Wednesday, April 10, 2013

PanPastels - Some Insights

Over the last several years I have been buying PanPastels. Initially I got some just for shading and highlights on my journal pages. That lead to buying more colors. Then I took some classes with Donna Downey and learned a whole lot more..  This post is to share what I have learned and some suggestions on how to get started with them.  I'll cover which tools I think are essential and which are not.

Pan Pastels are sold in sets and by individual colors. The best place to get them is at they have the best prices. Its helpful to know that PanPastels come in three kinds of colors. You have a basic color like permanent red, but you also have a shade and a tint of that color.  The shade has black added to it and the tint has white added to it.  Sometimes a color comes in a very dark shade but not all colors do. In using any particular color it is helpful to have the shade and tint in addition to the color.  That is extremely helpful when painting flowers. Initially I bought a shade set just for certain colors. I didn't like them because they were not very bright. Now I have brighter colors and the shades and tints that go with them.

Sofft Tools
PanPastels work best with a set of tools designed precisely for their use.  They are called Sofft Tools. They come in many different sizes and shapes.

The knives are like palette knives but they have a foam piece that covers them.  You use them like a paint brush and the edges are great for certain areas.

This selection of shapes is a must have. They are sold as a group and also individually in packs of four. You end up using these different shapes all the time. My favorite is the double pointed one.

These mini applicators remind me of eye shadow brushes and work great for small details.

The Big oval works great for laying down large blocks of color. I have not used mine very much.

This angle slice round lays down color and gets into places the big oval can not. I have used these more than the big oval one.

I got some of these round ones but have not used them yet.

Get one of the storage trays, they come in two sizes and hold 10 and 20 colors. The pastels fit right inside and can be moved around easily. They become an instant pallette. I didn't have one at first so I ended up unscrewing all the lids every time.

So which are my favorite sofft tools.  I recommend the knives and covers and the four shapes and the tiny applicators if you are on a budget.

Substrates - What  kind of paper can you use?  Can you use canvas, wood etc.  Yes to all of those.  PanPastels work on just about any medium but they will be more vibrant on a surface that has tooth.  Pastel paper is good. I suggest getting some absorbent ground for pastels.  Its a medium that you brush on your surface and then you are ready to go.

Using PanPastels: They are like using pure pigment, there is very little dust in compared to traditional soft pastels. Its like painting but your paint never dries out. When working with Pan pastels there are a few motions you make with the tools.  You can pounce the color on, blend the color and use edges of the tools to flick it on certain sections/  Blending of colors is done on the paper.  You just dap your tool into several colors and blend them together on your paper. Panpastels can be erased. Well small amounts can be erased.  I use one of those white eraser to erase when I have gotten a color where I do not want it. Colors can be layered over one another.

Clean Up -  You can clean up your tools on a paper towel. For those that will not clean that way some soap and water is all you need.

Finishing - Do you need a fixative, yes, PanPastels will rub off with your hand. I use both a workable fixative and a clear spray varnish when the piece is complete.

What I love about them is they have a wonderful range of colors, they are really easy to work with. You can add color to a page so quickly. If you have any questions please ask in the comments below.  I am happy to share what I know.


  1. Such good information. Thank you!

  2. Hello Kate
    Great post on pan pastels; a "get to know" documentary... Thank you! :)
    I personally have not worked with this medium, you have aroused my curiosity.

  3. Thank you for the "101" on pan pastels...I've been tempted, but now I'm interested in trying them....

  4. I'm so behind! Thanks for doing this post about pan pastels. It gave me lots of information that I didn't know.

    Sorry about being so absent from Blogland.


I love and appreciate receiving your comments.