Working With Pastels

Pastel Dust

working with pastelsIt really doesn't matter which brand you are using when you're working with pastels. Whether it is organic or inorganic the pastel dust from those soft pastels are toxic and can pose a health risk especially if you are doing a lot of painting.

Of course, it does depend on the color you are using as they vary in toxicity levels. For example you're pretty safe with black and white, however, colors like alizarin crimson or dairylide yellow are really quite toxic indeed.

I'd like to see manufacturers having to put toxicity levels on each of the colors…..but I think I'll be waiting a long time for that to happen.

Of course there are ways to control your exposure to this dust more so if you have a studio - a bit harder if you're working inside your home as the dust particles can stay airborne with just the slightest bit of air current.

Here's a few tips if you have a studio

  • Keep your studio clean and well ventilated
  • All surfaces (including floors) should be sealed and washable.
  • Get yourself a HEPA vacuum cleaner.
  • Keep a pair of shoes specifically for the studio and only wear them in the studio.
  • Don't have any food or drink in the studio.
  • Have a good covering shirt or smock and even something to cover your hair.

If you really are concerned then get a good ventilation system - one that starts right there at the easel…..of course, it would have to be professionally installed and it could be rather expensive.

Now that I've scared the living daylights out of you, please know that these extreme measures are directed at the "professional", "painting with pastels all day" artist and not really the likes of you or me - although some of the tips above can certainly be used.

In saying that I do think about the dust and am conscious about where it falls and what clothes I'm wearing. I also wear gloves most of the time and where I work is well ventilated. I also don't have food or drink around and I do own a HEPA vacuum cleaner.

If you're still worried then the other option is to switch to pan pastels (very little dust) or oil pastels (no dust at all)





Learn to paint with pastels