Soft Pastel Drawing For Beginners

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Soft pastels for beginners. Learn about soft pastel materials and supplies

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What are soft pastels?

Pastels are an amazing medium! This article will give you a beginners introduction to soft pastels and a basic understanding of what they are and how to start making pastel drawings.

Pastels are available in several different types: hard, soft, oil and pastel pencils. In this article however, we will be focusing on soft pastels.

Soft Pastels are made by mixing dry pigment, some chalk and a binder together to form a paste. The paste is then put into a mold and allowed to dry in order to form sticks. Pastels are nearly pure pigment, which makes them very fun to work with as they have intense colors. There are multiple benefits of working with chalk pastels – the main ones are:

  • Are easily transportable – take with on trips etc.
  • Works in layers
  • Requires minimal preparation and set up (as opposed to oil painting)
  • Bright colors
  • allows for spontanaiety
  • Can be combined with other mediums

The best soft pastels for beginners

There are quite a few choices when it comes to buying soft pastels. Here I picked out three different brands that I think are the best! The best part is that you can choose how many colors you want. For my first pastel set I got a 12 colors. You can always first experiment with a smaller package and upgrade later on if you love the medium.

Rembrandt Soft Pastels (General Selection)

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Sennelier Soft Pastels (Introductory Colors)

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Faber Castell Soft Pastels (set of 36)

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Paper for soft pastels

You can use soft pastels on pretty much any surface! However, there are papers which are best to use them on. For example, it is important to use textured paper as it can hold more pastel color on it and allow for more layering. Also, toned paper is helpful to use as it lighter toned paper enhances darker pastels, while lighter pastels on dark toned paper offer some contrast. Most like to choose a mid toned paper as it keeps a good balance between the two. There is a wide range of colors and tones available when working with pastel paper.

Here are some favorites I recommend!

Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel Pad, Assorted Colors 9″X12″

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Strathmore 400 Series Pastel Pad, Assorted Colors, 9″ x 12″

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Strathmore Sheet Assorted Tint Charcoal Pad, 9 by 12″, 9″x12″

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Where Do You Start?

Now that you have your pastels and paper, you are ready to start drawing with pastels! But you may wonder where to begin.

One of the best things you can do before you start (and also after) is to look at other masters’ drawings. An easy way of finding other drawings is to go to your local library. However, a quicker way to find master pastel drawings is to simply do a google search and find them that way. I personally love to look at Degas pastel drawings. He is an example of someone who had the highest level of skill when it came to soft pastels.

  1. The first thing you want to do is to find a motif to draw from
  2. Create a rough sketch
  3. Fill in the basic colors of your drawing – start with big ideas first putting in the lights, mid tones and darks
  4. Later on pay more attention to the details
  5. Go over your drawing and make sure that the big shapes of light and dark are present
  6. You are done! Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty – its an essential part of working with soft pastels

Spray Fixative over your finished pastel drawing

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Best Soft Pastel Books To Help You Learn

The Pastel Book

A thorough guide to pastel materials and techniques. Step by step demonstrations are included in this book. Ideal for beginners and more experienced artists.

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For those more interested in doing landscape with pastels

Painting the Landscape in Pastel

Contains a thorough review of supplies as well as discussions on composition and how to establish large shapes first. As well, the book guides you on how to develop the illusion of reality through color. Contains demonstrations helping you to know how to depict skies, trees, buildings, rocks, wood, snow etc.

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I hope this article was helpful to you and that you choose to try out pastels. I cannot recommend them enough!

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Elisabeth Larson Koehler creator of art studio life

Hi! I am Elisabeth

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      4 thoughts on “Soft Pastel Drawing For Beginners”

      1. I’m just beginning to draw with pastels and this guide would be so helpful for me to achieve balance an$ blending with colours

        1. Elisabeth Larson Koehler

          Thats cool that you like pastels. Yeah, there are quite a few different types – hope you get to explore the medium more 🙂

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