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The Secret to Professional Pastel Drawings

The Secret to Professional Pastel Drawings

Why aren’t my pastel drawings like yours?

Do you sit wondering why your pastel drawings just aren’t ‘right’? You might be struggling to get the pastel marks to show up at all, very frustrating. Meanwhile, someone else is drawing hair for hair detail with apparent ease… how annoying.

It’s true, this is an irritating part of pastel drawings, or it used to be, but now I have the answer! In fact, it’s a super easy fix and will completely transform your drawings in an instant. Sound too good to be true? It isn’t, for once.

Please note, I am not sponsored by any of the materials mentioned here, I simply love to use them and hope they will help you, too.

A hack that actually works – every time!

To take your drawings from a struggle to joy, you need the right paper. Yes, that’s the secret: good materials. But not just good materials, it’s about the right ones for what you’re doing. If you want to know which paper to use for detailed wildlife work, then this is the post for you.

You need to treat yourself to this wonderful stuff from Clairefontaine: Pastelmat. It’s just amazing and is a very different drawing experience to bog-standard pastel paper which is a pain. There are multiple colours to choose from – blog on how to pick the right one for your project coming soon. There are also two different types, let’s look at those now.

Paper, board, sheets, pads…what’s what?

When you first look for this holy grail of all pastel papers, (I am a BIG fan), you will find a confusing selection greets you. There is a difference between the options, hence the difference in price for what appears to be the same thing.

Pastel Drawings on Paper

To start off practising, I would get some of the paper. The paper is slightly cheaper and also has less tooth to it. ‘Tooth’, is the grain of the paper and for pastel, this is very important. The thicker the tooth, the more pastel it can hold onto which is great for mammals.

However, it does mean that the paper is easier to get a smooth finish on than the board. I love to use the paper for floral works so I can get very shiny petals with ease. I have some free flower tutorials here if you’d like to give them a go.

You can get the paper as individual sheets or you can buy it as a pad. The pads come with a mini selection of colours for you to try which is quite nice. However, I do have personal favourite colours to work on and find they work very well for most pieces. I’ll be covering these in the next post for you all.

Pastel Drawings on Board

So, you might be wondering why you’d bother buying the pricier board at all. Remember though, it has a thicker tooth to it! This means we can get more layers into the work and as you progress you’ll find you want to add more detail.

I tend to use the boards for mammal drawings which need underpaintings, tonal modelling, then several layers of top detail. I find this difficult to fit on the paper while the board shows up details better later on in the drawing when it counts.

lamb drawing in white pastel pencils
An Online Tutorial on Pastelmat Board

To fix or not to fix?

The next key question which often crops up is whether to use a fixative on your work. Fixative is like hairspray for artists and can stop soft medium, such as pastel and charcoal, from smudging. When you use ordinary pastel paper, you may ‘fix’ each layer before adding the next.

The great thing about using the pastelmat is that you don’t need it! This stuff is so good that it holds onto the layers of pastel without breaking a sweat. In fact, I found that a fixative can actually stain the board so I would advise you to steer clear.

I have had pastel drawings framed and on the wall for years and never a problem with falling dust yet. When it comes to framing you should use a double mount to keep the work well away from the glass. This helps to protect it and some framers will make a tiny gap between the pastel drawing and mount to allow dust to fall. How clever!

Double Mouted hare drawing framed
Hare drawing with double mount for protection

Get drawing and get feedback!

The next best thing after the correct paper has to be feedback – from someone other than a family member! You know the one ‘look at what I just drew’..response ‘hmm’. It falls a little flat after hours of work, doesn’t it? Well, you can get proper feedback from a whole community and me.

To join us, click the link below or search for ‘Emily Rose Fine Drawing Class’ on Facebook. I look forwards to seeing soon!

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