Using Pan Pastels - No Cleaning Required!

By: Emma Ralph

Using Pan Pastels - No Cleaning Required!

Pan Pastel™ are a relatively new product for the pastel artist. Have you heard of them? If not, you might be surprised to learn that using pan pastels is unlike using soft pastels or oil pastels, as pan pastels aren't shaped into sticks. Instead, each pan pastel color comes in a little tablet, contained in a clear flat plastic dish with a screw-on lid. They're not applied to the paper directly like with sticks, but via applicators called 'Sofft Knives.'

Traditional pastels, the kind that come in sticks, have a lot of strengths. Anyone who has used them will tell you that. They bring together the best features of both painting and drawing mediums, allowing the artist to get vibrant colors while still being able to work quickly and not have to wait for anything to dry.

Soft pastels aren't perfect though, and one of their big negatives is mess. Use soft pastels for any length of time and you'll realize that soft pastels and cleaning-up go hand in hand. One reason for this is that soft pastels (and oil pastels too) are gripped and used like fat pencils, meaning that your fingers and hands are constantly in direct contact with the pigment. No surprise then that the pigment rubs off onto your fingers and hands, and from your fingers and hands onto your clothes, face, chair and everything else around you.

Pan pastels, however, aren't handled directly, so a big cause of mess is eliminated immediately. They're instead applied to the page with Sofft Knives, which are little plastic spatulas that take tiny foam 'socks' over their tips. This foam is a very dense 'micropore' foam which picks up the pigment without becoming saturated in it.

Using a Sofft knife to apply the pigment has a lot else going for it too. For example, you can clean Sofft knives just by wiping the tips on a piece of paper towel. Do this and you won't cross-contaminate the colors, as is (unfortunately) so easy to do with soft pastels.

Also, at the end of a session you can just wash the Sofft tool and any and all of the foam heads you've used with warm water and soap. After washing you squeeze them, and then just leave them to air dry.

And there's more: very little dust comes off the surface of pan pastel paintings. With pan pastels what goes on the page, stays on the page - very different to soft pastels, where a lot of pigment dust always ends up collecting at the bottom of your easel or drawing board and on the floor below.

Finally, pan pastels are easy to store. Soft pastels stored together will touch, knock together, and cross-contaminate each other. Pan pastels on the other hand come in individual dishes that stack and screw together, which automatically keeps them separate and clean. You don't even need a box to keep them in like you do with soft pastels.

About the Author:
Emma Ralph is an experienced pastel artist and author of the book "Pastel Painting Secrets". To learn more about using pan pastels visit http://paintingwithpastels.com/


Trying PanPastels, mixed media time-lapse drawing



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