Pastels are a great medium to explore—all you need to get started are the pastels themselves and a piece of paper. You can make beautiful scenes with pastels alone or use them to add color and detail to mixed media work. If you’ve never used pastels before, it may be hard to decide which to try first. Traditional soft pastels are dry and chalky; oil pastels are a much newer medium and act similar to oil paints.

In this post, we will look at the history and physical differences between the two pastels and highlight tips for using each type of pastel to its best advantage. Pastel artwork can be interchangeably referred to as “pastel painting” or pastel drawing. The pastel landscape pictured above is "Folly Farm" by Carolyn Wilkinson. It was made using Rembrandt Pastels on sanded pastel paper—a great example of landscape painting using soft pastels.

Soft Pastels (a.k.a Chalk Pastels)

Soft or “French” pastels are much chalkier in consistency than oil pastels.  They are made by combining dry pigments with binders and setting the formula into sticks. Kaolin clay is a popular binder for high quality artists’ pastels. When working with these pastels, it is necessary for your surface to have a...

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