5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas

Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas

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There are wonderful ways to use pastels on canvas regardless of what type of pastel you are working on today. This article will break down the different yet wonderful ways to use pastels on canvas and give you helpful tips and tricks.

What are the things you need to consider when working with pastels? Are there easy yet wonderful ways to use pastels on canvas that every beginner must know? Can you use soft or chalk pastels into your painting canvas like oil pastels?

The Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas

One of the most underrated painting media is pastel. Though there are easy and wonderful ways to use pastels on canvas, most artists have been using oil paints or acrylics on their paintings’ surfaces. The pastels are mostly utilized in pastel paper. However, there are proven techniques and tips on how you can make the most of them on a canvas.

Their convenience and vibrant colors allow artists to enhance their skills with this painting medium, unlike oil and acrylic paints that need to be prepared and mix to get the colors you like. Pastel painting is different; you have to rearrange your colors directly into your painting surface to achieve or get the colors you want.

The ease of use that pastels offer allows the artist to experiment with them. There are different ways to achieve the right colors that you like. Because pastels are almost pure pigment, you can make sure that each stick, the more it becomes soft, the more pure pigments it is made of.

If you compare pastels with the easiest painting tool or medium, they can closely be compared to crayons but a lot superior. The colors that pastel offers to most artists allow them to work on pure pigments themselves. There are different ways on how you can mix pastels with other painting media.

Watercolors and chalk or soft pastels can work together. Same as watercolor and some pastel pencils to highlight your drawing or painting. However, some materials are specially designed for every painting medium. These materials can withstand what your painting medium requires.


For example, since pastel is made out of pure pigments, their adherence to the painting surface is not permanent, unlike oil paints and acrylic paints. It can be seen as a setback, but it is not.

Chalk pastels are a great way to use if you are working with drawings and sketches. Though they retain their colors for years, they are also prone to getting smudge. One of the best ways to preserve chalk pastels is by using a fixative if you are working with them. Always check the product label before you apply it to your painting surface.

Oil pastels are almost the same when it comes to oil paints. However, you cannot mix oil pastels unless you use a paint thinner. The best way to blend colors is by applying them to your painting surface and mixing them straight away. At the same time, other artists used a paintbrush for blending colors. Each painting technique varies for every artist’s style and preference.

5 Important Factors To Consider When Working With Pastel Into Canvas

  • Painting surface or canvas
  • Painting style or technique to use
  • Pastel type
  • Pressure
  • Mix medium
5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas
Pastel on canvas – 5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas

One of the essential factors that you have to consider when working with pastels is the painting surface. Some surfaces allow your pastel paints to hold firmly, while others might cause your colors to fall because of the less tooth to hold the pigments together.

Next is what type of painting style or technique you will be using. The kind of pastel that you are working on depends on the style that you will do. For example, the layering technique is a great painting technique, to begin with, oil pastels. You can apply a significant number of color combinations of pigments and blend them.

When it comes to blending pastels, you can use your fingertips if you want to. Or you can use folded tissue paper or cotton swabs. Adding paint thinner can do the trick when applying pastel on the painting canvas.

There is some painting technique that requires you to preserve your painting surface. Like if you will be working with chalk or hard pastels. You will need to use fixatives or varnish to maintain the surface from getting a smear.

Another thing to consider is the pressure that you use when applying your pastel on the canvas. Unlike working with watercolors or acrylics, and other painting media, you will need to add extra pressure to your pastel to let them hold onto the surface.

When it comes to mixing pastels with other painting media, you have to consider the difference in composition and characteristics. There are some rules to break and some to keep. That includes mixing oil pastels with another painting medium.

Other artists do not advise mixing oil paints with oil pastels. However, some used them both together. But oil pastels have these characteristics that do not permanently dry no matter how much time it takes.

You can mix dry pastels pigments from chalk, hard, and soft pastels with watercolors and acrylics. To further understand this is to experience them personally. They will help you learn the different characteristics of each painting medium. That way, you will personally know which one is a good go and which one is a no-no.

To help you secure your painting canvas or surface from stretching or getting damage while applying pressure, put on a plank of wood or cardboard underneath.

Is Canvas A Good Option As A Painting Surface For Pastels?

Though pastel paper is the most required painting surface for pastel, there is always an exemption to the rule. There are different types of materials that you can use for a painting or drawing canvas. With every painting, the tool creates a variety of results. Whether you are working with charcoal or pastels, the best way to secure your designs and artwork is to seal them on the surface.

To have the best result for your painting surface with canvas, best to prepare it first. There are different methods when it comes to pastels based on their types and kinds.

5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas
Canvas painting with pastels – 5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas

Preparing your painting canvas means you need to do a bit of work to make sure that pastels will work correctly into the painting surface. There are different ways to work on your canvas. Suppose you will be drawing with or outline on the canvas; best to wash or wet your canvas. The outline is sketched on the design that you will be working with.

It is ideal to always work on the lighter chalk or soft pastel color before jumping into the dark colors. You can let the white shades of your canvas stay noticed until you blend the colors. Then work on your highlights by drawing them with a darker color pastel pencil.

Suppose you will be working with oil pastels on canvas; best to use the darker colors first. Then the middle toned shades of colors, then lastly, the lightest color of oil pastels based on your reference photo.

Some artists used their fingers to blend colors. However, there are some painting tools that you can use to mix your oil pastels without getting all the mess at your fingertips.

With mid-tone colors and dark colors already blended, you can work on light colors to mix. Then highlight your details on the painting surface once you are satisfied with your painting surface results, best to secure or protect them adequately.

You can use either a varnish or a fixative. If you do not feel about working on this, you can frame your artwork or use glassine paper to protect the pastels from getting smudged. When you use a fixative, try it first on a sample paper to help you decide if it will not affect your painting’s overall appearance.

7 Effective Techniques On How To Use Pastels On Canvas

Once you get familiar with the wonderful ways to use pastels on various painting surfaces, like canvas and paper, it’s time for you to improve your skills in painting. There are seven popular techniques you can work on which helps you improve your skills as a beginner.

If you’re using oil pastels, these techniques are a must-try. While there are tons of benefits you can get with oil pastels, there are common issues you would want to avoid, especially with smudge painting. If you’re an instructor looking for ways to wow your class or a solo artist who’s looking for comfortable yet stunning techniques to impress someone, try these techniques today!


Sgraffito is a well-known painting technique that you can use on almost any painting medium, especially with oil pastels or pastel types. This technique requires you to overlap or layer thick surfaces on your painting surface. You want to achieve thick layers of pastels, which you can scrape or scratch with a wooden stylus or paper clip.

The process allows you to reveal linear designs of colors that are underneath the thick paint layers.


The scumbling technique with pastels requires you to apply scribbled and controlled marks of your pastels. Then you can build up extra layers of different colors to achieve your preferred texture and value.

Using Oil

5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas
Soft pastel painting on canvas – 5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas

Another easy pastel technique is to blend colors. This one requires you to use cotton swabs that are soaked with baby oil. Use the swab tip to mix colors or oil pastels to create blended pigments on your paper. Once you are done, let the surface dry overnight to prevent smudging.


The stippling technique is another popular and easy pastel painting technique to try. This is done using choppy, small strokes, which creates a stippled (dab/dotted) effect on your painting surface. Add extra layers of colors to provide depth within this technique.

Color Mixing

Mixing colors while on the painting surface allows you to manipulate pastels effectively. This means you can apply rich oil pastel layers and follow with additional colors applied on the surface (top layer) of your pastels. The best way to perform this technique is to use primary colors as your base color.

Then continue blending, layering, or mixing colors to help you achieve your preferred colors. For students, this technique is ideal if you are working on creating landscaping or nature drawings.

Blending with Light Pressure

The light-pressure pastel painting technique requires adding light layers of oil pastels on your chosen canvas with little or light pressure. As the name suggests, you can layer more pigments for you to achieve several values, different hues, or your desired color effects.

Blending with Heavy Pressure

The heavy-pressure pastel blending technique requires you to add a generous amount of pastel in a single direction from your paper. Layering extra colors above your previous surface can help you create an intense and blended look. You can experiment and explore with white or black pastels for shadow or highlighting effects.

These painting techniques are highly recommended for artists working with oil pastels. Whether solo or working with your students, you’ll find these techniques extra interesting to explore this painting medium.

Why Choose Pastels Over Other Painting Medium

As an artist, one of the things that you’ll love about pastels is how they retain their rich and vibrant colors on your artwork. Pastels are easy to use and require fewer painting essentials compared to other painting mediums. You can blend pastels using your fingertips alone.

That means you don’t need a painting palette, solvents, or various sizes of brushes to apply your painting medium on your canvas or chosen painting surface. The beauty of pastel painting requires you to use “only” pastel sticks, your fingers, and paper. Pastel is the only painting medium that enables you to apply intense colors to your canvas or support fast and easy.

Pastels are created by a mixture of gum binder, filler, and dry pigment, which is traditionally fashioned as sticks when they are dry. The ingredients vary based on quality and the type of pastel you will be using.

Cheap and hard pastels contain more filler and binder. On the contrary, artists-grade pastels have more pigments and less filler, which explains why they can be pricey and produce vibrant colors that other painting mediums cannot match.

Versatile and Convenient

5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas
Soft pastel painting on canvas – 5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas

Besides being a simple painting medium, pastels are known for their versatility and convenience. Since you need fewer painting essentials, pastels come in five types for artists to select. This allows you to enhance your skills in various levels, effects, and the techniques you are working with.

Oil and soft pastels have a waxy or buttery texture, which is ideal for a painterly effect. Hard or chalk pastels are suitable for precise detailing, sketching, and drawing.

Pastel’s versatility allows you to use various types in all genres and subjects.

Pastel Painting Over Drawing

One key term that can confuse newcomers in pastel painting is “drawing” and “painting.” Pastel painting means you’ll be covering the whole surface with pastels, while drawing shows some part of your support or painting surface/paper.

5 Types Of Pastels

Understanding the wonderful ways to use pastels on canvas or any support you have chosen is vital. It requires you to determine which type of pastel works best and suits your preferences and style.

As there are five types of pastels to choose from, you can quickly identify which one works for what and if it’s ideal for the project or idea you have in mind. Choosing from pan, soft, hard/chalk, oil, and pencil types of pastel can be tricky. While they almost come in stick form, aside from the pan pastels, they vary on binding methods.

Soft, pencil, and hard or chalk pastels are bound using resin or gum binder. That means they are compatible with each other on one support or painting surface, be it for drawing or painting.

Oil pastels are waxy and buttery, and this characteristic offers a unique yet same texture to oil paints. However, you cannot mix them both with other types.

Soft Pastels

The most popular and widely used type of pastels is soft pastels. These pastels have a higher concentration of colors/pigments bound together by less gum binder. This makes them crumble easily but offers intense, vibrant, or rich pigments.

Soft pastels are fragile and provide a powdery texture. They are ideal for blending, layering, and painterly effects. Smooth pastel edges allow you to work on detailing and fine lines. However, several artists use a pencil or hard pastels when working with details or preliminary sketches.

When it comes to broader color selection, soft pastels offer more options. Some brands and manufacturers provide up to 500 color sets. Soft pastels come in various sizes, including thick sticks, half sticks, and whole sticks. They can be bought individually or in groups.

To get the softest pastels and understand their blending and texture, you may need to work on several brands and see which one works perfectly and matches your preferences.

Oil Pastels

Oil pastels differ from other types as they offer versatility, texture, and vibrant colors less any chemical smell, fumes, or dust from other painting mediums. They are cylindrical sticks of rich pigments bound in oil or wax.

Oil pastels won’t smudge, produce dust or fumes, and won’t crumble or break easily. This type of pastel allows you to create intense, bright colors through their rich colors. Like crayons, oil pastels offer waxy consistency. You can use them like oil paints and spread them on your chosen support, canvas, or paper using your hands.

Oil pastels offer various ways to improve an artist’s painting skills or techniques. Create impasto effects or create washes or glazes by thinning them using turpentine.

The only drawback with oil pastels is their compatibility with other types of pastels and not as fantastic when blending. If you’re working with detailed artwork, oil pastel can be a considerable challenge. On the contrary, oil pastels are ideal if you are working with more extensive support.

Chalk/Hard Pastels

Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas 1

5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On CanvasHard or chalk pastels have a similar composition as soft pastels but fewer pigments and more binders. You’ll expect a less intense and vibrant color that doesn’t break or crumble easily. Since they are more stable, hard pastels are ideal for improving your drawing skills and working on locations.

Most chalk pastels come in hard square sticks but come brands come in cylindrical shapes. You can sharpen hard pastels using a knife if you need to create fine lines. Additionally, you can use the sides of the stick to develop broad swaths.

What’s attractive with hard or chalk pastels is that you can use them for drawing a whole surface. Most pastel artists combine hard pastel with soft pastels on their artworks. Since you can blend them, hard pastels are ideal for preliminary sketching, detailing, or finishing touch.

Chalk or hard pastels come in student and artists-grade quality. If it doesn’t show what type it is, it’s most probably a student-grade pastel.


PanPAstels are like soft pastels but usually in jars or pans. This format enables fewer binders and higher pigment concentrations among all types of pastels. This kind of packaging secures each pigment, lessens the waste, and lets you store and transport pastels conveniently.

They are the newcomers from the pastel world but are becoming crowd favorites among pastel artists. PanPastels are appealing to most artists due to their characteristics. You can lift and directly apply them on your canvas, paper, or any chosen support using a sponge, brush, and various tools you are most comfortable working with.

There are plenty of options for pastels or used special applicator tools, also known as the “soft tools” which allow you to work with various detailing and painterly effects.

One thing worth noting about PanPastels is their convenience and easy blending characteristics. You can easily erase them and compatible with mixing with other mediums or surfaces. PanPastels produce less dust or fumes compared to soft pastels.

Pastel Pencils

For controlled and detailed work, pencil pastels are the best option. They work like traditional pencils but are encased within a thin wood stick which gives you consistency between soft and hard pastels.

They are versatile for standalone artwork or when combined with other painting media except for oil pastels. Just like different types of pastels, pencils can be used for wet and dry techniques and enables you to blend them correctly on your support, canvas, or paper.

Pencil pastels are highly recommended for preliminary sketching, unlike graphite pencils. Most artists using pencil pastels find them interestingly convenient and not messy to work with. They allow you to create spontaneously, quick drawings with less cleaning up or preparation.

If you’ll be working outdoors, pencil pastels are the best medium to take along with you. There are plenty of pencil pastels you can choose to help you be comfortable and familiar with this painting medium.

Which Pastels Are The Best

When choosing the best pastels to use in your artwork, several vital factors are always to consider. This gives you a better overview and guide to ensure you are purchasing the right type and the best quality without compromising this painting medium’s quality. Just like any painting medium, you need to identify which kind of pastel you’ll use, the quality, color, and safety.


When choosing pastels, the best ones are artist-grade as they contain more pigments and less binder or filler. However, most newcomers stats with more affordable student-grade or quality pastels. Once you get familiar with the technique you are working with, you can try using artist-quality pastels and see the difference.

Artist-grade pastel colors are more intense, vibrant, and higher permanence ratings. That means the colors won’t quickly fade regardless of the time you’ve worked with them. Student-grade pastels are made with cheap pigments, more binder, and filler. So you won’t expect much color intensity.

Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas 2
5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas

One thing worth noting with pastels is their price range. Since they use higher quality colors/pigments, they can be pricey. For initial purchase, you may find them expensive. However, purchasing additional colors will be more comfortable and won’t be as costly as before.

For most newcomers who want to explore with pastels, it’s ideal to buy cheap ones and see how they work on your support, technique, or preference. If you get fond of this painting medium, we suggest you invest with higher quality paints to achieve optimum results.


Artists’ main issue with pastels is fine dust or fume deposit that can easily be inhaled and can pose health risks for artists and people. While there are non-toxic pastels, it’s still vital to take precautions to prevent inhaling fumes or pastel dust.

Most pastel artists wear protective masks to ensure they won’t inhale fumes or dust particles while working with pastels. Though it can be uncomfortable, some artists work with pastels in outdoor or open spaces. Ensure that you work in a well-ventilated area or room, use air purifiers, and reduce potential risks and allergies.


Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas 3
5 Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas

When it comes to mixing or blending colors, pastels are different from other mediums. They won’t be mixed but can only be integrated. That is why you’ll notice more color selections when it comes to pastels compared to oil, watercolor, or acrylic paints.

Pastels allow you to purchase them individually or by sets. For starters, you can create your own pastel set or starter color. If you’re still undecided, you can start purchasing by colors individually to lower down the cost.

Once you get familiar with your pastels, then you can start investing with your style and preference. Buy colors in sets with the right palette colors or custom-made your color range.

You’ll notice that some pigments are pricey compared to others as they use specific rare dyes that are harder to produce or mine. Student-grade pastels come with stand-in colors that copy color costlier from natural pigments. For cheap stains that substitute specific colors, you’ll notice it comes with the “hue” word on the color name.

Final Word

Choose your favorite pastel product that you will use on your project. Don’t forget to give us a comment on the product that you use. We are happy to read your feedback.






3 responses to “Wonderful Ways To Use Pastels On Canvas”

  1. Helen Maclean Avatar
    Helen Maclean

    If waiting with pastel on canvas is it ok use stretchers and should it be primed with gesso or something else?

  2. Namita Avatar

    Colors make the pictures alive. You can check the website of http://www.penkraft.in , they offer various courses that will help you to unleash your creativity.

  3. Namita Avatar

    Hi! Penkraft is one of the best place to learn painting, they have a wide range of courses to choose from, they event provide you with the material requiredfor that course!

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