• Kirsty Partridge

10 Pastel Drawing Tips for Beginners

Pastel pencils can be a really tricky medium to work with as they are messy and smudge easily. When I started using them, I found it quite challenging. Now, after lots of practice, I would like to share my tips with you guys. For real-time, in-depth pastel tutorials click here.

Tip 1

This is universal to all mediums, don’t apply lots of pressure onto your pencil. Even if you add a really rough layer with pastels you can blend it to be completely smooth, using your fingers or a blending tool. Moreover, pastel paper is quite gritty and picks up the pastel well anyway, without the need for pressure.

Tip 2

I recommend using a blending stump to blend pastels. It’s easy to control the blending process with this tool and is something you can use with other mediums too. They are inexpensive and will allow you to make your shading super smooth.

Tip 3

Avoid using too many colors in one area because when you start blending all the different colors together they can become muddy looking – not what you want! This is why building up in layers is important; in the first layer use the main colors that you need and then glaze additional colors over the top once you’ve blended that layer. Be very intentional with your colors and check what works well together beforehand.

Tip 4

Create an underpainting first, where you focus on blocking in all of the shapes and colors in your reference. Leave your details until last. Working in layers like this is hugely important. Otherwise, if you add details first, they will smudge and be lost when you blend.

Tip 5

Focus on the contrast of your piece. You need shadows and highlights to make your piece stand out, so you need to be aware of where these areas are going to be before you start your drawing. Even though you can add lighter pastels over darker ones, your highlights will be brighter if you preserve those areas and avoid adding dark shading to the lightest sections.

Tip 6

Pastels smudge easily so be careful! To prevent this, I work from top to bottom and from left to right (you lefties should go right to left). This means my hand never goes over a completed section. Also, you can place a piece of clear paper under your hand to stop your hand smudging the pastel.

Tip 7

When doing your final layers and details, keep those pastels sharp. They can be hard to sharpen, but it is necessary for beautiful, crisp details. Getting it to a decent point and then using sandpaper to refine that point can work well.

Tip 8

Try using toned paper. Having a mid-tone value as a starting point makes it so much easier to judge contrast and values in your piece. Rather than starting off with the lightest color (like when you use white paper), you can add in and preserve highlights yourself.

Tip 9

Experiment with colored pencils in your drawing, using them for fine details at the end. They work well with pastels and can be better at getting all of the necessary detail in.

Tip 10

For larger areas use pastel blocks, it uses less time than the pencils and is much more efficient.

For more tips and lessons on how to improve your artwork, head over to my online courses.

To see these tips in action, watch the video below:

Materials used:

Stabilo Carbothello Pastel Pencils: http://geni.us/StabiloPastels

Pastelmat Pastel Paper: http://geni.us/Pastelmatpaper

Disclaimer; amazon links are affiliated.


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