What Are Pan Pastels?
A revolution in art medium
If you’re used to working with ordinary soft
pastels, then pan pastels might just make you stop and do a double-take. Put simply, pan pastels take pigment that
is similar to what is found in soft pastels sticks, and put it into shallow plastic dishes (or ‘pans’). Color-wise
with pan pastels you can choose from 20 mass tones, 20 tints and 20 shades of the mass tones, and now there are
also 20 extra dark shades of the mass tones as well.
Anyone who knows something about pastels
will immediately recognize the inherent advantage of putting pigment into a ‘pressed pan’ format. That’s because
pastel sticks are both the
medium AND the application device, and this imposes restrictions on how they are made. If pastel sticks were too
soft, for example, they would just fall apart in your hands.
Pan pastels, on the other hand, don’t have
this restriction, as with pan pastels the pigment is separate from the application device. That allows them to be
much softer and creamier, both very positive attributes.
And the application device? Actually there are several kinds. The company that makes
pan pastels (officially ‘PanPastels’), Colorfin, makes first of all something called a Sofft Knife. Sofft
Knives are basically plastic painting knives with shaped heads. There are four different head shapes: round;
point; flat, and oval. Over these heads fit little micropore sponge ‘socks,’ which become loaded with pigment
when they are wiped 2-3 times across the surface of the pastel pan.
Another kind of application device made by
Colorfin is the Sofft Art Sponge. These sponges come in eight different shapes – some better for blocking in large
areas of color, and some better for specific shapes and finer details.
So: just like an oil painter has a selection
of brushes, so too the pan pastellist has a range of tools. Four Sofft Knives and eight Art Sponges – that’s 12
different methods for getting the pastel pigment from pan to page, and for working with it once it’s there. It’s a
nice range of choices, and one that will almost always allow you to pick exactly the right tool for the
Using Pan Pastels
A final feature of pan pastels that
differentiates them from soft pastels is that they don’t produce very much loose pastel dust. That means much less
mess while you work, and also a much reduced need to use a spray fixative when you’re finished – which, as we all
know, can really change (and in some cases, ruin) a finished pastel artwork.
Let’s sum up: pan pastels are softer and
creamier than soft pastels; give you the option of 12 different application tools, and don’t produce much loose
dust. Are you convinced yet? You should be!
A bonus book specifically on Pan Pastels is offered FREE
with the purchase of the book "Step by Step With a Pastel
Find out more here: "Step by Step With a