Introduction to Pastel Painting

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 a finger, blending tools, or a brush. The word 'pastels' is used to describe oil pastels, soft pastels, hard pastels, and pastel pencils, although there are notable differences between each of these media. 

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. Soft pastels can be used dry or with water and also come in a pencil form that allows for more detail. 

An oil pastel is a stick of colour made of pigment bound in a non drying oil and wax binder. Quite different results can be achieved using a variety of techniques. For example, oil pastels dissolved with solvents can look like dilute washes of fluid paint, while dry oil pastels applied in strokes over the surface of a textured paper will look more like wax crayon. Some wax or oil pastels are also watersoluble. Some artists use fixative to protect the work as the colour remains somewhat smudgeable, or alternatively mounting and framing behind glass will also offer protection.

What do I need to start pastel painting?

Painting with pastels offers vibrant colour with an immediacy that allows you to get started with a few sticks of colour and some paper. If you want to invest in the bare minimum to give pastel painting a try, some pastels and a surface is really all you need:

A set of pastels - choose between soft pastels, hard pastels, oil pastels, pastel pencils, or try a combination 

A suitable surface - paper or card with a texture, cartridge paper for quick sketches

Useful tools:

Blending tools such as a colour shaper or blending stump

Fixative

What are soft pastels?

Sticks of soft pastel are made from pure pigment powder blended in a clay binder. They are essentially lightly compressed sticks of powder with the ability to deposit strokes of intense colour. Because of the lack of need for brushes or tools, they are the most tactile and immediate colour that artists can use. They are usually applied to textured paper or card by hand, and can be blended with fingers, a paper stump, or a colour shaper. A variety of liquids can be applied to soft pastel to aid blending, including water, rubbing alcohol, acetone, and oil painting solvents. However, problems may arise if the surface you work on is not resistant to your blending liquid, so it is always worth checking before you start work. 

When using certain purpose-made surfaces, pastel can be built up in layers on a surface, allowing you to control blends and textures. You can apply fixative to protect layers while you are working, and also to finished work. Unlike oil, acrylic, or watercolour paint, there is no way to pre-mix colours prior to applying it to your work, so modifications to colours are made through layering different shades over one another on the work itself.

Are soft pastels toxic?

The majority of pastels are made with pigments that are considered non-toxic, or with low-toxicity. Such matter will only cause harm if ingested, and even then, only significantly large quantities are likely to be a risk in most cases. However, as with all dust, pastel dust can be an irritant if you breathe it in, regardless of its toxicity. If you are applying thick layers of pastel colour we advise against blowing the dust away, as that will cause the dust to become airborne and can easily blow back. If you are particularly allergic or sensitive to dust, wearing a dust mask can help. Where possible remove excess dust from work by going outside, tilting the artwork forward and tapping it on the reverse.

Some pastels will be labelled more thoroughly than others. This is, in most cases, a reflection of heavier legislation in areas where the pastels may be sold, and is not an indication of those particular pastels being more toxic than others. More information on the health and safety labels of artist materials can be read in the article Explaining carcinogen labels on artist materials. Health concerns about breathing in dust from the soft chalk pastels have caused some pastel artists to switch to oil pastels. 

What’s the difference in quality between soft pastels?

Best quality soft pastels

The best quality pastels will have the purest and brightest looking colours, and they will have more sticks made with single pigments. The best pastels will also have the largest range of colours. Unlike paint in a tube that just requires a few colours because you can mix the rest, pastels offering a wide range of colours give you more of the selection of colours you will need to achieve all of the colours of your subject. They have the optimum proportion of pigment to binder in their formulation, and are also assembled with a light touch to guarantee a texture that allows the colour to come off onto the paper smoothly and easily. Although this means that the pastel sticks deposit brighter, more saturated hues, it also means that the characteristics of the individual pigments will be more apparent, and the sticks are more likely to break or crumble as less binder is holding them together. This is why soft pastel sticks are sent in boxes with foam inserts to protect them, which also offer a good storage solution long term. 

Many of the superior pastel ranges will cause dust because that is the nature of a highly pigmented soft pastel. The softest pastels are achieved using manufacturing processes that use the smallest quantities of binder, hand-rolling the sticks of pastel in such a way as to not compress the ingredients too much; this allows for both subtle and bold expressions of mark making in colour.

Excellent quality soft pastels

Soft pastels that are considered excellent quality may appear more uniform in shape than some of the highest quality, hand-rolled soft pastels. They may also contain more binder, making them less crumbly but also less highly pigmented. More of the shades will have multiple pigments in their formulation – usually, quantities of white are added to a colour to make a range of tones of one colour. While this adds convenience to the range of colours, the resulting hues will inevitably be less bright than single pigment soft pastels. Some professional painters actually prefer the qualities of the lesser pastels – a firmer pastel will be easier to control, and will be easier to use for drawing fine lines and intricate detail. The firmness of the pastel, however, will actually be attributed to less sensitive production methods, which compress the ingredients to such a degree as to make the sticks of colour less crumbly. It can also be attributed to a greater amount of binder in the pigment to binder ratio.

Mid-range soft pastels

Mid-range soft pastels are good quality soft pastel brands that are ideal for exploring the medium without compromising too much on quality. Pigment saturation will be a little weaker and the consistency of the sticks will tend towards being firmer, but this is a more forgiving medium with which to work as the pastels will last for a considerably longer amount of time. The firmness is attributed to the greater amount of binder. Some use chalk in their binder which has some influence over the way that the colours appear and the general behaviour of the pastel.

What’s the difference between soft and hard pastels, oil pastels, PanPastel, and pastel pencils?

Within the soft pastel range, there is a huge variety in hardness. Some pastels are buttery soft, some are very hard, but many are somewhere in between. Almost all brands have their own unique characteristics and almost no two brands are alike. Soft pastels also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. As well as the standard crayon shape, there are square pastels so you have some sharp edges to work with. The sizes vary from the small square pastels by Blue Earth to the large rolled size of Mount Vision, which are at least three times the size.

Hard pastels

Hard pastels make more crisp marks than soft pastels. They are better for creating fine lines and details as they do not crumble or smudge as easily. However, they will not blend as easily as soft pastels and you may find it harder to layer colours over one another to quite the same extent as is achievable with soft pastels.

One of the most famous ranges of hard pastel is the Conté Carré range – Carré in French means ‘square’ – so they are literally square pastels. Conté Carrés are baked with kaolin clay. They are synonymous with drawing classes, as they are a perfect medium with which to create sharp, bold expressive marks, and therefore ideal for students wishing to become more confident with their drawing technique. The sticks measure 2.5” x 0.25”. The edges of the cuboid will create fine lines and the sides of the square will allow you to draw broad strokes of colour. The Conté Carré range is most famous for its selection of earthy red-brown shades, but they also offer a full colour spectrum in some of their other sets. Sets are hugely diverse and range from 4 to 84 colour sets! The colours are blendable with one another and quite opaque – they work very well on darker sheets of paper.

Derwent Artbars are wax based, and as a result have a slight sheen to them. They are not defined as wax crayons because they have a greater pigment concentration, and so the colour glides on less transparently and with a deeper lustre. Artbars are triangular and so have the same sharp edges as a square pastel has to achieve fine lines, as well as 3 sides that can be used for broader strokes. Derwent Artbars layer very well and are also water-soluble, making them even more versatile as washes can be made with them with ease. There are 72 individual colours as well as 4 assorted colour sets of various sizes. 

Because hard pastels require more pressure to be applied in order to deposit colour onto a support than is required when working with soft pastels, less of the paper texture is visible as the colour will be deposited in the dimples of a textured sheet of paper. They can be used with soft pastels, and in fact most other drawing and painting media if mixed media is your interest. Hard pastels can be erased or lifted with a putty eraser.

Oil pastels

Oil pastels are made of pigments bound in a non-drying oil and wax binder. They are thought to have been originally developed by Sennelier, who was acting on the request of Pablo Picasso when he wanted to find a painting and drawing medium that could be applied to “wood, paper, canvas or metal, without having to prepare or prime the surface”. Oil Pastels are often favoured by artists who find conventional soft pastels too dusty or chalky for their liking. Compared to soft pastels, oil pastels are creamier in their consistency, and the texture is noticeably more moist (a result of the presence of wax in their make-up). 

Oil pastels are incredibly versatile and can be used to draw into oil or acrylic colour. They can be applied thickly and smeared around with a finger or tool, they can be used with a solvent like Zest-it, either by brushing solvent on top of the drawing or by dipping the stick in before applying. You can even melt them for encaustic painting techniques, and they are ideal for incorporating in mixed media projects.

Artist’s oil pastels differ from children’s wax crayons as they have a far superior lightfastness classification (although this varies between brands). The softness also varies greatly between brands with some being about the same hardness as children’s crayons and others being as almost as soft as lipstick. 

Painting with oil pastels

The consistency of oil pastels can be manipulated with heat. A cold oil pastel will feel harder and marks will appear sharper and more pressure is needed to deposit the colour on to your support. When an oil pastel is cold it is a better drawing material as fine and broad lines can easily be drawn. Some artists keep their oil pastels out of doors or in a fridge in order to keep them hard in this way. An oil pastel that has been warmed up, either on a radiator or in your hands, will become more malleable, and the colour will glide on to your surface with less pressure. When oil pastels are warm their properties start to resemble those of oil paint, and as a result more painterly effects can be achieved. 

Oil pastel colour can be thinned with solvents, and extended with linseed oil, in exactly the same way that can be done with oil paint. Oil pastels are used by some oil painters to draw into wet oil paint, to re-establish a composition in a painting or to add texture or detail.

PanPastel Colours

PanPastel Colours are professional artist grade soft pastel colours in a unique pan format (cake-like), so that they can be mixed and applied like paint. They have very little dust for a cleaner working environment.

Although PanPastels are very much soft pastel colour, the way in which you use them transforms the medium into something that feels more akin to painting than using soft pastels in the conventional stick form. PanPastels come in circular plastic stackable pans, and are designed to be applied to your substrate using Sofft Tools - a range of especially developed micro-pore sponges. 

Pastel pencils

Pastel Pencils are a popular medium in their own right as well as being used to add intricate, controlled detail to conventional soft pastel paintings. Pastel pencils are watersoluble, so colour can be blended to appear flatter and less chalky and textured than when applied dry. Pastel Pencils have the advantage of being wood cased so that you do not get dusty fingers, which helps to avoid smudging and marking work inadvertently. Colours can be blended with one another by layering and using a colour shaper, brush or your finger. The pastel pencils available at Jackson’s are all relatively comparable in terms of quality, although there are differences in colour range and consistency – for example, the Pitt Pastel pencils from Faber-Castell are thought to be a little harder than the others. 

Which type of pastel should I use?

The answer to this question is a personal decision. As outlined, each type of pastel offers its own set of qualities. Your job as the artist is to identify which qualities will best suit your creative intentions. You can mix and match different pastel types in a painting, and through trial and error, preference and style, you can find the materials and techniques that work best for you.

Mixed media and oil pastels

Oil pastels can be used with media of any kind, the only thing to bear in mind is that they never really dry like paints do and so are a relatively unstable material on which to overlay other drawing and painting media, and the wax may act as as a resist so that things don’t adhere well on top of it. For this reason it is often only applied as a last layer.. The work would have to be protected well by framing it under glass or by fixing it with a special oil pastel fixative so that the work did not deteriorate over time. Oil pastels are popular among mixed media artists as vibrant colour is easily applied, and blended into other media including soft pastel, watercolour, coloured pencils and graphite, without any adverse effects. Sgraffito is often used in oil pastel technique as its surface can very easily be scratched into at any point during the picture making surface – when the oil pastel is applied thickly, very little effort is required to scratch into the colour, which means that paper and other supports are not at any risk of being ripped or damaged inadvertently.

What tools or brushes can I use for applying pastels?

Fingers can become very messy very quickly, and rough surfaces can make your fingers sore after a while, so in time you may want to get some additional blending tools.

Brushes for soft pastel tend to have quite short hair and a ‘stubby’ shape to the brush head, which lends itself well to blending pastels. Due to the delicacy of the medium, you will find that you will only need to use the brush very lightly as otherwise you may lose a lot of pastel dust from the surface. The brushes come in a variety of sizes to cater for both very fine intricate work and bolder, large scale work.

If you prefer to blend with fingers but find the process messy or harsh on your skin, latex or nitrile gloves can help.

Colour shapers are made from silicone and are easy to wipe between blends. There are extra firm, firm and soft varieties – the soft ones are recommended for delicate blends while the firm ones can be used for applying more pressure and drawing out fine details.

Paper stumps and tortillions can also be used to blend soft pastel. They can be cleaned between uses by lightly sanding on a piece of sandpaper.

Sofft tools are made for use with PanPastel – cakes of soft pastel colour, but they can also be used to blend regular soft pastel. The Sofft Tools range includes sponges of varying shapes and sizes. The smaller sponges fit on to a plastic handle to make controlled blending easier.

Chamois leather is another useful blending tool, and can also be used to lift colour when more pressure is applied.

Colour shapers, tortillions, paper stumps and blenders all work on the same principle. These are tools that will move colour around, push it further into its surface, and allow you to blend colours together. With these tools you can create incredibly smooth effects and the subtlest of blending.

All of these tools can also be dipped in water to help aid blending, or alternatively Tim Fisher’s Soft Pastel Liquefier is an alcohol based, fast evaporating medium that allows you to create watercolour effects with your soft pastel when lightly sprayed over marks.

Removing colour

A putty eraser can help to lift away colour, while harder erasers can on occasion push soft pastel particles deeper into the texture of your surface. The key when removing soft pastel is delicacy. A soft piece of crustless bread is a surprisingly useful soft pastel eraser. Blow on the area or use a soft brush to brush away any excess colour that may be sitting on the surface of your work prior to erasing for a more successful lifting of colour from your surface.

What’s the best surface for pastels?

Pastel paper has a number of qualities that make it stand apart quite distinctly from watercolour paper and cartridge paper, and within the category of ‘Pastel paper’ there are a surprising number of different varieties.

What makes a good pastel paper?

Pastel papers, as with all fine art papers, are acid-free and pH neutral in order to maximise their lifespan. Many pastel papers are coloured, but unlike other coloured papers such as sugar paper, the colour is lightfast so will not fade unless exposed to direct sunlight over a substantial amount of time.

The majority of pastel papers will hold pastel colour to their surface without the need for applying fixative. You can secure your pastel marks by dry fixing - this involves pressing down on the surface of your work with a piece of glassine. Spray fixative will of course offer another layer of protection, but does have a tendency to darken colours.

How does pastel paper hold colour?

The texture of a pastel paper will hold colour in its crevices. Among the wide variety of pastel papers, you will find a diverse range of qualities to suit every kind of approach to the medium, from fine cork particles glued to a surface to the fine lines formed by the production of Ingres paper. This is where the following guide will help you to find the right grain or texture for you. Generally, the coarser the grain the better the colour holding, although you may prefer a smoother texture, which will allow for finer, more subtle details.

What other characteristics vary between pastel papers?

Surfaces for pastel paper either come as sheets of flexible paper, card or boards (where paper is mounted onto card). A rigid surface will minimise the amount of colour that can be inadvertently displaced – without flexibility in the board the colour is more likely to stay in its place.

Colours will also vary. A tinted background will help to unify a composition from the outset, as it is likely to appear in between applied marks. Many pastel paper pads and loose sheet ranges have a variety of different colours within them. Additionally heavier weight pastel papers, cards and boards could be tinted with inks if the colour of the surface needs to be modified, but you will need to check that any coating on the surface will withstand ink application.

Another characteristic which varies between pastel papers is the ability to tackle wet media such as watercolour and gouache – some are not water-resistant and the texture may damage when brought into contact with water. If you intend to mix your media on any of these surfaces, it is strongly advised that you double check the descriptions to see what it says with regard to this.

What paper can I use for soft pastel?

Soft pastels are best applied to paper or card with texture as the friction this offers makes it easier to deposit colour and hold it in place. It is possible to use cartridge paper for quick sketches, but special pastel papers and cards allow for a greater number of layers to be applied. Heavier textured surfaces are generally favoured for more finished works.

Pastel papers and cards fall into two main groups – those with a light texture formed on the surface of the sheet, and those which are coated with a texture, which could be soft microfibres, known as velour, fine cork particles, or grit.

Coated papers tend to hold more layers than uncoated papers, with the nature of the coating having a direct impact upon the appearance of pastel marks. Velour papers are best for soft blended effects, while gritty papers can hold vibrant dynamic marks in place. Uncoated Ingres and honeycomb texture papers are all you need if you’re looking to make quick sketches with only a few layers.

What is Ingres pastel paper?

Ingres pastel paper is the oldest, most traditional pastel paper on which to work. It is cylinder mould-made, which means that acid-free cellulose fibres are placed in a huge vat and a large metal cylinder is dipped into it, the fibres attach themselves to the cylinder forming rolls of paper, which need to then be dried and flattened. The paper is compressed between the mesh of the cylinder and marking felt, which gives it its unique texture. This surface is known as a chain and laid line surface. It is a lighter, more delicate pastel painting surface, and some artists find that they need to reinforce their work with a light fixing. It is great for detailed work and is also suitable for use with coloured pencil, graphite and charcoal. It is not heavy enough to withstand wet media applications without buckling; paper weights between brands vary from 100gsm-160gsm. It tends to be grained only on one side. The paper usually has very subtle colour flecks on its surface which enhance the sense of this being a very traditional painting surface.

What is velour paper?

Velour paper feels a bit like ‘fuzzy felt’. It is very soft and smooth to the touch. Pastels will glide over the surface effortlessly in big sweeping gestures, and it is a pleasure to work on. The softness of the surface holds onto a lot of colour and marks, making it ideal for detailed works and added texture. Velour is not recommended for hard pastels or hard pencils; it is best suited to very soft dry media. 

Pastel Paper Comparison Table

Our table compares the content, texture, formats available, weight and colours of artist pastel papers. Click the image below to enlarge, or download our PDF version here to print.

Can I prepare my surface with a ground?

Pastel ground is a specially developed primer that can be applied to pretty much any surface. Once dry it is an ideal texture on which to apply soft pastel. Most pastel grounds dry with a light sandpaper-like texture. It should be applied with a thin and even layer using a priming brush (if you want a heavier texture it’s best to apply multiple layers allowing drying time between each rather than apply one thicker layer). Our tip would keep one priming brush aside especially for pastel ground.

Can I combine pastel painting with other media?

So long as the surface can accommodate it, soft pastel can be combined with a wide variety of media. Because pastel primers are acrylic based, it is quite possible to prime a surface with pastel ground and then combine soft pastel with acrylic paint in a single work.

The texture of rough and cold pressed watercolour papers will hold soft pastel marks in place to a degree, and combining this quality with their water solubility makes soft pastel an ideal companion to watercolour, making it possible to combine powdery textures with dilute washes and vibrant watercolour brushstrokes. It is best to protect soft pastel and watercolour works behind glass or with a few thin layers of spray varnish (testing the varnish elsewhere before use, as it is likely to have an impact on the appearance of colours).

Additionally, soft pastel can be combined with hard pastel, which can offer crisper lines and a different quality to soft pastel. Pastel pencils could also be used for adding fine detail or outlines to a soft pastel work. Adding oil pastel to a soft pastel work can add a contrasting waxy textural quality.

What is the best way to protect finished work?

There are 3 main ways to protect soft pastel works.

Glassine – for protecting work in storage
Glassine is a glossy greaseproof paper that is designed to protect artworks from smudging. It is used to interleave sheets in some pastel paper pads, such as those made by Sennelier. Loose sheets of glassine can be purchased in packs or singularly and are useful to keep in supply, for interleaving between stored works, or for wrapping pastel works prior to posting them. 

Glassine is also great for protecting hard pastel and oil pastel works in all drawing media. If you wish to further secure your marks onto the surface without using fixative you can ‘pressure fix’ your work: Lay a sheet of glassine over the artwork and press it gently and evenly without moving the glassine. This will push the particles more firmly into the paper texture.

Fixative – for protecting work while in progress
Fixative is a clear liquid similar to varnish usually sprayed onto a dry media artwork to stabilise the pigment or graphite on the surface and to preserve finished artwork from dust. Most fixatives are available in an aerosol spray. Work can be fixed throughout various levels of completion. The work should be placed on a flat surface and excess dust removed. Spray the fixative using an even amount of pressure and the same distance over the whole work. Fixatives are sometimes available in bottles without aerosol. When this is the case the fixative can be applied using a mouth operated spray diffuser.  

Fixatives are known to sometimes darken colours. Those who wish to protect their work without using fixatives are advised to keep their work behind glass.

For a comprehensive comparison of a variety of fixatives read Fixatives are not all the same.

Glass – for protecting and presenting finished works
Arguably the most secure way to protect soft pastel work is by framing it behind glass, although of course this is also likely to be the most space consuming solution as well. As with all work on paper, it is best to have a gap between the work and the glass, to allow any humidity to circulate away from the work, and prevent any shifts in the position of the glass smudging the work. A window mount offers a good solution to this, or alternatively the use of spacers in your frame.

Keeping your pastels safe in a box
Soft pastels can break easily. A sturdy wooden box with foam inserts is the perfect long term storage for them as your colours will stay separate and clean, protected from harsh knocks that are likely to cause breakages, and with a little discipline, organised to help you locate the colour you need quickly!

Glossary

Abrasion - Pastel Papers and card vary significantly in their texture. High abrasion surfaces such as Sennelier Soft Pastel card are known to have a heavy tooth which is desirable for many pastellists because it holds colour in place and makes it possible to apply multiple layers. However, pastel colour tends to get used up more quickly when applied to abrasive surfaces.

Acid-Free - Papers that are made from wood cellulose will naturally contain acid, which over time will break down the chemical compounds within the paper. In order to ensure longevity of your work, it is important to seek acid-free surfaces to work with; either those that have been specially treated or papers made from cotton or linen which will naturally be acid-free without special treatment.

Archival - 'Archival' is a term to describe surfaces that are formulated to ensure they do not deteriorate for centuries. However sometimes the term is used inaccurately. If you truly want your work to be archival it's best to ensure that it is rated Museum or Conservation grade, as this will guarantee the very highest levels of durability. However, so long as your materials are 'acid-free' they will last for centuries with the right care, and for many professional artists, this is adequate for their needs.

Binder - Binders hold your paints and drawing materials together. In the case of hard and soft pastels, the binder is made of a mix of clay and gum arabic, gum tragacanth or methyl cellulose (the greater amount of binder in hard pastels is what makes them harder). Oil pastels are made with a non-drying oil and wax binder. Coloured pencils are bound in kaolin (white clay) and wax or oil.

Blackness - The 'B' in B grade pencils stands for blackness - the higher the number the darker the mark of your graphite pencil (i.e. 9B is a very soft, high-blackness pencil). Soft pencils have a much higher graphite content and lower clay content than hard pencils.

Blending - The process of smoothing a colour to reduce the apparent texture, or enhancing the subtlety of a transition of one applied colour into another on a surface. In pastel painting, blending can be done with your finger, or a tortillion, paper stump, colour shaper, or soft brush. Mediums such as Liquefier or Zest-It Pencil Blend soften pastel and pencil marks to make it even easier to blend.

Burnishing - A technique most associated with coloured pencil - the process of working into applied marks with a paper stump or tortillion to reduce the texture, smooth the colour over, and make it shine.

Cartridge Paper - A smooth or lightly-textured paper best suited to dry media, printmaking, and very light washes. Originally manufactured to make paper cartridges for firearms. Usually made from wood free paper (confusingly this means it is made from wood fibre, but the lignin has been removed to ensure that it is acid-free).

Casein - A milk protein used in Spectrafix pastel fixative because it provides a non-yellowing, water-resistant film. Edgar Degas is thought to have used casein to fix his own pastel paintings.

Chalk - Often used as a filler in soft pastels, though it is also a drawing material in its own right.

Chain and Laid Paper - A uniform texture found on Ingres pastel paper. The chain lines are found to run parallel to the shorter side of the sheet of paper in wider intervals. The laid lines run parallel to the longer side of the sheet with narrower spaces between them. The texture is made during manufacture. Also well suited to charcoal and drawing with Conté Crayons.

Charcoal - Finely ground organic materials that are held together with a wax or gum binder, including organic material such as willow or vine plants that have been heated to high temperatures in a kiln without air. In the case of compressed charcoal, the burnt organic material is bound in wax or gum - the greater the proportion of binder the harder the charcoal, and the lighter the mark. Willow or vine charcoal comes in brittle sticks that are relatively soft and often popular for quick sketches. The marks are easily lifted from the page with an eraser or finger but can also be fixed with fixative. Charcoal pencils encase the charcoal in wood, making it less susceptible to breaking and easier to apply fine detail with.

Clutch Pencil - A mechanical pencil holder which holds leads, particularly popular for technical drawings and usually used with harder grades of graphite for fine lines and detail.

Colour Shaper - A shaping/moulding tool, with a plastic or wooden brush-like handle and a rubber or silicon tip that is shaped either to a chisel or a point. Colour Shapers are useful in moving pastel colour around or burnishing coloured pencil, as well as for sculpting models.

Colour Strength / Saturation - A reference to how bold the colour appears. Pigment particles vary in size and characteristics. Some pigments have the ability to mix at a greater ratio with the linseed oil binder without impairing the structure of the paint. The result of this typically is

that the colour strength is greater. Some pigment particles also appear more vibrant than others and so may have a greater strength than another colour even if the pigment to oil ratio is the same. Another term used to define colour strength is saturation.

Complementary Colours - Also known as secondary colours. They can be found directly opposite one another on a colour wheel. Because they are diametrically opposed they cause

the appearance of one another to intensify when painted unmixed side by side. When mixed together they are capable of producing neutral greys.

Composition - The arrangement of shapes, colours, and lines across your picture surface, sometimes referred to as a design.

Consistency - Consistency refers to the quality of the flow of a material. In the case of pastel or pencils, consistency may be described as chalky, waxy, scratchy, or creamy.

Conté - A type of crayon with a square cross-section, invented by French artist and polymath Nicolas-Jacques Conté (1755-1805), and since manufactured by Conté à Paris. These crayons are now made from white kaolin clay and a binder (cellulose ether). Some contain charcoal or graphite powder, while others are coloured with natural pigments.

Dry Wash - Using the side of a soft pastel stick to apply a thin and even layer of colour to the ground of your substrate prior to starting work on your piece. The layer can be softened or thinned by gently brushing with kitchen paper, cotton wool, or a pastel brush.

Encaustic - Encaustic painting is also known as hot wax painting - heating pigmented wax so that it becomes liquid and applying it to a substrate. This process is possible when heating oil and wax pastels and crayons, although special encaustic wax cakes or bars are also available.

Feathering - Using short lines to render an object in hard pastel or coloured pencil using a combination of colours. The colours blend optically from a distance. Similar to hatching.

Fixative - A liquid applied to drawings in pencil or pastel to preserve them. Fixatives are often alcohol based and hydrocarbon propelled, although there are exceptions such as Spectrafix Fixative which is casein based. Fixatives will darken the appearance of your work; the key to minimising this effect is to apply layers thinly, which is why they are often sold in pump or aerosol sprays. Fixatives can be applied to drawings in progress and worked over with a fresh layer of graphite, pastel or charcoal. It is important to use aerosol fixatives in well-ventilated spaces, preferably outdoors.

Frottage - Use of a pastel or pencil to make a rubbing from a textured surface.

Glassine - Air, water, and grease-resistant paper used to protect drawings and pastel paintings.

Ground - A word used to describe the chosen surface for your work of art.

Gum Arabic - A gum formula made from the gum of the Acacia tree, it is sometimes used as an ingredient in the binder of pastels and pencils, as well as watercolour. The larger the quantity of gum arabic the harder the drawing material (and therefore the lighter the mark it will make).

Gum Tragacanth - Another watersoluble gum often used in the binder of soft pastels.

Hard Pastel - Hard pastels are made from pigment and a watersoluble gum-based binder. Their ingredients are the same as soft pastels; the difference is that the greater proportion of binder in the recipe makes the pastels a lot harder. As a result, lighter and sharper lines can be achieved.

Hardness / Softness - The softer a drawing material the easier it is to break down and be applied to a surface, and this makes marks darker and more saturated. In graphite pencils this is graded: 'B' stands for blackness, 9B or 8B is usually the very softest pencil available in a range and it's capable of the blackest marks which are smudgeable. At the opposite end of the spectrum 9H or 8H is the very hardest pencil in a range, capable of very crisp, light marks.

Hatching / Crosshatching - Hatching is a shading technique where thinly-spaced parallel lines are used to add tone to a drawing. Crosshatching is shading with 2 sets of parallel lines that are drawn over one another to form areas of tone formed of lots of tiny crosses.

Highlighting - A visual description of where light is hitting an object. Highlights can be added by lifting applied marks off with a putty eraser, or by drawing them in with relatively light marks in pastel or pencil.

Impasto - A build up of thick layers of colour - oil pastel is the medium best suited to impasto techniques within the technique of pastel painting. This is most easily done by heating the oil pastel up before application.

Ingres Paper - A variety of pastel paper named after the famed draughtsman Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867). Paper manufacturers such as Fabriano, Clairefontaine and Hahnemuhle all produce Ingres papers. It is very smooth with a finely ribbed texture, and is particularly well suited to soft pastel and pastel pencils. It is usually mould-made and wood free.

Laid Paper - Laid papers have a smooth, finely ribbed surface, as a result of the manufacturing processes. Ingres paper is a widely-used name for laid paper.

Layering - To apply colours in layers. Rougher or coarser papers are considered better for layering techniques in both pencil and soft pastel work as they are better able to hold colour in place and preserve the appearance of drawn marks.

Lightfastness - Indicates the degree to which a colour will fade or discolour as a result of exposure to natural sunlight. Paint makers refer to either one of two scales designed to indicate the lightfastness of a colour - the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Blue Wool Scale (8=most lightfast, 1= least lightfast). We refer to ASTM in our pastel catalogue.

- ASTM I = Excellent Lightfastness

- ASTM II = Good lightfastness

- ASTM III = Fair lightfastness

- ASTM IV = Fugitive

Liquefier - A special formula which dissolves soft pastel colour to help achieve wash effects and for blending/colour mixing techniques.

Oil Pastels - A drawing and painting material made from pigment mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder. They can be used on their own or blended with the use of linseed oil or solvent. They can be applied to a variety of surfaces including wood, canvas, and paper.

PanPastel - Creamy soft pastel colour encased in plastic stackable pans. They are intended to be applied with Sofft tools - sponges and sponge-headed tools, that make working with pastel more like painting than drawing. PanPastels are a modern development in the world of soft pastel, having been developed in the 21st century.

Paper Stump - A cylindrical drawing tool, made of compressed soft paper that has been sanded to a point at both ends. It is used by artists to smudge or blend marks made with charcoal, Conté crayon, pencil, or other drawing media.

Pastel Blending Brush - A soft hair brush that usually has a flat stump-like brush head, although other brush shapes are available. It can be used to gently blend applied pastel marks as well as expand the potential for mark-making.

Pastel Pencils - Soft pastel colour encased in wood. They offer a cleaner alternative means of working with soft pastel colour as well as a good way to add detail to soft pastel drawings.

Primary Colours - The traditional primary colours for painting are Red, Yellow, and Blue. They are used because they can produce the largest range of colours around the spectrum. Other triads, such as Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta are also used, producing gamuts of different intensities. A split primary palette will include warm and cool versions of each colour.

Pumice - Pumice powder can be added to acrylic gesso or primer to make an ideal textured soft pastel primer which is able to hold colour.

Sandpaper Grain - Fine sandpaper grain pastel surfaces will hold layers of applied soft pastel colour in place. Available in a range of colours. They tend not to be waterproof so only use with dry soft pastel.

Sanguine - A deep rust colour often found in soft and hard pastel and pastel pencil ranges.

Scraping Out - The process of scratching or lifting applied soft pastel colour away with a rigid implement to reveal the surface underneath. The end of a brush handle, a palette knife, or a blade are all good tools to use for this technique.

Scumbling - In pastel and coloured pencil techniques; the application of bold unblended marks over the top of more thinly applied, blended colour.

Sfumato - Allowing tones and colours to shade gradually into one another, producing softened outlines or hazy forms.

Sgraffito - Scratching into applied colour to reveal a contrasting colour laid on underneath. A great technique to try with oil pastel especially.

Sheen - Describes the quality of a surface with regard to its shininess. Oil pastels, for example, often make marks with a waxy sheen.

Sight-size - To paint or draw at the exact scale that you see the subject. Holding a pencil or paintbrush up at arm's length against the subject helps to establish at what size you actually see the elements of your composition, and compare lengths and sizes with one another.

Sofft Tools - Specially-designed tools for applying PanPastel colour, although they can be used to apply a variety of water based media including watercolour, acrylic, and ink, and are also well suited to modelling clay and polymer clay. The full range of Sofft Tools includes different shaped sponges as well as sponge heads that fit on to plastic palette-knife like handles. The sponges used in Sofft tools are synthetic and dense enough to have a degree of absorbency as well as to keep their shape. They easily clean in soap and lukewarm water but it is advisable to leave them to dry fully before using again with soft pastel.

Soft Pastel - Soft pastels are a chalky medium made from pure pigment with very low quantities of clay and gum binder. There is no drying time and colours can be applied and blended with your fingers, so it is popular for its immediacy. They are easy to smudge and blend and are watersoluble. In comparison to other pastels and drawing media they are known to generate the highest amount of dust.

Stippling - An effect created by a gentle prodding motion with a blunt-headed brush to create a dappled effect in soft pastel colour.

Tint - Soft pastel ranges have a greater variety of colours than acrylic, oil, and watercolour ranges because there is no ability to pre-mix colour, so you need more colours with which to work. Many soft pastel brands group their colours into tints; each colour available in the range will be available in several shades of varying lightness/darkness - each of these is known as a tint.

Tinted Charcoal - Charcoal dust and small amounts of pigment are bound in a clay and gum based binder. Tinted charcoal will have the softness and smudgy quality of charcoal but with a subtle hint of colour.

Tooth - Refers to the texture on a pastel painting surface. The tooth of the surface will hold the colour in place and minimise the amount of soft pastel dust. Sanded papers generally have more tooth.

Tortillion - A cylindrical drawing tool, tapered at the ends and usually made of rolled paper, used by artists to smudge or blend marks made with charcoal, soft and hard pastel and pencils.

Value - This term means ‘tone’ in visual art. ‘The value of the object’ is a description of how light or dark the object is. The lightest value is white and the darkest value is black.

Velour Paper - Velour paper has a very soft luxurious surface, made up of thousands of tiny fibres. These maximise the adhesion of soft and hard pastel colour, and minimise the amount of dust accumulated.

Watercolour / Watersoluble Pencil - Coloured pencils with a watersoluble binder. They can be used wet or dry, and colours can be blended with a wet brush. Some ranges are rewettable when dry while others are not, which can help when layering marks - refer to product information if in any doubt. Useful when adding detail to watercolour paintings or as a drawing and painting medium in its own right.

Waxy Bloom - Some coloured pencils have a high wax content in their binder, which gradually seeps up to the surface of applied pencil marks, giving the colouring a milky haze. Waxy bloom is easily removed by wiping with a cloth or a cotton swab.

Woodless Pencils - Woodless pencils have a much broader lead so last longer. Sharpenings can be stored and used as a drawing tool or, in the case of watersoluble woodless pencils, dissolved in water and used like watercolour.