Pastels offer an artist an unlimited palette with few constraints as to application and expression. Indeed, there seem to be more individual styles than any other medium, in part because pastel can act as both drawing and painting.
If the tone of the paper/surface plays a major visual role in the final appearance of the artwork, it is a drawing. If the paper/surface is completely covered with pastel, it is considered a painting.
You can do both with soft pastels because the rectangular shape of the pastel sticks allows you to draw lines as well as color in areas. This blurs the boundary between drawing and painting.
One of the advantages to working with pastels is the ability to produce paintings quickly. The characteristics of the medium allow it to be applied in large quantities and layered easily. Pastels can produce depth in color and value without a great deal of effort.
Use pastels on different surfaces, such as paper, cardboard or canvas. Choose a surface with a rough texture to make a grainy drawing, or a smoother texture for a sharper result. Opt for pastel pencils if you want more precision.
Pastel painting or pastel drawing starts with an implement of pigment mixed with chalk or clay and combined with gum to make a paste that is then hardened and made available as soft or hard pastels, pastel pencils, or oil pastels. Pastel lessons often discuss the medium in terms of both drawing and painting.
Oil paint can be applied over the soft pastel. The solvents in the oil paint will penetrate the soft pastel. Edges of forms sketched in pastel can be left exposed on the finished oil painted canvas. Even large areas of soft pastel can be free of oil paint application.
An oil pastel is a painting and drawing medium formed into a stick which consists of pigment mixed with a binder mixture of non-drying oil and wax, in contrast to other pastel sticks which are made with a gum or methyl cellulose binder, and in contrast to wax crayons which are made without oil.
Wear the right dust mask and wear it properly
Another common sense precaution when painting with pastels is to use a dust mask when you paint with pastels.
This fragile consistency and powdery texture makes them well suited to blending, layering on lots of color, and for painterly effects. You can also use the edges for fine lines, but most artists use hard pastels or pastel pencils for detail work and preliminary sketches.
Dilute some oil pastels
Moisten an oil painting paintbrush with white spirit or turpentine. Brush on the pastel: its pigments will blend and the color can be moved around just like paint. Your lines will disappear and be replaced by paintbrush strokes.
A basic starter set of 8-15 colours will be sufficient. Contrary to the advice of some, you can mix your colours and so a small set will be absolutely fine to get started with. If you can afford a bigger set you will buy more convenience: more colours available means you have to mix less.
Types of Pastels You Can Use on Canvas
Typically, oil pastels are the pastel of choice for use on a canvas. These crayon-like pastels allow much of the flexibility of oil paints but in a less messy, easier to control format. Most often, artists just draw on the canvas with the pastel.
Dry pastel media can be subdivided as follows: Soft pastels: This is the most widely used form of pastel. The sticks have a higher portion of pigment and less binder. The drawing can be readily smudged and blended, but it results in a higher proportion of dust.
Textured paper is the most popular surface for pastels, but you can also use boards, canvas, and even sandpaper.
Pastel pencils allow the control found in using a pencil but deliver marks that can be layered and blended just as traditional pastels. Many artists love the marks produced by traditional pastels. They can be used to create painterly effects and gracefully layer to produce rich colors.
Best for Kids: Sakura Cray-Pas Junior Artist Oil Pastels
While they are kid-friendly and made for junior artists, these aren't just for kids—they're one of the best pastel sets for beginners, too.
Generally speaking, any surface that will accept the mark is suitable for use with pastel pencils. Drawing paper, illustration board, and bristol paper will all accept the mark. That being said, a paper with a heavier tooth or texture will provide the best results. Canson Mi-Teintes paper is my paper of choice.