Sketching Essentials: Drawing Pastels

Art pastels combine powdered pigment with binder and are packaged in an easy-to-use stick form. Despite the soft, powdery appearance of drawing pastels, the medium is actually opaque and capable of coverage over the darkest grounds. Look for the largest set of pastels your budget will allow because of the non-transparent property. Combining and layering pastel primary colors will not result in secondary and tertiary colors. Pastels are available in varying formulas:

Chalk Pastels. Stirs up lots of dust, so cover up your workspace and don a smock. Chalk pastels, which can contain less pigment than other pastel formulations, are less expensive.

Pastel Chalk Pencils. These pastels are encased in wood. They are easily blended with a finger, paper tortillon stump, kneaded eraser or tissue.

Soft Pastels. These pastels are easily blended. They have a higher portion of pigment and less binder, resulting in brighter colors. A light fixative spray or quick framing is needed to prevent smudging.

Soft Pastel Pencils. These pigmented, soft pastel pencils combine the smooth finish of conventional pastels but encased in wood. They produce less chalk dust and mess.

Pastel Pencils. Pastel pencil ingredients encased in wood allow the product to be sharpened. They achieve fine detail that is impossible with softer pastels. Wood casing keeps fingers clean.

Semi-Hard Pastels. These pastels are less fragile than softer pastels and produce less dust.

Hard Pastels. These pastels are ideal for preliminary sketching and adding detail. A higher amount of binder to pigment in hard pastels makes crisp marks without crumbling possible. Because of the subtraction of pigment, the resulting product tends not to be as brilliant as soft pastels. Color blending is also more difficult.

Water Soluble Pastels. These pastels contain a water-soluble component. Add water, and they become transparent.

Oil Pastels. Creamy, smooth and buttery oil pastels are intensely colored. They are slightly more difficult to blend than soft pastels, but do not require a fixative.

Giant Oil Pastels. These pastels can measure up to the equivalent of eight regular-sized pastel sticks.

Grip Oil Pastels. These triangular shaped pastels are designed for ease-of-handle for the young artists. (A great alternative for older artists or anyone with dexterity issues).

Water Soluble Oil Pastels. These pastels are suitable for drawing and watercolor painting techniques including wet blending, dry blending and sgrafitto. Blending produces colors as laid out on the color wheel.

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