How to Fix Pastel Problems

By Alina Bradford

Soft pastelsSince there are so many types of artist’s pastels, including pencil, soft, hard and oil, there are many ways to take care of pastels. Here is a list of problems and solutions associated with each type.

Soft Pastel Problems

Problem: Soft pastels often break or crumble easily.

Solution: The artist should select a box that is wide enough to hold all of the pastels laid out side-by-side. Fill the box with ¼ inch of dry, uncooked rice. The rice will keep the pastels from rolling and banging into each other, avoiding breakage or crumbling.

Problem: The pastel’s color is contaminated with the color of another pastel. This often results from on-canvas blending or banging together in storage.

Solution: Soft pastels can easily be wiped clean with a cotton cloth. A few swipes will wipe off the layer of contaminating color, revealing the original color.

Hard Pastel Problems

Problem: Hard pastels are often used for details in paintings, but it is hard to keep a point on the end for small details.

Solution: Keep a pastel shaper tool handy. These tools are nothing more than containers with a grate on the top. The artist rubs the pastel on the grate to shape it to a point. The dust created by the shaping falls down into the container to be used later or to be thrown away. Pastel shapers cost around $10 and can be purchased where pastels are sold.

Problem: The hard pastel breaks in half while being used.

Solution: Make a splint for each stick by placing a toothpick on each side and securing it by wrapping the splint with a piece of masking tape. When working with the pastels, the artist can slide the toothpicks and masking tape up as the end of the pastel gets shorter.

Pastel Pencil Problems

Problem: Pastel pencils have soft leads that break easily.

Solution: Pastel pencils should be given more care than the typical artist’s pencil. Each one should be stored with the sharpened end pointing up. The artist should also avoid dropping the pencil to avoid breakage of the pastel inside of the wood casing.

Oil Pastel Problems

oil pastelsProblem: The oil pastel stick’s color becomes muddy after using it for blending techniques.

Solution: While the oil pastel is still warm from use, the artist should wipe it with a clean cotton cloth to remove residue from other pastel colors.

Problem: The oil pastel is too soft.

Solution: This can come from storing the pastel in a warm area. Place the pastel in the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool. Remember to always store oil pastels in a cool area away from direct sunlight.
Taking care of this medium only takes a few extra minutes, but it’s worth it. Pastel upkeep is important for achieving successful pastel techniques and for improving the longevity of each stick.

Also see:

3 New Oil Pastel Techniques to Try

Can You Paint with Pastels?


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