Please use this discussion to ask or discuss pastels only. What brands do you like best? Beginners what are your questions regarding pastels?
Welcome and hope you find this forum helpful in your pastels endeavors.

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I'm a firm favorite of Rembrandt soft pastels. They are a good balance of hard and soft.  Too hard and the pastel skids over the paper, barely leaving any color.  Too soft and there's a dusty mess everywhere.  Rembrandts are just right.  I also am a fan of the Prismacolor 'hard' pastels for fine detail work, such as eyelashes and hairs, or furs, when doing tight detail work, on a painting.  Sometimes though, as I mentioned, the hard pastels will not leave enough pigment on the paper.  So when I hit that road block, what I do, is snap a Rembrandt in half, or some other medium soft/hard pastel, then use the 'edge' of the broken pastel for fine detail work.  A bit tricky, because you have to be careful how you use the pastel and stay on target, without color escaping all over the place.  But more color is guaranteed this way, when doing fine detail work.

My favorite soft pastels are Sennelier. I can not detect that much difference between Sennelier and Schminke in terms of intense colors. As crazy as it sounds, though, Sennelier feels creamier when I use my fingers to blend the colors on paper. 

I have some pastels, but no idea what kind as they are packed and I never used them.  I don't know where to start with pastels.......Maggie

I have a small box of Senneliers, Amethyst, they are very expensive, like most professional pastels are.  However, I do find them overly soft for my kind of art.  What I do find them extremely useful for, is when my pastel paper has lost all its 'tooth', it's then that the Senneliers are most useful.  They are great for overlaying BRIGHT, brilliant colors, when the paper has become 'tired' from all my previous pastel applications.  For example, right now I'm working on a dog portrait, in this painting I put a dog against a beautiful breathtaking 'sunrise'.  Only the Senneliers gave me the brilliant colors in the sunset I was after.  My other pastels proved useless in this regard.  But for the dog itself, I used my trusty Rembrandts, Art Spectrums, Daler Rowney and others.  

amethyst lilypads said:

My favorite soft pastels are Sennelier. I can not detect that much difference between Sennelier and Schminke in terms of intense colors. As crazy as it sounds, though, Sennelier feels creamier when I use my fingers to blend the colors on paper. 

Maggie, you can use them, like you would any other medium.  i.e., lay on a 'base' coat, then lay in your darks and lights.  For instance, in painting a green leaf, naturally there are several shades of 'green' in that one leaf.  You would select the basic green color, find the appropriate pastel stick, and then over that basic shade of green, you would then use a lighter shade of green, and then a darker shade of green, to really bring your leaf to life.  Basically, you're looking closely at that leaf, and then trying to mimic its colors using your pastels.  Paint what you see.  But always start with a base layer.  Well, that's my approach anyway.  I'm sure others have their own approaches to pastel, this is just my approach, and what works for me.  I'm sure you will eventually find out what works for you!  

Margaret Hamm (Maggie) said:

I have some pastels, but no idea what kind as they are packed and I never used them.  I don't know where to start with pastels.......Maggie

So you basically use them just like paint?

Yes, you would.  They ARE a paint, except that they are a "dry" paint, not wet.  In fact, pastels ARE paint.  They are made with the exact same colors (or pigments) used to make watercolor, oils, acrylics and etc.  Oils are made with a linseed binder. Acrylics are made with a plastic binder.  Pastels?  Well I forgot what binder is used on them!  LOL.  Anyway, they use a binder to get the pigments to hold together and form a stick.  And then when you draw/paint with the stick, it reverts back to the powdered form.  So in reality, you are painting with the pure pigment when you are painting with pastels, which is why the colors are so brilliant and breathtaking.  It also explains why artists' professional pastels are so expensive.  Hope all this makes sense.

Margaret Hamm (Maggie) said:

So you basically use them just like paint?

I second Jennifer's response. I have come to think of soft pastels as convenient paint. No mixing involved! Take them where you please without the drip! Crumble yes, but no drip! I would like to know about binders used in pastel-making because I think it would be fun to experiment with pigment and binder for a little diy pastel.

I agree that Sennelier can run into $$$, but there are two ways to address the cost. If you have your heart set on a major purchase, then you may find a reputable store with a free shipping deal plus a 50% off the list price deal. Look for these around Christmas.

The second way is to purchase 3 or 4 sticks at a time within a color family. You can produce a very beautiful painting with a limited palette. Of course, I'm speaking from the viewpoint from someone who loves to art journal and who likes splashing watercolor as a base and applying pastels on that. My experience may be quite different from an artist who prefers realism.

Thanks for your answer, Jenifer............Maggie

now this discussion is getting interesting, Amethyst!  

I agree that making your own pastels, would save a bundle.  Lots of professional artists make their own pastels, in addition to buying ready-made pastels.  I'm not complaining about the high cost of pastels, after all - you do get what you pay for.  A lot of $$ is still a small price to pay for a tool (pastel) that allows you to create gorgeous paintings infused with beautiful, vibrant colors.  

I wish I could afford a box of GIRAULT.  What I tend to do, is buy a "small" box of new pastel, just so I could test them out, before investing in a bigger box.  Hence I bought a small box of Schminke and Art Spectrum.  Schminke is on the soft side, but not as soft as the Senneliers are.  Art spectrum is perfect, I love their consistency, not too hard, not too soft, almost like my Rembrandts.  This way if I don't like the performance of the pastel, not a big deal, since I only invested in a small box.  I would also love to own a large box of Diane Townsend.  Her pastels are spectacular, in terms of her color ranges.  I already know that Girault is the type of pastel I would love to use, so whenever I can afford it, I'll buy a big box of Girault.  


amethyst lilypads said:

I second Jennifer's response. I have come to think of soft pastels as convenient paint. No mixing involved! Take them where you please without the drip! Crumble yes, but no drip! I would like to know about binders used in pastel-making because I think it would be fun to experiment with pigment and binder for a little diy pastel.

I agree that Sennelier can run into $$$, but there are two ways to address the cost. If you have your heart set on a major purchase, then you may find a reputable store with a free shipping deal plus a 50% off the list price deal. Look for these around Christmas.

The second way is to purchase 3 or 4 sticks at a time within a color family. You can produce a very beautiful painting with a limited palette. Of course, I'm speaking from the viewpoint from someone who loves to art journal and who likes splashing watercolor as a base and applying pastels on that. My experience may be quite different from an artist who prefers realism.

No problem, Maggie.  You have to play around with pastels, until you find a comfortable style that pleases you.  

Margaret Hamm (Maggie) said:

Thanks for your answer, Jenifer............Maggie

Can you use these on all surfaces or just something in particular?  Do you seal them with a fixative?

Maggie

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