historic school room with dunce hat and world globe

Don't be Dunce...

Always ask questions, how else do we get to know the answer? Besides there will always be someone else who wants to know too!

FAQ about Pastel

Is pastel messy?

It seems to be messy at the start when we are learning how to use it. Messy to me means that I get pastel everywhere. My clothes hands face and places I never thought of like the phone get pastel on them. When we get into a habit of pastelling that includes being aware of wiping pastels clean, keep our hands clean and not keep touching our faces, we can start wearing white!! 


Is a pastel a painting or a drawing? 

When the whole paper and tooth is filled with pastel it is considered to be a painting.

Can I use cheaper student quality pastels to learn with?

By all means do that. I totally understand how much cost impacts on wanting to do something. Be aware that the results will look different as these pastels can have more filler and less pigment so the painting looks whiter.

Will the pastel itself fade? 

The label on the pastel stick has a lightfast rating on it to say how it will react in time too light. Check the manufacturers Material Data Sheet for more information, on their website. Generally pastel is fade proof. Generally the lighter lemon colours will fade and some of the reds, but it will take a long time for that to happen if the painting is hung in the ideal situation.

I heard that the pastel paper fades, is that true?

This depends on the brand of paper. Dyed in the pulp papers are more likely to fade over a very long time. it is worth covering these large areas of paper with a light layer of pastel the same colour as the paper. Papers that have printed surfaces of pastel primer are not likely to fade.

Are pastels toxic?

Modern pastels are labelled as Non-Toxic. Pastels are made from the same pigments as used in wet media such as oil and watercolour, which in some cases are known be toxic.

Being exposed to The toxic cadmium pigments can lead to cadmium poising..These coloured pigments are the bright yellows, reds and oranges, traditionally used in wet media painting. 

Pastel painters/artists using these pigments in older sets or without a strong binder in the stick, can be susceptible to cadmium poising. 

Modern Artist Quality Soft pastels are mostly manufactured with substitutes for cadmium and other toxic pigments. The colours may still carry the same old names, such as Cadmium Yellow, and are labeled ‘Non-Toxic’.

To make it clear to pastelists which colours are ‘Non-Toxic” they are labeled with an ASTM code and logo. The label will contain the phrase, ‘Conforms to ASTM D4236’ which means that any art material with this label on it has been tested.


Should I spray a pastel painting so it doesn't smudge? 

My answer is no. There is a lot of discussion about this so do some research. Also do a test on a small bit of painting to see how much it darkens the pastel. Spraying the final painting leaves it darkened with all those beautiful highlights and rich colours dulled. The alternative is to use glassine paper to push the pastel back into the tooth and leave it at that. Mine don't dust and travel in boxes far afield.

Why should I buy special made and sometimes expensive pastel paper?

To get the best result the best paper and pastel should be used. Special pastel paper does seem expensive when first starting out. This paper is made to take the pastel, it has tooth. Cheaper papers have hardly any tooth , so the pastelling experience stops before it really gets started. Another reason to buy the good paper is that it is going to last. It is made to conform to standards for either conservation or longevity. The good paper allows for more tougher use than the cheaper thin papers. Pastellists can rub or wipe out pastel with out bruising or destroying the tooth of the paper. Once destroyed it shows up like a brass rubbing in the finished painting. It's hard to spend money on expensive paper, seriously the results are worth it.

My paper is dinted and has a crease in it but is it still okay to use?

For the serious learner or pastel artist, the answer is no. Every bit of pastel will show up the crease and the dint. Use this paper for testing colours or for the grandkids to play on.

Where to hang a pastel painting?  

Try to avoid hanging it were it will get full sun on the painting. As the work is under glass for protection it can set up a condensation. Hang the work on a wall that is away form direct heat. For example the west wall in the southern hemisphere is really hot in summer and cold in winter, setting the work up for problems, again as it’s under glass. Do hang it on an inside wall. Air-conditioners cause condensation if the work is under this unit.

When can I use Fixative on my pastel painting?

Do use spray fixative between layers if need be. Use it to fix the pastel for another layer that won’t mix or move the fixed layer. Use spray when the tooth runs out. That is when the pastel starts slipping across the surface, it has nothing to hang on to. Spraying lightly will help this.

Can I frame my pastel without glass? 

No. It will smudge, gather dust, go mouldy because of that.

How long will a pastel painting last?

Look at history, at Degas, go back further and pastel looks as fresh today sit was painted back 300 years ago….