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All You Need to Know About Pastel Paintings

Kashmira Lad
Pastel painting is a great medium for an artist who loves to mainly use stroke work to create a masterpiece! Here are some basics for beginners who are yet to discover the magic of this medium.
Art is all about self-expression. This is a medium that allows artist to express his/her feelings with complete freedom and convey a whole lot of meaning without making any use of words. An artist can use many techniques and styles.
From acrylic to oil paintings, pencil sketches and watercolors, the choice is the artist's. Be it Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, famous artists have had their own style to represent what they wished to convey.

Types of Pastels

Pastels are basically small-sized color sticks available in many shades. An artist can create various moods for any painting with their use. From a bright landscape to a beautiful portrait, pastels are a versatile medium that gives artists the freedom to experiment.
Various brands manufacture these colors in small, medium, and large-sized packs to suit the requirements of the artists. Experienced artists often prefer to choose the large-sized packs, as there are many more shades available in them.
There are basically three types available in the market. Those that are soft or hard are the most commonly available kinds. Pastel pencils are similar to hard pastels. But my favorite remains to be oil pastels.
Oil pastels can be used on a variety of surfaces and in combination with other mediums as well. When used on their own, they give an artist ample options to apply their creativity on paper. They basically give a smooth and creamy finish as compared to soft or hard pastels. The painting will therefore have a very waxy finish.
Soft ones tend to smudge when applied on paper. This problem is relatively less with oil pastels. However, an artist always needs to ensure that he/she takes care of the painting to avoid the flecks of the pastels from mixing into each other.

Techniques Used in Paintings

An artist always begins any painting with light strokes. Pastels give the artist an opportunity to use it across the paper in any way suitable to him or her. An artist can try many techniques, and with time, develop a style of his/her own.
While using pastels, the stroke is of utmost importance. The final result of the painting will depend upon the way an artist plays around with the stroke on the surface. Apart from that, there are many other ways an artist can add beauty to a painting. Here are some of the basic techniques used.


Blending of colors can be done by hand or even with a brush. Art supply stores also have shapers that may be used. These are used to blend colors in smaller areas, which cannot be done with fingers alone.


Gradation is about blending colors from a light tone towards a darker shade. This is done when an artist wants a smoother finish to a particular area.


Scumbling basically involves the use of blending the side strokes over the existing background.

Dusting of Color

For this, you need to hold the required pastel color over the painted surface. Scrape the pastel over the surface of the paper. This creates the dust. Once the flecks fall on the surface, use a palette knife and press the flecks to the paper.


Artists such as Vincent Van Gogh used pointillism to create masterpieces. This technique requires a lot of effort. The pastels can be used to create small dots all over the surface. The colors should be carefully chosen to get the required depth in the painting.
The techniques you use also depend upon the kind of paper. Choosing different surfaces can create varied textures. You need to check with your local art store for handmade paper or sheets that have different grains and grades. This will add a unique touch to your painting.
Art is about giving freedom to your imagination. Great artists were not trained formally in the field of art. Free your mind from all the shackles and let your imagination run wild. The pastel painting you create will surely be exclusive!