Artist Resources: Pastels

Box of Pastels, c. 1810, MFA Boston
Pastel, whether oil or chalk, is thought of as the purest form of painting.  The sticks of color are composed of primarily pigment, with very little binder.  Although pastel is applied dry, usually, it is thought of as painting because the color is applied in mass, rather than in line.  

Both chalk and oil pastels are made up of pigment and a binder. For chalk pastels, sometimes gum tragacanth is used as the binder, which is made from several of the species of Astragalas shrubs of the Middle East, or the modern binder is methyl cellulose, a synthetic substitute.  Chalk pastels range in very soft to hard, depending on how much binder and filler is used.  Oil pastels are made up of pigments dispersed in wax and softened with a non-drying oil, like mineral oil.  Oil pastels came out in 1925 in Japan, originally designed as a children's crayon.

The pigments used to make pastels vary from permanent to fugitive and are sometimes mixed with one another for a range of hues.  The type of pigment used to make a color will in turn effect how much binder is needed to hold the pastel together.  As clay or whiting or other filler is also added to aid in the range of hues, this will effect the binder quantity and density of the pastel as well.  

IPC line
Pastels are layered onto surfaces that have texture or grit to hold on to the pigment, as there is no liquid.  The pigment is embedded into the surface from the artist's pressure and then grasped by the texture of the surface.  Often pastel surfaces have pumice to hold on to layers of the chalks.  Since pastel is applied dry, most often artists don't use brushes for application, but some use brushes for blending, adding solvents, or laying down grounds for their work.   With PanPastel's product of soft pressed pastel in a container, there is more need for pastel tools.  

To aid pastel artists in their blending or application, Dynasty has a line of brushes made specifically for pastel artists.  To read more about our IPC (Ink, Pastel & Chalk) line, you can follow up with this blog post: Paint Brush Highlights:  IPC.

Although pastels can be easily bought from art material stores, artists can also make their own pastels.  Recipes can be found online, or in some artist material books, like The Painters' Handbook by Mark D. Gottsegen or Painting Materials by R. J. Gettens and George Stout.

Below is a list of some additional Pastel Resources:  

Manufacturers of Pastels

Pastel Journal by The Artists Network

Pastels and Pastelbord™ by Ampersand Art Supply, a pastel surface.

Diane Townsend Pastels, handmade pastels

PanPastel, soft pastel, pressed into pans

Dakota Pastels

Keep Painting,

For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.