Introduction to Pastel Drawing Mediums


Pastels are one of the easiest mediums to work with and therefore are a very popular choice amongst artists. Pastels combine the immediacy of a drawing medium while at the same time provide the artist with a color-rich, paint-like environment. With Pastel drawing, there is no need to prepare your drawing surface, as pastels can be applied directly to your support. There are no harsh chemicals or mediums to be concerned about and cleanup is a snap! It is no wonder why artists adore this medium so much.

Pastels are available in a wide range of exciting colors and materials from soft pastels and oil pastels, to pastel pencils and crayons. You could literally spend a lifetime exploring this versatile and exciting medium.


Pastels are available in a wide range of types and this is to accommodate the different tastes artists have. These various types of pastels are all created using similar pigments, only they are composed of different quantities or kinds of binding materials.

Soft Pastels

Soft pastels are the original form of this medium and probably the most popular. Soft pastels are composted of pure pigment, chalk, and a gum solution. They produce rich colorful lines and are more often than not, looked upon as painting mediums more than drawing mediums. Soft pastels can produce subtle lines or can be built up into rich impastos. It provides the artist with the best of both worlds essentially. Of all the various types of pastels, soft pastels are available in the widest range of colors. They can be purchased individually or in sets.

Hard Pastels

Hard pastels, as the name implies, are hard and more suited for drawing and producing lines. Artists often use hard pastels and soft pastels together in the same drawing. The hard pastels are used to layout the drawing and the soft pastels are worked in over the hard. The hard pastels are then used again to finalize the drawing by adding in details. Hard pastels do not have the extensive range of color that soft pastels have. It is for this reason that you must utilize various optical color mixing techniques on your paper if you want to produce different colors.

Pastel Crayons

Pastel crayons are a hybrid medium of medium hardness that combines the characteristics of hard and soft pastels. They are available in a limited range of colors when compared to soft pastels. Crayons are quite popular for artists that enjoy outdoor drawing as their convenient size makes them suitable for transport and their composition makes them less prone to breakage.

Pastel Pencils

Pastel pencils are very similar in composition to crayons only they are encased in wood in the form of a pencil and tend to be a bit softer than crayons. Pastel pencils are perfect for detailed work and also have the ability to be blended somewhat. They are available in roughly the same range of colors as crayons and are available as individual items or in sets.

Water-Soluble Pastels

These pastels are an ingenious invention because of their ability to be used both dry and wet. Obviously, you can see the amazing possibilities with this kind of medium. You can lay down lines as you would any traditional drawing medium and then brush over these lines with water to create colorful watercolor-like washes. These pastels are available individually or in sets and are available in a limited range of colors.

Oil Pastels

Oil pastels are quite different than other types of pastels in that they use oil as a binder rather than gum. Oil pastels are very sensitive to temperature and they will soften as you use them. They are versatile medium and can be used on a number of different supports including canvas, paper, and board. Just like oil paints, oil pastels can also be used with turpentine opening up a whole new world of exciting techniques.