Basic Painting Techniques for Pastels

Artists use a variety of medium. Some prefer to use oils or acrylics. Many artists consider pastels a great medium. If you’ve never used them, here are some basic painting techniques for pastels.


One of the more common and popular pastel mediums is the soft pastel. These pastels cover a large area and blend well to create new colours. Pastels can be used for a variety of techniques and look entirely different depending upon the amount of pressure you use with them and how many layers you apply.


When people think of pastels, they may be thinking of different mediums. Pastels can be found in crayon form, pencils, water soluble, and oil pastels. Each form one has its own benefits. For example, pastel crayons are durable, blend easily and yet allow you to create crisp, sharp lines. Water soluble pastels, on the other hand, can be used either wet or dry. Use them to cover a wide area on your paper and then add water to get a colourful wash. Oil pastels have a deeper, richer tone than other pastels. Use turpentine with oil pastels to thin them or extend them if you like.


One of the best techniques when using pastels is the ability to blend them. Rather than having to mix the paints on a palette, you can apply pastels directly to the paper and then blend other colours into them to create entirely new colours and shading techniques. Simply lay down a base colour and then add another on top of it. Blend the two colours with your finger or another blending tool to achieve the desired result.


Dry washing is another basic technique for pastels. Start by crushing or scraping some of the pastel into a powder. With a soft cloth or brush, apply the powder to the paper and work it in. Combine the colours on a palette or overlay colours and blend them in.


Try hatching to create a sense of shading. To do this, simply make small regular strokes in the same direction over an area. Cross-hatching is similar except after you finish hatching in one direction, you go back and add hatching in another direction, thus called cross-hatching. This technique will give you texture and shading. Depending upon the look you desire, you may want to use two shades of pastel.


Scribbling is a great way to fill in space. Start at the top of your paper and work down to avoid undue smudging or work from one direction to the other across the paper depending upon which hand you use primarily. When you’re satisfied with the way one area looks, you may want to spray a pastel fixative to avoid smudging it and changing the way it looks.


Some artists prefer to lay down the darker tones first and then come back to highlight. How you choose to use the basic painting techniques for pastels will depend upon your familiarity with the medium and your own artistic ability. Remember to have fun while using pastels; they’re a great artistic medium.