Pastels & Crayons

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We feature here a wide assortment of pastels for artists and illustrators. The Unison Colour Soft Pastels are all individually handmade in Britain. They are sold as both half and whole pastels and are sold in a wide choice of colour combinations. Soft pastels are easily blended and shaded. The drawings made with soft pastel sticks such as the Unison brand then require a fixative spray to prevent smudging. The popular Sennelier Soft Pastels and Daler Rowney Soft Pastels provide a further choice of colours and stick sizes. Many of the sets of pastels are selected to include specific colour selections suited to landscape, still life and portrait drawings. The Sennelier Pastels also offer a choice of iridescent colours.

Oil-based pastels contain pigment and a non-drying oil and wax binder. They are a little more difficult to blend than soft pastels but less powdery and therefore less likely to smudge in less experienced hands. Marks can be manipulated with a solvent thinner such as white spirit.

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Wax-based pastels are a step-up from the traditional wax crayon. The colours are more intense and provide better coverage. Many of the wax pastels, such as Caran dAche Neoart Aquarelle Wax Pastels can be blended with a small amount of water for painterly application.

The square Conte Carre crayons are harder than pastels and can be applied using the corner to create fine lines and the flat edge to make wider strokes.

Choosing a Paper for Pastels

The paper you choose for pastel drawings will depend on the finished effect you aim to achieve. Pastels do not spread on the surface of the paper in the same way as an ink or paint. The marks are not fully absorbed into the paper and the colour is not easily transferred unless the surface is coarse and has a good ‘tooth’. The smoother the texture of the paper, the less ‘tooth’ to grab the layers of pigment, preventing you from effectively building up and blending the different colours.

Parts of the paper surface will show through the pastel marks and many artists prefer to use a tinted paper rather than drawing on a stark white. The colour of the paper will help to set the mood for a drawing.

Ingres pastel paper is a laid finished paper which has a grain of fine lines made by the cylinder mould machine pressing the paper fibres between the cylinder mesh and the marking felt. This laid surface provides a good key for pastels and charcoal.

Canson Mi-Teintes is a gelatine stock-sized paper which helps limit the absorption of pigments. It has a high cotton content and a different texture on either side; its characteristic honeycombed side, and a fine grain on the other.

A rough surfaced watercolour paper will also provide an adequate tooth for pastels. It can be coloured first with a watercolour wash and allowed to dry.

Storing you Pastel Drawings

The strong, translucent tissue paper Glassine can be placed between the pages of a sketch pad or between sheets of paper to prevent pastels from transferring or smudging. It is useful if you need to store work that has not been framed or fixed with a pastel fixative.

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