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

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  • Edgar Degas, 'Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando' 1879
    Edgar Degas
    Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando 1879
    Pastel on paper
    support: 610 x 476 mm
    frame: 750 x 620 x 60 mm
    Presented by Samuel Courtauld 1933
  • 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
    Pastel on paper, Pastel on paper
    support: 128 x 178 mm
    Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996
  • Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, 'Sophie Brzeska' 1913
    Henri Gaudier-Brzeska
    Sophie Brzeska 1913
    Pastel on paper
    support: 559 x 384 mm
    Purchased 1957

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.