If you love to draw with beautiful bold colors, we've got great news — you're not limited to colored pencils. Pastels are a ton of fun and simple to master once you know how to work 'em.
These bright pigments are perfect for florals, like these poofy purple blooms.
But First, Some Pastel Basics
If you're looking for a dictionary definition, pastels are an artistic medium that comes in little sticks and contains pure powdered pigment, as well as a binder.
There are two types: soft pastels and oil pastels. Lots of artists prefer soft pastels because they’re easier to clean and you can blend them easily with your finger tips. (But be warned: They do produce dust!)
Oil pastels, while they can be harder to clean (and require solvents), don't leave behind powdered pigment. So it's kind of a trade-off — if you can, try both and see which you like best.
How to Draw a Pastel Flower
1. Create a Rough Sketch
First choose your subject — any pretty photo will do. If you're just starting out, you'll find it easiest to work with fairly simple shapes. Then select your colors. In this case, that's purples, greens, browns and yellows for highlights. Use these pastels to create a rough, light outline of your subject's shape.
2. Fill in The Base
Building from the basic shapes, create your color base. Don't worry about being exact — you’ll layer on top of these pigments to create detail; we just want a general idea of where our fields of color lie, as shown above.
3. Layer It Up!
Here's where the fun really begins (and don't worry, it's still easy).
Now that you’ve got the basics in place, starting refining your drawing layer by layer. The trick is to start simple, still working on the larger shapes and building color. The more layers of light and dark you weave into your drawing, the richer and more dimensional your finished piece will be.
A note about all that dust you're creating: leave it alone! If you try to wipe it away, you'll smear your colors. We'll get rid of it later, once the picture is done.
Here's rule #1 of soft pastels: Don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. Blending is essential to a gorgeous finished look, and your fingers are your best brushes!
Try using the edge of your pinkie for the smaller areas and your index for larger fields of pigment. Remember to wash your hands between colors to avoid contaminating your work.
5. Add the Fine Details
After blending, use the sharp edge of your pastel to create fine, precise details to give your drawing some visual clarity. Select several areas to focus on so your drawing feels cohesive. Here, for instance, we focused on the tips of the purple plants and several leaves in the background.
If you're worried about layering light on top of dark, don't be — this medium allows it. And if something ends up a bit too dark for your liking, you can blend in some white to lighten it up or add a highlight. Use this technique sparingly, though; those deep, intense hues are what's so great about pastels!
6. Remove the Dust
Once you have everything exactly the way you like it, it's time to get rid of all that color dust — without ruining your drawing.
Your first instinct might be to brush off the dust as it accumulates, but fight against that urge! If you brush it off like you would with, say, eraser shavings, there is a good chance you'll smear the pigments and ruin your art. Instead, hold the paper perpendicularly to your work surface and gently tap it on the table to shake the dust loose, then clean it up from your work surface.
Once you're comfortable using pastels on their own, you can try bringing them into multimedia artwork, too. They're amazing for adding finishing touches to watercolors and more.
Photos by Sara Barnes