I always associate pastel with the block / stick form and the messy powder. I don’t quite like the feel of chalk on my fingers. However, I was pleasantly surprise after I had the chance to try the Stabilo Carb0thello chalk-pastel pencils. These pencils have vibrant colors. They are creamy smooth and blend well. I absolutely love how the peony page turns out and would like to share my experience with you.
Things I learned about Pastel pencils
Pastels are very different from regular colored pencils. It is basically chalk powder and needs the paper to have some tooth (tiny bumps and valleys) so the powder don’t slide off. There are special pastel paper but since this is my very first experiment, I just use 65 lb card stock paper. I was worried that it might be too smooth but in this case I am quite happy with the result. Test out your paper before you start.
Some people use their fingers to blend, some use Q-tips or cotton pad. The Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencil set comes with an eraser, a pencil sharpener and a blender stump. You can buy additional blending stumps called tortillon in various sizes from art supply stores. I find the stump works very well for coloring pages and it allows you to get into tiny areas just like a pencil and there’s no need to involve my fingers. Fingers probably work better for larger piece of Pastel work.
Here’s a picture of the background (green areas) before blending and after:
Get rid of excess powder
As you blend, there will be some excess chalk powder. To avoid accidental smearing in an undesirable spot, I put my paper perpendicular to a piece of paper towel and give the area a soft blow. The excess powder landed nicely on the paper towel. Also plan to work say from top left to bottom right, or centre out so that your hand will not smear your finished work.
Eraser to the rescue
Pastel can be removed with a good eraser, that’s why the pencil set comes with an eraser. It works very well if you accidentally smeared pastels into the wrong place.
Let the blender do its job
Don’t color the entire area with your pencil. Most of the time, you would want the color to start strong and fade away. The color is so strong with these pencils that a little goes a long way. Color the darkest area, then use the blender to finish the rest.
Pastel is very easy to apply but it can also “move” or rub off on touch. Hence, you need to use a fixative to protect it after you are done with your masterpiece. Some people spray an occasional light layer on different stages of their painting so that they can work in layers without wiping the chalk away unintentionally. For me, I just spray after it is done and just be careful to not let my hand touch areas that are done. I bought a professional can of fixing spray. Some people said you can use hair spray, I am not sure about that.
Show and Tell
Here’s a video of how I colored this peony coloring page by Polina Bright (@poli.bright.art). She has free coloring pages for download at her website.
For the peonies, I choose to not color the entire petal, but instead I use strokes of various colors to portray the lines on the petals and leave the edge white.
Do you feel inspired to try pastel coloring? I think this is becoming one of my favorite medium. It might not be suitable for illustrations with a lot of intricate details but doing a background is certainly much faster than with regular pencils and the effect is a very rich tone and looks absolutely gorgeous when you blend a few colors together. I think the result is very cool!