Monday, February 3, 2020

Painting with pastels

Part three of Allie Davidson's "What Should I Use to Paint My Model?" focuses on pastels and pigments. Thank you, Allie, Stephanie and T.J. for sharing your knowledge with us!

Stephanie Blaylock
Up to trying something new for NaMoPaiMo? I suggest Pan Pastels! Here’s my entire palette that I own:
  • Black
  • Yellow Ochre Tint
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Sienna Shade
  • Red Ironoxide Ex Dark
  • Raw Umber
  • Paynes Grey
  • Titanium White
Stephanie's Pan Pastel collection
I’ve found this will create every color I need. I enjoying mixing pastels with acrylics but you can get a really lovely finish with just pastels as well.
Bennett resin painted by Stephanie Blaylock
Here are a few tips:
  • Go light to dark layering your colors.
  • Use separate brushes for light and dark colors. You will need to seal colors in between the layers. I recommend Krylon GLOSS Crystal Clear for the first smoothing layer and then Testor’s Dullcote for the rest.
  • Pastels are applied with scruffy brushes. Brushes that you have trimmed down with scissors. You make a circular motion to apply. The stiffer the brush the heavier the color applies. Too stiff and you can scrape your sealer off. I like a medium bristle brush.
  • Think of shading as you apply. For instance, if you apply every color right on top of the last you just get a solid color horse. You want to leave softer areas such as the throat-latch, gaskin, elbows and then pastel other areas more dramatic like cheeks, poll, shoulders, haunches.
  • The average horse is five to eight layers. The lighter the horse is the less you layer. One neat trick is using your white or grey to lighten areas such as the muzzle.
Some of Stephanie's brushes
Everything can be fixed and there’s no one way to do it. Practice is the best way to become really fluent in pastels. I love that they mix well with other mediums. My favorite mix is acrylics with some colored pencil.
Trick medallion painted by Stephanie Blaylock
I order my supplies online from retailers like Blick. Pan Pastels last forever if you’re careful not to mix color and are completely worth the investment.  There’s also less dust and mess.  Honestly the hardest thing is screwing the lids back on the plastic jars. (Allie: I thought I was the only one who had a hard time screwing the lids back on!)

Extra things to make your pastel choice easier... hand wipes so colors don’t transfer, paper plates, & paper towels. I also use an acrylic gloss glaze such as Liquitex for eyes.

Breyer G1 stablemates painted by Stephanie Blaylock
Pastels create a very soft look by layering color. It’s difficult to get the same effect with other mediums.  I painted my NaMoPaiMo Breyer Finish-work winner layering pastels and acrylics.  Also, it’s beginner friendly with a minimal startup cost. So get out those primed-in-white horses and get started!
Stephanie Blaylock's 2018 NaMoPaiMo horse and winner of the Breyerfest Best Customs contest for in Finishwork Excellence.

TJ Hurst

(Allie: I was thrilled to have TJ respond to my inquiry.  Her appaloosas are some of the best in the hobby.  The attention to the smallest detail makes them look like the color was magically lifted off a real appaloosa and attached to a model.  Although pastels are beginner friendly TJ’s technique demonstrates an advanced application.)

I paint only Appaloosas and have found that pastels (both stick and pan types) and earth pigments work best for me and my style and technique.
I use a "stippling" effect to apply the pastels, using micro mini-brushes, and rubber tipped paint erasers. I always start with a plain white "canvas," letting the primer be my base coat. Next I apply the pinks to inside the ears, muzzle, eyelids and genital areas. (I do use a small soft brush for this) and seal. Then I start adding med to dark gray over the pinks for the mottling. I generally rough in the whole Appy pattern in light and dark grays before the coat color begins. For heavy roaning, I just dab short, small strokes/dots of pastel in a random way, leaving white showing through, being careful to follow the direction of hair flow. Then for the next layers I do the same - much like the hair by hair technique artists use with paint, but SO much faster. It is more "impressionistic" than "realistic" but gives the look of roaning as well. Then I just keep adding layers of color, working toward the desired effect, always working light-to-dark with the pastels.
I like pastels because I can do multiple layers really fast, not having to wait for paint to dry. I do paint the eyes and chestnuts with acrylics though.


  1. Hey question! How to spray a model in the winter? I don't have a ventilated setup inside and the spray can says not to use in cold conditions.

    1. That's OK, I don't have one either. I have two methods that I use (and the second one my family strongly disapproves of!) The first one is to spray outside in the middle of the day. Sunny days are best, but slightly overcast would work just fine. It usually takes about 10 mins. for the spray to dry during the summer, however allow longer time for the like about 15-20 mins. Weather can be a damper - especially since wind could knock your spray booth plus horse into the snow/ground when you are not looking. The second method is using a cardboard box with two sides cut out of it, while spraying in a garage with a door open. My family doesn't like this because it stinks up the entire garage.

    2. I spray outdoors all year long. I store the DullCoat inside, so both it and the model are room temperature. I shake the can thoroughly, then step outside and spray. Everything goes right back in the house. I've never had any trouble with this method.

  2. Hey, just want to thank Jennifer for asking/letting me share my tips on pastel painting, and wish everyone good success, but mostly FUN, this month during NaMoPaiMo. And I have found there really is no WRONG way to paint a model. Whatever works for you is what works. And each model is a "live and learn" process. I am looking forward to seeing everyone's finished projects.

    1. Meant to say thanks to Allie Davidson for asking me in the first place to share my process. Always happy to tell what little I know if it will help someone else.

    2. I'm a huge fan, TJ. Your appaloosa are so amazing. You are in inspiration to me.