Characteristics: rich and pleasant colour, difficult to handle sometimes – especially soft pastels, cannot be erased easily.
Who should use it? It’s not an easy medium to handle at first. Practise and a bit of determination are needed to master pastels, but they’re well worth the investment. Copying the pastel work by masters such as Degas or Redon will improve your skill greatly.
How to use it: White, cream and pale pink (peach) are useful colours to highlight flesh. Pastel can go on top of charcoal. Pale greenish grey and pale blueish grey blend well into charcoal to add subtlety in shadow areas. Pastel is best when the colour is built up layer upon layer. View the video for a much more in-depth guide to using pastel.
What is it good for? Pastel is an amazing, and underused, medium with enormous potential. Pastels blur the line between drawing and painting.
Different types: Artist quality pastels are more expensive but are worth the investment, because they contain more pigment and make richer marks. The softness/hardness depends on the manufacturer. Soft pastels have much richer colour, but are more difficult to handle and can be expensive. Try out different makes to find out your preference. Get a few individual sticks rather than boxsets until you know which maker you like and which shade of which colour you need most.