Developing your own colour palette in pastel

For the beginning pastellist the amazing array of available colours and tones can be both exciting and overwhelming.

In paint you can start with the three primaries (red,yellow, blue), plus white and begin mixing to create tones and colour variations. But where to begin in pastel when there is so much on offer!

As a teacher I recommend a basic set which includes those primaries plus a whitish light and a blackish dark. I then encourage students to get to know the qualities of that set… play and mix, smudge and layer… even make mud!

In my first example, “Twilight”, you see what a limited range of colour can do. The monochromatic colour scheme allowed me to freely overlap and blend without fear of creating mud.

(Unison blue greens – light to dark- BG 1 through 6 plus Add 49)

Developing your own colour palette in pastel 1

This palette also creates the opportunity to explore the expressive quality of soft pastel…. from the most illusive of edges to the sharp contrasts of light against dark.

As your confidence grows try (and this is only a suggestion!) a half stick set (e.g.starter 18 or more). This has a good variety and you can begin to explore colour relationships.

Developing your own colour palette in pastel 2

In this next example you can see what happens when opposing colours are placed beside each other.

With experience you will find yourself saying, ”I wish I had a warmer green, a pinker blue, etc”… Then it’s time to consider expanding your palette… and that’s when the fun really begins…start studying the colour charts.

What a pleasure it is to find that favourite illusive colour that makes your picture pop or ties a whole composition together.

Two more examples for you… the same simple scene – two ways – one an overcast day and then an evening sunset.

Developing your own colour palette in pastel 3

My daytime study is dependant on the subtle contrast of Unison blue violets (e.g. BV1,2,9) against warm greens (e.g green 15,13, ADD 37 ) while the sunset has a more vibrant palette. (pink, Y10-orange, BG9-blue green set off with ADD 49 and Grey 36).

Developing your own colour palette in pastel 4

So be free to experiment… You will soon be saying I can’t live without a certain shade and know that it can always be at your fingertips (remember with pastel there will be no desperate mixing to recapture that illusive tone you used last week!

A close up of pastel work on paper.

Let’s talk about Pastel Paper

Paper is a fantastic medium to work on soft pastels, but selecting the one that’s perfect for you can be a challenge, as there’s plenty to choose from. Whether you choose your paper from availability, price or quality, whether you are an amateur or a professional, it boils down to what works best for you.

Artistic Talent – Nurture vs Nature?

Whether we are born with an innate artistic talent, or, whether it is learned, is an age-old multifaceted debate that is fascinating, complex and compelling. I am sure most artists have considered it at some point or have an opinion on this theory.

NEW Contrast 8 Soft Pastel Set

A handy set of 8 Unison Colour Soft pastels that enables you never to be without those key light and darks such as Grey 28 and CB1.

A Kitchen Tool and Pastels?

Over the years, I have learned that there are infinite ways in which pastels can be manipulated as a drawing and painting medium.  Examples range

Natural Earths

I liked the idea of the natural earth pigments because they are made of earth. I imagine that humans have been using these same colours for thousands of years.

Robert Dutton Soft Pastel and Book Giveaway

Following the recent launch of Associate Artist Robert Dutton’s book, Drawing Dramatic Landscapes, we’re giving away 3 of Robert’s Moorland 36 Soft Pastel Sets, and 5 copies of his book.

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A close up of pastel work on paper.

Let’s talk about Pastel Paper

Paper is a fantastic medium to work on soft pastels, but selecting the one that’s perfect for you can be a challenge, as there’s plenty to choose from. Whether you choose your paper from availability, price or quality, whether you are an amateur or a professional, it boils down to what works best for you.

Artistic Talent – Nurture vs Nature?

Whether we are born with an innate artistic talent, or, whether it is learned, is an age-old multifaceted debate that is fascinating, complex and compelling. I am sure most artists have considered it at some point or have an opinion on this theory.

A Kitchen Tool and Pastels?

Over the years, I have learned that there are infinite ways in which pastels can be manipulated as a drawing and painting medium.  Examples range

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