Using Pan Pastels
If you use soft pastels for your art, and you've never tried using Pan
Pastel™, then sorry, but you're missing out! There are a
number of reasons why pan pastels are the hottest thing since sliced bread in the pastel world right now, but here
we'll talk about just one: mixing colors.
One of the not-so-good properties of soft pastel sticks is that they don't
blend like wet paints do. This means that even if you have a large collection of them, say a couple of hundred
sticks, you can still be left wishing that you had (for example) a slightly different value of blue. That
can be a little bit annoying.
Pastel™ which have
only been around since about 2006, are a different beast though. One of their unique properties is that
they can be blended very readily and easily, just like fluid paints.
If you haven’t heard of Pan Pastel™, then here’s a primer: they come in
individual little cakes of pigment in clear plastic containers with screw-on lids – much like a compact for
foundation. They’re applied using what’s called a ‘Sofft Knife’ (Sofft is the brand), which is a plastic
painting knife with a removable sponge tip.
Pan Pastel™ come in a range of 60 different colors – 20
base colors, then 20 tints (that is, lighter values) and 20 shades (that is, darker values) of the original 20.
That might not sound like very many, but because they blend so well, it’s enough.
Blending pan pastels is as easy as wiping
one color onto the surface, wiping another over the top, and using a Sofft Knife to blend them into the
intermediate color that you want.
An alternative is to load one color onto the Sofft Knife, then just blend it
with another color in the pan for that color – more like a palette blending technique with fluid paints. Once
you’ve mixed the colors and used the intermediate color in your artwork, cleaning the dish of the second color
you used is as simple as just giving it one quick wipe with one of your sponges.
So why are pan pastels so easy to blend?
It’s because they’re differently composed to ordinary soft pastels. They’re a very fine, soft powder, much more creamy and smooth than what’s used in even the top-quality
soft pastel sticks.
The main reason that pan pastels are able to
have a different consistency to soft pastel sticks is that they
don’t have to be made into hand-holdable sticks. The requirement to shape pigment into sticks that won’t just fall
apart in your hands puts certain limitations on the mixture that is used to construct them out
It’s always exciting when a new artistic
medium is produced (not a very common event) that makes things significantly easier for the artists. Pan pastels
are one such new artistic medium, and there’s no doubt that they are and will continue to be very popular. So go
ahead and start using Pan Pastels and see for yourself.