Pastel painting

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Pastel painting is a technique in which pigments are applied to a painting surface ( paper , cardboard , canvas ). In pastel painting, the possibilities of drawing are mixed with those of painting . Pure pigments can be used, round or square chalks or pastel pencils are more often used.

With pastel is both the material and also referred to the image thus produced. The term pastel is derived from the Italian pasta "dough".

Pastel painting


The pigments do not adhere well to the paper, which is why pastels are very sensitive. The colors are applied in dusty layers and smudged with fingers or special brushes. In order to create adhesion at all, the painting surface must be rough. Often, handmade paper , Canson and Ingres paper , Sansfix pastel or passe-partout cardboard, hand-made natural paper or paper with a velor surface are used specially developed for this technique . The papers are available in different colors, as the color of the background influences the effect of the picture in pastel painting.

Pastel colors can be mixed very well on paper. This makes it possible to apply delicate color transitions and self-mixed color nuances. If the pigment application is too strong, the adhesion of the subsequent paint applications decreases. Several paint applications are therefore only gently superimposed.

To ensure that the pigments adhere to the painting surface, the pastels are treated with a fixative , which you can also make yourself. The fixation takes place after the completion of a pastel picture or after individual work steps with the application of paint in layers. Despite the use of fixatives, the images are very delicate and are therefore often glazed to avoid touching the surface.

The most important work utensils when painting with pastel crayons are fingers or a paper wiper, the so-called torchon. With the finger the colors are smeared and mixed together. In addition to creating soft gradients, the pastel technique can also be used to apply pastose paint ( impasto ) and to dust it with the help of a spatula.

Pastel painting is often used together with other colors and techniques, such as tempera , gouache or acrylic paints .

Well-known representatives

Chardin : self-portrait, pastel, 1771

The use of pastels dates back to the late 15th century. At the beginning only the colors black, white and red were available. Michelangelo and Raffael used pastel chalk for their sketches (line drawings). The heyday of pastel painting was in the 17th and 18th centuries. At that time, pastel painting was mainly used in portrait painting, as the velvety matt surface of the pictures gives the portraits a very special luminosity. Two of the most important representatives of this genre were the Venetian Rosalba Carriera (1675–1757) and the French Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun (1755–1842), whose portraits were extremely coveted and popular throughout Europe. Other important representatives of pastel painting were Joseph Vivien , Maurice Quentin de La Tour , Jean-Étienne Liotard , Jean Siméon Chardin , Edgar Degas , Édouard Manet , Odilon Redon and Pablo Picasso and, more recently, Alfred Hrdlicka .

Pastel chalk

When making pastels, binders are added to the pigments so that they can be pressed into a pencil shape. Kaolin , resins and other substances are used as binding agents . Today's manufacturers do not disclose the exact composition of the binders. At least in earlier times also were gruel , glue , gelatin , gum arabic , tragacanth , emulsions , soapy water or skimmed milk , honey and sugar candy added to the pins.

In addition to the pastel chalks , which are usually bound by organic components (see above), there are also pastel silicate chalks which, after being fixed with water glass, allow permanent pastel drawings even outdoors.

Depending on the binder used, the pastels are more or less soft. The chalks can be used for various purposes, for example harder chalks with a rectangular cross-section (Faber-Castell Polychromos pastel chalk, Cretacolor , Conté, Sakura) for more graphic work. Some chalk manufacturers (Sennelier, Schmincke ) only add so little binding agent that the chalk just stick together, when it comes into contact with the paper, the chalk immediately disintegrates into the dusty pigments.

Soft pastels are now also available in pencil form with a wooden cover (Stabilo CarbOthello, Cretacolor , Faber-Castell Pitt Pastel). These can be used like other pens for drawing, the application of color can then also be smudged with your finger.

Oil pastels

In oil pastels the pigments are mineral waxes , beeswax , poppy oil and other binders added. This results in a firm consistency, the color can be creamy when applied. The colors are insoluble in water and difficult to mix. Oil pastels also adhere to smooth paper.


  • Ludorf, Heinz: Pastels - Landscapes and Flowers . EULEN Verlag, Freiburg i. Br. 1991, ISBN 3-89102-195-X
  • Gabriele Balitzki: pastel painting . English publisher, Wiesbaden 2002, ISBN 978-3-8241-1102-2

Web links

Commons : Pastels  - collection of images, videos and audio files