|Box of Pastels, c. 1810, MFA Boston
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.
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
For more brush information, check out the Dynasty Brush website.