Soft Pastel Techniques You Need to Know


Physalis by Ingeborg Bernhard.

By Alina Bradford

Blending pastels properly can make the difference between a stunning painting and a bland one. The tips, below, will help you become better acquainted with working with different tools and techniques to get great effects.

Muddiness in PastelAvoiding Muddiness

Take a look at Example One. This is an example of muddiness, which is caused by too many colors blended
together. This can be avoided by blending and layering no more than three colors in one area. With oil and acrylic paint, you don’t have this problem as much because you can wait for one layer to dry before you add
another. With pastels you can mimic this by using fixative in-between the layers of your pastel.

Blending Tools

pastel techniques

Blending Soft PastelsYou can get very creative with the tools you use to blend pastels. It is important to experiment with different tools because each tool will lend a different effect to your painting. For example, take a look at Example Two. Example Two shows three sets of pastel blended with three very different tools. Here are the advantages of each tool:

Cotton Swab: Cotton swabs are great for blending in small spaces and giving a very sweeping type blend. Notice how the two colors are not totally blended. This gives your colors a very fresh look that you just can’t get with too much blending.

#9 Brush: A fluffy #9 brush can give your blending a very soft look. It also sweeps away all of the excess pigment, leaving you with a very thin layer of pastel.

Finger: Your finger may be one of your most used tools as a pastelist. You can do soft
blends or you can blend the pigment into oblivion.

Here are some more ideas for pastel blending tools:

  • Sponges
  • Kneaded erasers
  • Tissues

Blending by Layering


pastel techniques 1You can also blend your pastels without really blending at all. Example Three shows two types of blending that uses layering techniques.

The first technique is called crosshatching. It is created by laying down your first color, then creating horizontal and vertical lines over the top of it in another color.

The second technique is blending using a layer of dots. This technique was used by neo-impressionist artists and is called pointillism. The traditional way to create pointillism is to blend the two colors you want to use by placing them side-by-side in a series of dots. A simpler version, shown in the example, is to lay down a layer of one color and then to put the other color in dots on top of the first layer.

With both versions, the mind mixes the colors when looking at the picture, even though the colors were never really blended on the paper.

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