Pastel – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Techniques and Materials Glossary

What is Pastel?

Pastel is a versatile medium that consists of pure powdered pigment mixed with a binder to form a stick. It is known for its vibrant colors and soft, velvety texture. Pastels can be used dry or mixed with water to create a variety of effects. They are popular among artists for their ease of use and ability to blend and layer colors.

Types of Pastels

There are several types of pastels available on the market, each with its own unique characteristics. Soft pastels are the most commonly used and are known for their rich, creamy texture. They can be easily blended and layered to create a wide range of colors and effects. Hard pastels, on the other hand, have a firmer texture and are ideal for creating fine lines and details. Oil pastels are another type of pastel that is made with a mixture of pigment, wax, and oil. They are known for their vibrant colors and ability to be used on a variety of surfaces.

Surfaces for Pastel

Pastels can be used on a variety of surfaces, including paper, canvas, and board. Each surface has its own unique characteristics that can affect the final outcome of the artwork. Paper is the most commonly used surface for pastel due to its ability to hold the pigment and allow for blending and layering. Canvas is another popular surface for pastel, as it provides a sturdy base for the pigment and can be easily primed for additional texture. Board is a rigid surface that is ideal for detailed work and can be sanded to create a smooth finish.

Techniques for Using Pastel

There are several techniques that artists can use when working with pastels to achieve different effects. One common technique is blending, which involves using a blending tool or finger to mix colors together on the surface. Layering is another technique that involves building up layers of color to create depth and dimension. Scumbling is a technique that involves applying pastel in a loose, scribbled manner to create texture. Sgraffito is a technique that involves scratching into the surface of the pastel to reveal underlying layers of color.

Fixatives for Pastel

Fixatives are used to protect pastel artworks from smudging and fading over time. There are several types of fixatives available, including workable fixatives that allow artists to continue working on the artwork after applying the fixative. Final fixatives are used to permanently set the pastel and prevent it from smudging. It is important to use fixatives in a well-ventilated area and to apply them in thin, even layers to avoid over-saturation of the pigment.

Care and Preservation of Pastel Artworks

To ensure the longevity of pastel artworks, it is important to properly care for and preserve them. Pastel artworks should be framed under glass to protect them from dust, dirt, and moisture. It is also important to avoid touching the surface of the pastel with bare hands, as oils from the skin can cause the pigment to smudge. When transporting pastel artworks, it is best to wrap them in acid-free paper and store them in a protective case to prevent damage. With proper care and preservation, pastel artworks can be enjoyed for years to come.