Pastels fascinate with their velvety application and their enormous depth of color . Just looking at a box of pastels, neatly arranged according to color, is an aesthetic experience for me.

“There are few things that bring more joy than sitting in nature with a box of pastels and painting on a beautiful day. However, pastel is not an easy technique. It requires particularly careful drawing and composing … ” 

Simon Fletcher

Immediate painting experience

The powdery pastels offer an immediate result: You don’t have to wait for the colors to dry and the color tones do not change through drying processes, as is sometimes the case with liquid colors. Primers and underpaintings are usually not required. The colors do not have to be mixed or diluted, but can be used directly. You don’t have to clean a brush, just wipe your fingers on a rag every now and then.

Various pastels - traditional pastels, thicker and thinner oil pastels
Various pastels – conventional pastels, thicker and thinner oil chalk pens, water-soluble colored chalk 

Pastels are also wonderfully suitable for painting outdoors or on the go, because they are light, easy to transport and you don’t actually need any additional material. Of course, we recommend a folder in which you can keep the pictures. If you have several pictures, you should definitely place unpainted sheets between the pictures so that they do not rub off on each other.

Hard and soft pastels

With pastels, a distinction is made between soft and hard pastels. In addition to the actual color pigments, they consist of binders, e.g. B. gum arabic, and chalk or clay as a filler. These ingredients are mixed with water to form a dough – hence the derivation of the term pastel from Italian pasta for dough.
Soft pastels , and soft pastels called, contain fewer fillers than hard pastels. This means that they have a higher proportion of pigment than hard chalks. Very soft pastels often do not even contain any fillers and are therefore extremely color-intensive.
Hard pastels like the soft ones, consist of pigments, binders and chalk, only the consistency is denser. You can draw better with them than with soft chalks because they allow fine lines and smaller details. Due to the higher proportion of binder, they are also more break-resistant than the soft chalks and can be used, for. B. be sharpened with a knife.

Pigments, from Gerhard Fietz's studio, artist group ZEN49,

Oil pastels

There are also oil pastels. Here act e.g. B. mineral waxes, beeswax and / or poppy seed oil as binders. This creates a different consistency than hard or soft pastels. Oil pastels are more reminiscent of the wax crayons that you know from childhood. The consistency is firm, but can make a creamy application.
Due to the type of binding agent, oil pastels, in contrast to hard and soft pastels, also adhere to smooth paper. But they are difficult to mix.
Because of these properties, we will not go into more detail here on oil pastels.

Oil pastels
Oil pastels

Draw with pastels

The color application of the pastels can be varied wonderfully, more delicate or thicker, depending on the desired color effect. The colors can also be applied “glazed”, especially with soft pastels: If you carefully place different colors on top of one another, a unique depth effect is created.
Drawing can be both soft and hard pastels.
Hard pastels  enable a precise applicationwhich makes them more suitable for lines and hatching than soft ones. If you place fine lines close to each other in hatching or superimpose them to form cross-hatching, textured areas of color are created. Different, superimposed shades of color visually merge into a new shade. Soft color transitions can be achieved with gentle pressure, while sharp lines can be drawn with the edges of the angular chalks.
The traces of the soft pastels  are rather thicker and more gently contoured . They are ideal for spontaneous, moving lines that can merge into the flat and picturesque by blending with your fingers or a paper wiper.

Different pastels in a box
Various pastels, mostly oil pastels, in a box 

Paint with pastels

As already indicated, soft pastels are  more suitable for painting than hard ones. Due to its pasty consistency, the paint dust can be rubbed onto the paper, creating colored areas. With soft pastels, you can achieve a rich color application with gentle pressure .
You can mix colors directly on the paper or let them “flow” into each other by laying layers of color on top of each other and rubbing them with your finger.
Hatching and strong lines can also be created with soft pastels, which liven up the composition of a rather two-dimensional pastel image.
Generally speaking, pastel that has not been painted or smeared will result in an uneven, broken application. The color of the paper or an underpainting shines through. This pastel-typical effect can be incorporated into the composition of the picture in a very attractive way. The grain of the paper is very important for this effect: the rougher, the more granulated the application, because the chalk sticks to the raised areas of the paper but does not reach the depressions.

Square pastels
Square soft pastels 


There are special, acid-free, high-quality artist papers for pastel painting . They have a rough surface on which the pigments can adhere well and thus form a soft, velvety surface.
These papers are available in different tones , so that the background can be included as a design element in the composition of the picture.


Drawing and painting with pastels creates a lot of color dust , fine color particles that can deposit and rub off on the surroundings. Therefore you should cover the workplace with a soft, fluffy material, e.g. B cover a terry towel or an old fleece blanket . A smooth board is then placed on top as a base for the pastel paper.
An old terry towel that you place over your lap is suitable for wiping your hands between the applications of paint.

Pastels, from Gerhard Fietz's studio, artist group ZEN49

Basic equipment

Because pastels cannot be mixed with one another to create new shades like liquid colors, the trade offers pastels in a very diverse range of colors .
To get started, you should use a quite extensive sentence. The pastel sets offered mostly contain the basic colors and their tinting with white up to very light tones.
Pastels were in the box in which they were purchased, stored will prevent them from cracking. There are also special empty boxes with foam rubber compartments.
Blur can see the pastel colors very well with the fingers. Soft towels are also helpful here. And for finer details or structures, commercially available paper wipers made from rolled up absorbent paper with a conical tip are suitable .
The finished and very sensitive pastel pictures should be sprayed with a fixative so that the color particles adhere better to the surface and cannot be smudged so easily. There are z. B. Spray fixatives in stores.