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Tips on how to form your first basic pastels palette

17th March, 2020
By Natalia Savostina

My name is Nataliia Savostina and in this article we will talk on how to start your way in pastels and find out what colors you need for a good start.

Whenever a person starts to draw in pastels a lot of questions arise immediately:

  • What colors to buy?
  • How many of them do I need?
  • How to ensure colors I buy will be in use?

Those questions I faced myself when decided to return to this material after an 11 years break.

First of all, taking into account fact that in pastels you won’t be able to work having only 3 colors like in watercolor, for instance, your palette should consist of all basic colors with no less than 3-4 shades of each with both cold and warm tones.

If you already have a plan in your mind what your main topic will be (e.g. portraits, sea, landscape, flowers), it will ease the choice and you will most probably start from a thematic set of pastels.

However, what to do if you just want to start, but haven’t yet found your own topic or don’t want to limit yourself?

My adviсe is to start with a set. Today, market proposes you lots of interesting variants.

Some pieces of advice from me to take into account to find the best set for a starter:

  • This set should contain really good natural colors of blues, greens and greys. Based on my experience, you will probably never or really rarely use extremely bright colors.
  • Ensure you have both warm and cold tones of those color shades in the set.
  • Ensure the set contains some light colors and some basic darks (not only white and black ones as you will need more deep dark greens, violets and blues for shades and some light yellows and blues for sure).
  • The best thing for the set is to contain half sticks: this is cheaper and will allow you to access what colors you really need to form your future individual palette.

Here based on my own evaluation of all requirements above I do recommend Unison Set of 63 half sticks. Firstly, this number will already allow you to draw on any topic you want. Secondly, you will be able to evaluate your needs and buy additional limited number of shades in units.

Meanwhile let me show you some my works that I drew having no more than 10-15 colors and that are doable with those colors Unison provided in 63 half sticks set:

Tips on how to form your first basic pastels palette 1
Tips on how to form your first basic pastels palette 2
Tips on how to form your first basic pastels palette 3
Tips on how to form your first basic pastels palette 4

More art works and some valuable advices for those who draw in pastels you can find on my Instagram Page – @sav_nati.

Hope you will find this article valuable and am wishing you an inspiration and good luck in your art journey!

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10 Responses

  1. Really good advice and I wish I had been privy to it when was purchasing my first pastels. Fortunately at that time I did buy a set and not individual pastels, on the other hand I was blissfully unaware of the variety of hardness per different suppliers not to mention the tonal values attributed to various cultures, ie…Yarka Pastels which are a product of Russia (I believe) I find them very muted and hard; probably due to Kaolin and I am aware now that they are what some might refer to as ‘ student quality ‘; no matter I still use them when they fill the need. As time moved on I purchased sets from various manufactures discovering along the way that a colour from one company is not necessarily equal to the same colour from another company. So anyway at present I buy single groupings. Personally I have found that as a pasteler I thoroughly enjoy the search and investigation for the correct pastel for my need in conjunction with the joy of working in the medium of pastel. In closing thank you so much for your article I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    1. Richard, thank you very much for your comment! Am really happy to know that you find article of use for those who just start to use pastels and are searching for their way. And you’re absolutely right in saying that each pastels brand has their own palette and softness. Our journey is really exciting – to try, explore more and finally find our own way of working with this material! Have a nice day 🙂

  2. I found your site by accident, Natalia but I’m fascinated by the pastel medium. What ‘canvas’ do you use? I’ve been painting in oil and acrylic lately with good results, but wish to learn more about pastels. Nice website btw. 😊

    1. Hi Chris!
      Thank you for your comment and kind feedback ☺️
      I use professional paper designed for pastels, both abrasive and smooth, but mainly from Canson and Clairefontaine brands (Canson Mi-Teintes; Canson Mi-Teintes Touch and Pastelmat).
      If you have Instagram account, you can follow me there, I share many tips and tricks there on pastels medium – @sav_nati
      Wish you good luck with this existing art journey!

      Regards,
      Natalia

  3. Thank you for this article, it has been very helpful. I am a new comer to pastels and not sure where to start. I have used watercolours and oils but wanted to try pastels. I found this site on facebook and have been amazed at some of the work displayed. Some very talented artists!

    1. Hi Marion!
      Thank you very much for your comment 😍
      Pastels is a great medium and in case you’d like to learn more, you can also join my @sav_nati Instagram page as well as my Patreon page where I share pastels video tutorials for beginners.
      Wish you a wonderful day!

    1. Hi Anthia. Not really anything to do with the water. Just purely down to circumstance, as it is where John and Kate Hersey lived when they began making pastels. We still operate there today, and it’s such a beautiful place that we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! 😊

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