Art Term

Pastel

Pastel is a coloured drawing medium made from pure coloured pigment mixed with a binder to form a stick

Edgar Degas, ‘Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando’ 1879
Edgar Degas
Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando 1879
Tate
Clarkson Frederick Stanfield, ‘The Smoke of the Volcano. Verso: Outline of a Wooded Hillside with Rock’ 1839
Clarkson Frederick Stanfield
The Smoke of the Volcano. Verso: Outline of a Wooded Hillside with Rock 1839
Tate
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, ‘Sophie Brzeska’ 1913
Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
Sophie Brzeska 1913
Tate

Pastels are produced in soft, hard and pencil form.

Soft pastel is the most commonly used and is easily blended on the paper by smudging with a finger, soft cloth or a drawing tool such as a tortillon (a small cylinder of tightly rolled paper manufactured specially for this purpose). Chalk can be added to the pigments in soft pastels to soften intense colours and create a range of hues.

Oil pastels are made using an oil and wax binder and have a creamy consistency very different to the chalkier consistency of soft pastels. Solvents such as turpentine can be used to smudge and blend oil pastels.