have been setting them aside, as a palette. I think I prefer the latter method, but I am not keen on putting them back in the box. I do take a squint, now and then, as I paint and look at my box and move any pieces that are glaringly out of place.

I have I think I will do two things for now.

1. For my backpacker box (I use this the most), I am going to pull out any of those hard, round pieces and replace them with the smaller, square pieces and keep them organized, by hue,value, as they are now. If the hard ones are all square or skinny, I won't confuse them.

2. I am also going to fill a tray with 1/2 sticks of what is left and for now lay them out by color and see how that evolves. Any color that feels hard, I can pop in that box and rearrange later.

I had not really encountered this round/hard stick problem until the October Spotlight and I needed some reds, oranges, yellows and the sticks I went for were all hard! Can't be positive, but I am fairly sure they all came out of a set of Senneliers. I know they were all of the extruded type and even sanding them didn't help.

Hey, westcoast mike, maybe I should lighten up and give Albert Handel's tecnique a try! My little palette pile looks like that anyway. :lol: Mollerman, please share your ladder when you get it set up. I can never get enough of reading about how other people set up.

Thanks to everyone. This has been an interesting and informative thread.

11-04-2010, 12:10 PM
Forgot to say that the reason I try to be as organized is that if I'm looking for a warm reddish-pinkish of just *that* value, it is very easy to find. As the palette is set up as a x/y grid, this ensures that I pick up the right stick usually the first time, and definitely the second time if the first wasn't exactly right.

Dare I utter the word 'logical' in a creative context? :-) And it definitely saves time when painting.

Kathryn Wilson
11-04-2010, 03:30 PM
I do have my hard pastels set aside and they are not organized - I seldom use them, but on occasion I look for that wonderful green.

My other sets are actually kept apart from each other - my main set being Mount Visions and I keep them by color and the 5 values. My Great Am., Ludwigs and Schmincke are in their own trays.

It works for me as I pull all my colors out as I use them and keep them out until the painting is done, then they are cleaned and put back.

Phil Bates
11-04-2010, 07:33 PM
I do have my hard pastels set aside and they are not organized - I seldom use them, but on occasion I look for that wonderful green.


Are you talking about that dark --Albert Handell favorite-- Nupastel green? :)


Kathryn Wilson
11-04-2010, 08:38 PM
You found me out! Of course! They ought to name that pastel after him :)

Handell green

11-04-2010, 10:12 PM
I keep most of my hards separate in two small boxes devoted to them. I always pull them out first and work as long as I can with them. They are a combination of Van Gogh and Cretacolor, close in size and perfect for the same boxes.

11-05-2010, 05:41 AM
Charlie, Potoma, It makes sense to me to keep the bulk of the hard ones separate. I don't use that many of the really hard ones anyway, but I have several brands; mostly square. Think I'll go with my plan of a separate box for them and let some of the really essential colors migrate, as needed, to my working box. They are used in the first stages anyway and then I don't use them much, the way I paint. Any of those super hard round ones can join the crowd. No kidding - they were so hard, I may just have to add them to the recycle jar and hope they are softer, the second time around.

Kathryn, What is that famous green color you referred to? I not sure what is in the nupastel set I have. It's maybe a 24 or 48 size one and I only broke off a couple each of colors I though I would use and stashed them.

Potoma, I just purchased some Cretacolors and love, love them!

11-05-2010, 09:20 AM

I'm hoping Kathryn jumps in here............ because I'm rembering that Regarding Albert Handel's Nupastel "magic" green, is it 298P? I have one of his videos (fantastic, BTW, as he is unbelievable), and I believe he mentions this green in it. It is also mentioned in a somewhat recent article about him in the Pastel Journal. I know I have it because I have a very old full set of Nupastels. Not sure if it comes with the smaller sets, it just might though.

Kathryn Wilson
11-05-2010, 10:09 AM
Yep, 298-P - it's a very deep, dark green he uses for his initial drawing.

I'm not getting my email alerts, again, from WC, so if I am seeming to ignore questions, I'm not!

11-05-2010, 10:46 AM
Chris, Kathryn, Many thanks to both of you. I'll look for it next time I am around any open stock Nupastel. Just checked my box and I have the 24 size and 298p is not included. However, I have the full Cretacolor set and it has a bottle green that looks similar and I also Girault's that lean that way.

Kathryn Wilson
11-05-2010, 11:03 AM
You can get single sticks at .90 from Jerry's. Just plug in Nupastel 298 into the search and it will bring up the page.

11-05-2010, 11:36 AM
Thanks! I'll put it on my wish list and order it next time I place an order.