February 12, 2024 / by Emma Jones

If you’re new to the realm of pastel colouring, you might be wondering “Are pastel pencils good for beginners?”. When it comes to mastering the colouring, this medium is quite easy to pick up and use from the start. They are not too soft nor not too hard and this characteristic makes them ideal for beginners.

Once you learn the basics, drawing with a pigmented and easy-to-apply pastel pencil is certainly a rewarding experience and it’s quite easy to create expressive artwork. Of course, practice and experimenting with this colouring medium is key to mastering your skills so don’t be afraid to embrace the creative process.

Supplies You Need to Get Started

pastel pencils and equipment for drawing
source: fluid-painting.com

There’s no doubt that drawing is such a fun experience and it’s an awesome way to let your creativity flow freely. It gets even better when adding some vibrant colours to create bold and expressive artwork. Pastel pencils add a tactile quality to the artwork and here’s what you need to get started:

Pastel Pencils

There are various pastel pencil sets available online and they come in a range of colours and shades. The sheer availability of different brands may make it harder for you to choose your first set if you’re just starting with this colouring medium.

To help you navigate your journey of choosing your first set, one suggestion would be to start with the Faber Castell Pitt Pastel set. These pencils are highly pigmented and they are neither too hard nor too soft. Also, their formulation makes them ideal for detail and intricate work. Of course, many other brands work just as well and you can continue exploring different brands once you gain knowledge on the basics.

Think about the colours that you will be using most often and try to find a set that offers those colours. Some may have a broader range of hues, while others may offer more shades of certain tones. Even if there’s a set that you have your eye on, it’s still useful to supplement it with individual pastel pencils in your most frequently used colours.

Pencil Extender

This is quite a handy tool when some of your crayons get too short due to prolonged use. Just attach the pencil to the extender and you’ll be able to work with it as you would with a full-size pencil. It has a clutch mechanism that grips onto the end of your pencil and holds it in place. The best part about this tool is that you can still use your pencil to its very last bit, without any discomfort on your hand or wrist.

Pastel Paper

Choosing the right paper is very important. If you’re using paper intended for drawing with other colouring mediums, you won’t be able to build layers as the pigment won’t stick to the paper. A pastel paper has the right tooth to grip the pigments and is just enough textured to allow efficient blending and layering.

Pastel Sharpener

It’s important to keep your pencils sharp for drawing intricate details. You can use either a breakaway blade, a hobby knife or a coloured pencil sharpener. However, to avoid any potential breakage of the pencil while sharpening, best is to use the breakaway blade or hobby knife.

Pastel Blenders

When it comes to blending tools, you can use paper stumps or tortillions. They can efficiently blend and soften the pastel strokes and help you create smooth transitions between colours and shades. Another alternative would be to use your fingertips to blend or use cotton buds.

Soft Brushes

Keep a soft brush next to you in case you need to remove excess pastel dust from your drawing, without smudging any of the work. It’s basically like an eraser but instead of rubbing away the pigment, it gently lifts it off the paper. When you put down a lot of pastels, it naturally creates some dust that settles on your drawing. If you don’t want to accidentally smear this dust into your work, use a soft brush to gently sweep it away.

Create Your First Pastel Masterpiece

man painting nature with pastel pencils
source: colinbradleyart.com

Once you’ve got all the supplies needed to start your colouring journey, it’s time to put your skills into action.

Step 1. Make a Colour Chart

It is not necessary to do this step, but if you’re just getting your hands on pastel pencils, it’s a good idea to make a colour chart to test how the colours and different hues look on paper. This will give you an idea of what colours would be the best to use for your drawing and get to know the specifics of each colour.

Consider starting with a limited amount of colours and gradually expanding to a wider range of colours as you become more comfortable. Even if you have a fully stocked set, making a colour chart can still be beneficial as it allows you to experiment and see how different colours blend together. This will also help you create a more cohesive and harmonious drawing with your pastel pencils.

Step 2. Create a Basic Outline

Once you choose the colours you will be working with, draw lightly an outline or a sketch of what you plan your artwork to look like. The pastel pencils are really good when it comes to drawing fine details and thin lines. So, don’t be afraid to add a detailed line work. Outline all the fine work to create a colourful and expressive sketch that will serve as a guide to the final outcome.

During this process, is good to have a double-ended pencil eraser to go over the areas you want to erase. But keep in mind that you can completely erase pastel pencils, so it’s important to not press too hard when you sketch, so it’s easier to erase the majority of the part you want to fix.

Step 3. Draw

When working with this colouring medium, a basic principle is to work from light to dark colours. To put it practically, If you want to create a medium shade, you first start with a light base colour and then go and apply a medium tone on top of the lighter shade and vice versa. If you’re aiming for a darker tone, you first start with a medium base colour and then apply darker or stronger colours on top.

Artists suggest always starting with a base colour or a base layer so that you can work off of the top of that. You can always add in lighter or darker hues, based on the base layer and gradually build up your way to a more intricate work.

Start colouring all the parts of the sketch and you can start adding layers. To apply layers, start with light pressure and then gradually increase the pressure as you add more layers. Use varying shades and hues to add depth and dimension to the artwork.

Step 4. Blend the Colours

Not it’s time to use the blending tools to soften up the transition between the colours. These tools allow blending of the colours without removing too much pigment. Start by gently rubbing the paper stomp or tortillas onto the pencil strokes and move into circular motion or use back and forth motions.

Also, make sure to clean the tools between each blend to prevent colour mixing. Here you can also use the double-ended eraser to remove any mistakes or simply create highlights on certain parts of the drawing.

Step 5: Fixate Your Drawing (Optional)

Although you don’t need to do this, it’s an effective way to prevent any unwanted smudging of the colours. Apply fixative spray to set the pastel colours and preserve the artwork. However, if you prefer the textured, untouched look of the pastel painting, you don’t need to apply a fixative spray as a final step.