Can You Use Pastels as Paint?

Simply adding oil or water changes art pastels into wet media. Using Pastels as Wet Media allows the artist to mimic watercolor and oils in their work, providing a wide array of new challenges and benefits to using pastels. In other words, it is an easy way to get many different looks from one medium.

Transforming Soft Pastels

Soft Pastel Wet

Soft pastels can be transformed into wet media several different ways. Wet soft pastel can often resemble watercolors when large amounts of water are used. When less water is introduced to the medium, a very velvety, soft surface forms. The amount of water that is used depends on what technique is used to add the water.

The dry on wet technique is the easiest way to transform soft pastel into a wet medium. The artist should select a medium weight watercolor paper as a canvas. Though pastel paper can be used, it doesn’t hold up well to water and may buckle. The artist should use a large paintbrush to sweep water onto the paper. Then, pastel should be applied to the paper.

The next technique is wet on dry. This is accomplished by dipping a soft pastel into a cup of water before applying the pigment to dry pastel or watercolor paper.

The last, and wettest, form of pastel painting is wet on wet. The artist wets a piece of watercolor paper with a large brush and then uses wet pastels to paint on it.

Transforming Oil Pastels

Oil Pastel WetChanging oil pastels into a fluid medium is a little more difficult than transforming soft pastel.

Since oil pastel is made with oil, it won’t blend with water. It will blend with oil, though. The artist can use any of the techniques used for soft pastels, above, as long a mineral oil or linseed oil are substituted for water.

Another way to make oil pastels into paint is with the use of heat. The artist should remove the paper from the pastel, then hold it a few inches away from the flame of a candle. After a few seconds, the pastel should start to melt. The pastel can then be used like impasto oil paint.

The illustration shows the effects of using oil pastels as paint.

Word of Caution

Manny contemplating pastel use.
Manny contemplating pastel use.

There are a few things to remember when using pastels as paint media.

First, wet pastels produce very fluid results, so the artist should lay the paper flat to avoid drips.

Second, hot pastels should be handled carefully and should not be held in the flame.

Third, do not wet a pastel with oil and then hold it over a flame. This could start a fire.

Fourth, all oil pastel painting should be done on a prepared canvas since oils break down paper fibers, making them brittle over time.

Other than that, using wet pastels can be a joyful addition to any pastel artist’s arsenal of techniques.

Comments are closed.