Hard Pastels, Oil Pastels and Soft Pastels
Which pastels are the best for me?
Working with pastels is usually called pastel painting. It is a way for artists to paint directly with pigment without the intermediary of a brush. Blending can be done with the finger, blending tools or a brush. Pastels come as oil pastels, soft pastels and hard pastels. Health concerns about breathing in dust from the soft chalk pastels have caused some pastel artists to switch to oil pastels.An oil pastel has the pigment bound with non-drying oil and wax. Quite different results can be achieved using a variety of techniques. For example oil pastels dissolved with solvents look very different to ones used lightly over the surface of a textured paper. Some wax or oil pastels are also water-soluble. Some artists use fixative to protect the work as the colour remains somewhat smudge able but mounting and framing behind glass is usually sufficient protection from smudging.
A soft pastel is made to be as soft as possible without falling apart or breaking too easily. The surfaces used with soft pastels usually need to have a tooth to hold the powdery colour onto the surface. Because colours are mixed on the surface and not mixed on a palette beforehand pastels usually come in a huge range of tints and shades of colours. Finished paintings should be sprayed with a fixative for longevity as the soft colour may not adhere completely to the surface (especially if many layers are built up) and framed with a mount and glass to protect the work, though some artists do not like the look of fixative and simply frame the work. Soft pastels can be used dry or with water and also come in a pencil format that is tidier to use.
Click here to view a Guide to Soft Pastels
Hard pastels are usually square and are often called carre crayons. They have been baked at a higher temperature and their hardness allows finer lines to be made with their edges. Like all artist materials the quality of a pastel is measured by the amount and quality of pigment and the higher quality pastels have little or no filler and the minimum amount of binder required to hold the pastel together. Every artist develops a preference for a particular brand, often based on colour choice or level of softness or hardness. A beginner would be wise to buy a colour in each brand and as they need to replace each colour buy the brand they have come to like best. Pastel painting is usually done on paper, which comes in a variety of colours and textures, though there is a textured ground by Golden Acrylics that can be painted on primed wood or canvas so that those surfaces can hold the pigment from soft pastels.
To view the Jackson's Art Supplies Pastel Painting Playlist on YouTube please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAfGtSvzeK8&list=PLi86B3jOHkDYZDFtHgV9TEFHv-s16DxuG