Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Pastel pointers

Pastels are often touted as the most beginner friendly medium for painting model horses. Application is simple. The dry pastel (or pigment) dust is applied to the surface of the model, the excess is removed and then the color is "fixed" with an aerosol sealer. A typical pastel paint job may involve anywhere from three to thirty layers.
Jennifer Buxton 2018 NaMoPaiMo horse in progress
Pastels are available in a dizzying array of horsey colors. Fortunately, it's not necessary to buy every single last color. Here's a look at professional artist, Stephanie Blaylock's Pan Pastel collection. She says, "These are the only colors I have needed, although I’ll probably buy a flesh toned one as well."
photo by Stephanie Blaylock
Pan Pastels are one of the popular brands for model horse finishwork. The pigment is strong and smooth, and they can be found at most art stores or Amazon.
photo by Stephanie Blaylock
Here's a tip from Missy Halvas for people who prefer a less minimalist color pallette. She writes: Last year I ended up taking the leap and ordered a ton of Pan Pastels.
photo by Missy Halvas
I wanted to paint a camel, so I got out my reference photos and used that to choose the most  “camel-y” colors in my collection.
photo by Missy Halvas
I then swatched each color on a plain white piece of paper and slipped the paper into a plastic sleeve. 
photo by Missy Halvas
This really helped me determine the exact strength and tone of each color. I’ve included my camel color chart.
photo by Missy Halvas
And here's my camel!
photo by Missy Halvas
Pastels can be applied with any number of tools, but paintbrushes are probably the most common. Stephanie Blaylock says: All my old brushes get a second life as pastel brushes. Sometimes I cut the bristles to make a stiffer brush. Other brushes stay fluffy. I have a jar for smaller brushes and larger brushes. You can wash them but they need to totally dry before using. I rarely wash mine.
photo by Stephanie Blaylock
The softer your brush the lighter your pastels adhere. The smaller brush is stiffer for the black.
photo by Stephanie Blaylock
Make up brushes are also extremely popular among pastel enthusiasts. They come in a variety of sizes, are soft and (possibly) shed less hair than traditional artists brushes. They're also affordable. Shane Langbauer recommends the ELF brushes which can be found for a dollar or two at stores such as WalMart, Target, Old Navy and Dollar Tree. 
photo by Jennifer Buxton
Karen Lloyd also shops for art supplies in the beauty aisle, but her tool of choice isn't a brush at all. She writes: I mostly paint stablemates and curio size horses and LOVE using these pointy cotton applicators with pastels, especially for creating dapples. Like with brushes, when using pastels I find it best to designate ones for light colors, dark colors, etc. 
photo by Karen Lloyd
Similarly, T.J. Hurst recommends these tiny micro brushes to apply pastels in tiny dots. These can be found at most hobby shops.
photo by T.J. Hurst
And here's something I hadn't seen before from Christine Sutcliffe. She uses silicone clay shaping tools to precisely apply pastels in areas you don't want to get fuzzy, such as  ticking, spots and the edges of markings.
photo by Jennifer Buxton
The fine strokes at the top are from the clay shaper and the fuzzy ones are from a micro brush. Check out Christine's YouTube video for a full demonstration of this technique.
photo by Christine Sutcliffe
Before each layer of pastels is sealed, it's important to remove excess dust. This can be done in a number of ways, some good, some not so good. Hannah Hounshell writes: Don't blow on your model to remove excess dust! There's a good chance you'll spit on it and inhaling the free-flying dust is bad for your lungs. Instead, grab a thing of canned air and press the trigger just enough to get a trickle of airflow. Practice before you try this, or you'll blast most of your applied pigment off your model instead of just the extra, loose stuff.
Other artists prefer to use a brush, in particular a large soft brush. Again, make up brushes are popular. Urszula Rudzińska writes: Get yourself some make up brushes! This one here is just amazing - I use it to remove the excess pastel instead of blowing on the model.
photo by Urszula Rudzińska
After the excess dust is removed. the model is ready to be sealed. Sealing is an art in and of itself. Please refer to Meghan Namaste's excellent tutorial for more information on this topic.
photo by Meghan Namaste - be safe with your sealers!
The sealer should be allowed to cure before the next layer of pastel is applied. Julie Ward notes that thoroughly buffing each layer of sealer can help reduce grain. She writes: I buff the model with a sock until the whole surface is shiny. Only then do I start laying down the next pastel layer.
not a pastel pony, also this sock is too cute to be used for artistic endeavors
Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to share their pastel knowledge with me. The NaMoPaiMo community really is the best. I could not do this without you!


  1. I learn so much from these posts. One day I will attempt painting. For now tack making and dolls will do it for me.