Another medium for art, pastel is the term used to describe two major types, traditional and oil pastels. It serves as a transition medium from pencils and pens to paints. It is considered a dry medium, but has the qualities of the painting media.
What is it made of?
One advantage of the pastel is that it has minimal binders so the colors are closer to the original The pigment is in powder form and mixed with binder and water. They look like crayons but come in more textures from chalky to buttery pastels. Its name is from the method of mixing pigment with chalk. Pastel is not chalk however.
They have existed since the sixteenth century. Oil pastels first appeared in 1921, while professional grade pastels were made in 1949.
What are the types?
There are two types of pastels, traditional and oil. Traditional pastels are either of these three: dry, hard and soft pastels. They are made of pigments, gum arabic and kaolin. Artwork using this medium tend to be fragile because they smudge easily. Soft pastel has the least binder of the three and produce brighter colors than types that are harder. Hard pastel last longer however. Oil pastels are made of wax and pigment. Artwork using oil pastel last longer than traditional pastel but are never dry and still need proper framing and storage.
Pastels are either in the form of sticks described above or encased in pencils, also a hard pastel, which create fewer mess. They are a lot easier to control because you can create precise lines.
What paper should I use?
Although pastel is considered a dry medium, the paper needs to be grainy for the material to hold. Grainy papers are courser than smooth paper. Layering is more difficult with the latter but there is no standard which paper should be used. Some artists use tinted paper to create effects.
The quality of the paper will depend on the type of work you’re planning. Ideally, the paper should at least be 175 gsm or more. When you’re done with your artwork, you should take care that it does not smudge. Place it in a plastic album if you can’t frame it. Some artists use a fixative to protect their work. Others advise however to use it sparingly because it can change the the colors.
How do I keep them clean?
Pastels can be messy and sometimes the sticks tend to darken when you’re blending colors. They are also fragile and break easily. Make it a habit to always place the pastel back in its box to avoid mixing the colors. Use the original arrangement if possible so that the hues of each color are grouped closely together.
Some artists recommend placing them in a bowl of rice flour, rice, fine sand or corn meal to keep them clean.