Pastel Pencil Techniques

Pastel Pencil Techniques
Pastel Pencils are perfect for a wide variety of styles from loose drawing to finer details or linear drawings. It's all in the way you hold your pencil combined with the way you sharpen & maintain it!

Sharpening Your Pencil

Use a sharp pocket knife, razor blade or X-acto knife to remove the wood, exposing at least one inch of pigment. From now on, you will have to pay attention to the pressure, so you do not break the tip. You will also need to make sure that the pencil has a nice round conical shape as shown.

Tip: Make sure you have several sheets of paper underneath the surface you are working on to cushion the encounter of the pencil.

Remove the Wood from the Pencil with a Sharp Knife then Smooth it with Sandpaper

Holding the Pencil

For loose drawings, make sure you hold your pencil at the very end. Then wave it like a magic wand touching the paper with a soft touch, using your whole arm to move the pencil.

For finer details, such as eyes brows on a figure or portrait, make sure the point is sharp then hold your pencil the same way in which you normally would if you were writing something down. This will provide more control.

Tip: When working in pastel, make sure you a mahl stick or an extra sheet of paper underneath your hand to keep from smudging the drawing or existing marks on your paper.

Flat Tone or Smoothing

Flat Tone or "Smoothing"

Creates nice even tone without any texture. Lay down some hatching with the pencil and then use a Q-tip, your finger or a cotton stump to smoosh the pigment into the paper.

Tip: For larger areas, wear nitrate or surgical gloves and use the palm of your hand to rub the pigment into the paper.



Is a result of mixing one hue or color family with a different hue or color family. They combine together to create a new color. Lay down one color on top of another then using a Q-Tip, stump or burnishing tool rub them together.

Tip: The degree of softness (dustiness) of the pencils makes them easier to blend. If you love to blend then, you should look for softer pastel pencils, like the conté brand.



Is similar to blending. However, you are combining white to a single tone lighten the value.

Tip: Use a clean Q-Tip, so you do not contaminate the color.



Is similar to blending however you are combining black to darken the value.

Tip: A little black goes a long way, so you will have to practice the pressure when adding in the black.

Broken Color

Broken Color

Refers to a painting technique 'invented' by the Impressionists. One color is laid down, and another color is layered over it, no blending occurs. The colored are mixed optically by the viewer. This technique can also unify an image if the strokes are similar.

Tip: This is an advanced skill and takes some pre-planning on your part. Otherwise, you may end up just blending the colors together.



Is the act of creating a line or depression on a piece of paper and it will affect the marks made over it. For example, using a paperclip to score the paper, we can put down thin lines then when a flat tone is layered over the original paper shows through without any pigment.

Tip: Any tool can be used, such as a knitting needle or an embossing tool.


Is a technique where making tones on paper over an uneven surface creates designs and marks that may or may not be organic. The marks may be left as is or used as a basis for further refinement.

Tip: You will create a frottage from the surface you are drawing on top of, if this is not the desired effect wanted, make sure to have extra sheets of paper underneath the surface you are working on.


Is a technique where isopropyl alcohol is applied with a slightly wet brush. The alcohol dissolves the binder in the pigment and turns it into a wash. When dry the pastel is permanently bonded to the paper. Brush strokes may be left as visible or blended to flat tones.

Tip: Use a Hake brush for backgrounds or flat tones

Here are some examples using the same subject matter but, different techniques in some smaller studies.

Blending & Smoothing

Using a Wash
Broken Color

Note that there are many, many more pastel pencil techniques the one listed here are only a few. :)

You can also download this reference material in a PDF format from our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

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