Essential Pastel Tips

pastel tip



In this page, you will learn some pastel tips that will help you as you work with this powdery medium. Knowing these pastel tips in advance will help you avoid some of the mistakes that I made when I started out as a pastel artist years ago.

Like all the other mediums, soft pastels have their own safety issues.

To protect yourself from the potential toxic effects of pastel pigments being absorbed into your skin, I would recommend the following:

  • Wear gloves. Buy a box of disposable gloves, keep it next to your easel when you draw and paint with pastels and wear them!

    It still gives me goosebumps when I think of the days when I picked up my soft pastel sticks without protection and blended pastels on the paper with my bare fingers all the time. Chemicals in some pastel pigments can be absorbed through the skin, so be wary.

  • Wear a mask.One of the most important pastel tips I strongly suggest. Pastel dust can be inhaled into your lungs, so you want to reduce your exposure to it as much as you can.

    I resisted wearing a mask for quite a while. I justified this to myself because I thought this dust would not travel that far since I did not blow at the painting much.

    I was wrong. I found that my sinuses usually got somewhat stuffy after I worked on a pastel painting, but I did not make the connection until later.

    If you insist on not wearing a mask, make sure to work in a well ventilated room and stay back from the painting as much as possible.

  • Do not blow on your pastel paintings or drawings-- This is almost a unconscious act for a lot of pastel artists when they are in the thick of painting; I did it, too!

    If you want to take off the excess dust, then take the painting outdoors and tap the back of the pastel paper with your fingers a few times to dislodge the pigments.

  • Use a ventilator or air filter. Invest in one of these filters if you work in pastels heavily. I used to open the windows while I was working. In winter, I would put my portable air filter next to my easel.


Additional Pastel Tips To Make Your Life Easy....

  • Before you delve into painting, get your pastel supplies ready near your easel so you will have everything you might need at your fingertips.

  • To help keep the pastel dust under control, put a paper “tray” at the bottom of your painting to catch the dust.

    I have my students make makeshift dust trays by folding a sheet of newspaper, stapling it at one end, and then standing the pastel paper in it. My students and I called it a 'dust buster'.

    This disposable dust buster is one of my proudest inventions!

  • Keep a drop cloth on the floor of your working area. When you are done, take it outdoors and shake it out to remove the dust.

    pastel tip-storing pastels in rice



  • Store broken odd ends of pastels in a box filled with rice to keep them clean. You want to keep the rice clean by changing the rice once a while if you keep adding more pastel sticks to it.

    Keep baby wipes or paper towels handy. Baby wipes are my life savers and I love them. With them, you do not need to change disposable gloves that often.

  • Store individual pastel sticks in a pastel storage bin. I started out with a full set of Rembrandt soft pastels. As I slowly added my favorite soft pastels from different brands, I found these art bins useful for storing them--in addition to my rice box for little broken pastel sticks.

    Sometimes when I go paint outdoors, I choose the pastel colors I need for that day and put them into a single bin. Then I do not have to haul the whole set to the field.

  • Tilt the pastel surface slightly forward when you are painting. The angle of the board will make more of the dust to fall off on the paper tray instead of staying on the bottom of the paper.

  • Optionally, collect and save the pastel dust. Do this if you want to use them to make new pastels, create dusting textures, or tone paper or other pastel surfaces. I recycle some of the crumbled or broken pastel sticks this way.

Following the tips above will save you time and spare you potential agony from painting in pastels. I sure hope you will pick up some other useful ways of working with pastels as you get more experienced.

If you have some pastel tips that are not covered in the page and would like to share, please

contact me.

And use my pastel techniques to spruce up your paintings.....

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