How to choose art supplies for pastels: Pastel drawing and pastel paper

To understand pastels better let’s start with general things we should keep in mind.

What is pastel?

Pastel chalks consist of pigments and binders, such as kaolin, limestone, blanc fix, clay, dextrin, glue, fumed silica, Arabic gum, charcoal etc.

What kinds of pastels are available?

Pastels can be dry (extra-soft, soft, semi-hard, hard), oil and wax. The less amount of binders the softer pastels.

What are benefits of pastels?

Apart from oil paintings, acrylic or watercolours, pastel drawings don’t fade or change colours with time. For example, oil paintings done by impressionists just one hundred years ago need some restoration works due to changes in colours, while Edgar Degas’s pastel drawings don’t need any touch-ups and still impress us with colours and beauty of lines. The most famous picture ever done with pastels is La Belle Chocolatiere by Jean-Etienne Liotard in 1743. Even now, 270 years later, this picture is full of colours and light.

What are disadvantages of pastels?

Pastel drawings are very vulnerable to everything: moist, any physical contact, any chemicals etc. Some artists apply fixatives on top of drawing to protect them from adverse environment. However, any spray affects the colours darkening and desaturating them. So, the best way to preserve pastel drawings is to choose professional paper. We recommend Colourfix and Pastelmat. As a less expensive option we suggest using fine sand paper. However, drawing on sand paper produces more dust and “eats” chalks. For sketches and less precious drawings we recommend thick textured paper with glue. This paper allows soft blending and smudging, as well as drawing fine lines and bringing some corrections. Also it consumes less chalk. As an option Palazzio pastel paper is quite good for this.

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