Pastel painting or pastel drawing is a technique that involves the use of crayons or pastels that are made up of powdered pigments and a binder of either gum, clay, or resin to make a paste that is then hardened and made available as soft or hard pastels, pastel pencils, or oil pastels. This medium offers an incredible range of colors with the ability to blend hues with its edges. Pastels come in 4 forms: hard pastels, soft pastels, pastel pencils, and pan pastels. The hardness or softness of a pastel is determined by the amount of binder in the stick. Soft pastels have the most pigment and less binder which makes them brittle. They normally have a rounded shape. Hard pastels are usually rectangular and have more binder to keep the stick together, making them far less delicate. In addition, pastels can also be divided into Oil pastels and Water-soluble pastels.
The earliest use of pastels can be traced back to the Renaissance. The medium is said to have originated in Northern Italy during the 16th century, and it became a favorite of the masters, including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The medium was later popularized during the 18th century, particularly in England and France. During this time, it was “fashionable” to have your portrait crafted with a combination of pastels and gouache paint. France saw the material fade in influence both during and after the Revolution because it was identified with the frivolity of the Ancien Régime. Around the same time (early 19th century), popularity also waned in Great Britain.
In Pastel paintings, the entire surface area is covered in pastel and Pastel drawings describe works in which the entire surface area is not covered in pastel. The biggest positive about pastels is that they offer painters the closest possible color to that of a pure pigment. The popular techniques of Pastel shading are Dry Washing, Colored Ground, Erasing, Blurring, Textured Surfaces and Rubbing, and Resisting.