How to Use Pastels on Paper

Pastel is easy to use, portable, and can create fantastic artwork that showcases your artistic talent. If you already know how to draw with a pen, pencils, or charcoal, learning pastels could be the next logical step in your growth as an artist. If you have never used pastel for your work before, you can learn How to use pastels on paper. Keep reading if you want to know more.

What are Pastels?

Pastels are crayons pressed together with pigment and a binder. By their consistency, pastel crayons are much softer than ordinary crayons and are suitable for more delicate and picturesque drawing on paper or cardboard. When drawing with pastels, you can achieve delicate, light, soft, and velvety shades. Anyone can master this beautiful technique!

Types of Pastel

pastel set

In the art store, you can buy several types of pastels. The most common pastels are hard and soft pastels. These drawing sticks are made up of a binder and beautiful colored pigments.

Soft Pastels

Contains more pigment and less binder. Soft pastels crumble easily because of this composition but are ideal for shading or wide strokes.

Hard Pastel

It contains a larger amount of binder, which is why it is more resistant and clear. This is an ideal tool for drawing contours.

Pastel Pencils

Outwardly, they resemble ordinary pencils, with the only difference being that they have a pastel core. They are mainly used for working out small details.

Oil Pastel

Contains pigment with mineral oil. The colors are less matte. Works created with oil pastels are easier to store, colors do not smear, and do not require additional fixation. Soft varieties of oil pastels can blend with your fingers, and hard varieties can blend with a solvent, special or for oil paints. It must be borne in mind that some types of thinner can make the pastel more faded, and linseed oil, on the contrary, will give shine.

Wax Pastel

Also known as watercolor. It contains wax and water-soluble components, which is why the drawing created by watercolor pastels, when interacting with water, looks more like a drawing with watercolors.

Varieties of Pastel and Paper for it

pastel art

Pastel is dry, oil and wax. Dry pastel is a pressed pigment with a binder (adhesive) substance. The more binder, the harder the pastel. The less binder, the softer the pastel. Dry soft pastel makes it easy to use shading in work. Oil pastel is made up of pigment and oil Wax pastel, respectively from pigment and wax.

To work with pastel crayons, artists use special paper. The regular one doesn’t work well here. The main feature of pastel paper is its rough texture. This increased roughness or graininess allows microscopic particles of pigment to better cling to the fibers of the paper. In addition, pastel paper is tinted. That is, the paper may not be white but colored. This is because pastel is inferior in saturation to colors. And the color of the paper can compensate for this shortcoming. Between the strokes of the pastel, there are gaps through which tinted paper can shine. And since there is often a predominant color in the image, the artists select the paper of the corresponding color. This makes the graphic work more saturated.

Special Paper for Pastels

For pastels, paper with a coarse-grained texture is selecting, contributing to better adhesion of its layers. In addition to white, there are many colored papers – ivory, tan, gray, blue, green, purple, etc. The color of the paper is as essential as the shade of the underpainting in other painting techniques. Remember that this selection is quite large, and it is necessary to gradually try out as many varieties of the base as possible.

Watercolor Paper

Any watercolor paper is suitable for pastels, but the cold-pressed paper is best. If you need underpainting with watercolor or acrylic paint, this base is the best choice since not all paper reacts equally well to water-based soils – water causes deformation of their surface.

Charcoal Papers

Some of its types (and inexpensive types of pastel paper) are quite loose, making them unreliable materials. Charcoal pencil paper usually does not have a significant texture, weakening its ability to hold pastel particles. It is using for short-term studies.


This paper is coating with small particles of abrasive material (like ordinary sandpaper), due to which it holds a significant amount of pastel. Although it contains acids, its popularity among artists is great.

Graphics Paper

You should be familiar with other types of paper. There are many varieties available in art stores. The best way to determine if the proposed option is suitable is to feel the texture by touch. Paperweight varies from 120 to 360 grams/sq meter.

What You Need to Draw with Pastel on Paper

draw with pastel

One thing that makes pastels such a great medium is that pastels are pretty inexpensive to start with. You don’t need an easel, many tubes of expensive paints, or a particular studio.

Pastel designs can complete at the kitchen table with a small selection of easily and inexpensively available items at an art supply store.

You can buy a student-grade pastel set that includes most of the primary colors you need to start painting with pastels. You will also need a pack of pastel paper.

This paper is thicker than regular drawing paper and has a textured surface specially designed for pastel painting.

It is also common for those who paint with pastels to use paper of different colors, and not just white. Other colors set off your drawing and can make your work stand out.

You will also need a fixative aerosol spray that can use to seal the design for demonstration purposes.

How to Start Drawing with Pastels

Don’t intimidate when you are just starting to paint with pastels. Like when you start with any medium, start with having fun and learning how the medium works. Your very first drawing may not be the best, and that’s okay. Start by sketching the main outline of your drawing with graphite pencil on pastel paper.

If you are using hard pastel or soft pastel, you can fill in the outline of the drawing with the sides of the pastel using wide strokes.

Use a light pastel first and draw layers of pastels with darker colors on top of it. You can use your fingers, a blender, or even a rolled-up paper towel to blend the colors and shadows into the drawing.

Use darker colors last, gradually building up layers and adding details to your drawing.

You will work similarly for an oil pastel drawing, creating an outline and filling it with color. However, you can work in the opposite color order, first using dark colors and gradually adding lighter accents to the drawing.

When you need to continue drawing and are afraid of ruining what you have already done, you can apply a workable fixative to the drawing.

This will close the underlying layers, adding an extra “tooth” to the surface so you can continue adding layers to the drawing. Finishing the Pastel Drawing

When you’re happy with your pastel drawing, there’s one more step you need to complete before you can display your drawing. Pastel on paper needs to be “fixed.”

Since pastel is a medium that can be smudged or smudged easily, artists apply a fixative to a drawing before attempting to display it. The last fixer will firmly stick the design to the paper and give the paper a beautiful final look.

Stick the pattern on the hardboard outdoors. Spraying the fixative on the outside will help you avoid breathing in the fixative fumes in the spray, which can be dangerous.

Spray the last fixer onto the paper, gently flicking the spray back and forth, holding the can about 30 cm away from the design. It is enough to apply a small amount of fixative.

Let the pastel drawing dry outdoors for an hour or two, and then transfer it inside and let it dry for at least 24 hours. After that, you can frame your drawing for display.

Can Pastel be Used on Plain Paper?

You may be tempted to use regular drawing paper for pastels. However, this is a big mistake. Pastel paper has a rough, textured surface that traps pigments in the fibers of the paper.

Plain paper is not rough enough to hold and hold pigments. Colors brush off the smooth surface of plain paper.

Also, the smoothness of plain paper won’t remove enough pigment from the pastels, so you won’t get the bright and vibrant colors that pastels can reproduce.


Choosing the right paper color depends on placing it in your finished drawing. It can either provide contrast to dominant colors or harmonize with them. In a landscape or seaside drawing, the blues or blue-greys of the paper could be left open to areas of the sky or sea. Still, surprising results can also be obtained when additional contrast is used between the paper and the dominant color of the drawing. For an image of nature or a portrait in which the main colors are warm, one could choose a cool blue or green, leaving areas of paper for shadows.

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