Working with Soft Pastel

Pastel

Enhance your soft pastel works…

There are many ways of enhancing your pastel drawings by combining different techniques that you might not have previously considered. The addition of paints or texture to your background can give new life to your subjects and encourage you to be more creative with your applications. Here we provide a few examples and suggestions to combine with the medium of soft pastel.

A good surface preparation will be sure to give your work character and intensity. For this you can use a gesso such as the Primer Galeria Gesso from Winsor & Newton or the white 755 Gesso from Lascaux, applied with a roller, will offer an ideal basis for your creation. The preparation of a strongly textured pastel background can be made really easily using the following material: resistant and good quality paper (heavy weight papers over 400gsm work best), a structuring gel with a “natural sand” effect from Liquitex (see product code 20617), and a large brush. If you want a coloured surface you can achieve this by mixing the structuring gel to an acrylic colour. Apply the structuring gel to the paper with the brush and let it dry completely. This will then give you a pleasant relief on which to use soft or dry pastels. Once the work is finished, be sure to use fixative to protect your work.

Pastel

Combining Techniques: Pastel and Gouache

The pastel painter usually paints very lightly using relatively blurry shapes as it is very hard to draw fine details with a pastel. However you can, with a lot of ingenuity, overcome this obstacle and give your work more precision while keeping the unique appearance of the pastel. The gouache is a paint whose composition is very similar to that of the pastel and has a matt aspect once dry so it will harmonize perfectly. Using the gouache it is possible to create fine lines, and details, and you can always apply a fine layer of pastel afterwards to further blend the two materials. Try drawing the basic lines of your work with the gouache before you work the gradations with the pastels. You can then repeat the use of gouache for the highlights. When using the soft pastels, apply fixative to each layer to protect your work. Be aware that gouache that is too fluid will closely mix with the pastels’ pigments, which will admittedly give very interesting effects, but it will also damage the brightness of the colours so use a dry brush that you can dampen slightly.

Details can also be achieved using pastel pencils, they can be used for intense lines of colour whilst still maintaining the possibility to shade or soften the marks.

You can even use a layer of slightly diluted gouache as a background for a matt coloured effect on the paper.

Pastel

Pastel and Watercolour

This is one of the more common combinations, and even though we are obviously tempted to believe that the pastel’s characteristics are the exact opposite of watercolour, the combination of the two techniques is wonderful. The first layer should be done with watercolour and you will then be able to judge for yourself where to apply the pastel. The pastels can make the watercolour wash tints more opaque, emphasize the “covering” details and the luminous parts, or simply enable you to play with the shades. The pastels can even improve in a surprising way a slightly failed watercolour painting. When using pastel and watercolour together, always keep in mind the transparent qualities of the watercolour that contrast with the opacity of the pastels as the realization of this difference will help you obtain better results. The watercolour offers a soft and transparent depiction, and contrasts with the pastel that is full of character and intensity and even though watercolour gives, contrarily to other colours, a rather paler depiction, it completely lights up when combined with pastel. We especially notice this intensity on the places where the artist applied a thin layer of pastel to the watercolour.

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One thought on “Working with Soft Pastel

  1. After reading the article “Working With Soft Pastels” I felt really let down. As well as bad grammar and punctuation, the little information that was given was very basic and certainly not new. The three pictures used were poorly thought out and a wasted opportunity to illustrate the properties discussed. I expected better quality information on art materials from GreatArt Magazine not just ‘fillers’ for column inches.