Pastel Tips

Hello and welcome to my Pastel Tips page for fans of my new DVD —
Secrets of Drawing Horses”.

If you don’t have my Secrets of Drawing Horses DVD yet, you don’t know what you’re missing! — Click on the link below to read more about it, watch a preview and to purchase!

On this page you will find some information about my favorite Pastels, Papers, and Reference books, and suggestions for how best to work with Pastel chalk. I will update this page periodically so if you’d like to receive notifications of updated information — please sign up to receive my Spirit of Horse blog announcements on the right side of any page of the blog.

Secrets of Drawing Horses


For best results of the lessons in this DVD I recommend you have pastels and paper.
The following links list some of the products I recommend.


Rembrandt Pastel sets
Rembrandt Pastels are made from the best quality, finely ground pure pigments in an extra-fine Kaolin clay binder. The result is a velvety smooth softness in every color. Each rich color is thoroughly blended and uniform, end to end. Contain no hard bits or sharp edges which could cause shiny spots or scratches during application. Rembrandt Pastels are hand-checked throughout production to ensure artists the consistency in texture, color and working qualities that they’ve come to depend on.Each round sull-sized stick has a transparent label imprinted with color name and number, number suffix indicating whether it is a pure tone (.5), a shade (.3), or a tint (.7, .8, .9), and lightfastness rating. Light fastness is especially important when using pastels, since they’re practically pure pigment and very susceptible to light. About 70% of the Rembrandt Pastel line has the highest possible degree of lightfastness.Rembrandt Pastel Sets come in cardboard boxed sets with molded foam inserts to protect pastel sticks. All sticks are full size unless specified half size. Click on camera icon next to the items listed below to see the color numbers included in each set. See our for corresponding color name and color swatch.
Click on the link below to buy:

Rembrandt Soft Pastel Sets half size assorted colors set of 30


Biggie Sketch paper
The Biggie pad is very popular with artists because of its high grade writing surface and bright whiteness. 100-sheet and 120-sheet value pads allow enough paper for sketching freedom. Just enough tooth for pencil, crayon, charcoal or pastel. Tape bound.
Click on the link below to buy:

Canson Biggie Sketch Pads 18 in. x 24 in. sheets pad of 120




Drawing board
Basswood drawing board with smooth, natural surface both sides. Resin-impregnated pulp fiber honeycomb is permanently bonded for rigidity and strength. Basswood frame serves as a smooth, natural edge. Edge is true so you can use T-squares and triangles to maintain sharp, true angles. Lightweight with superb durability. Made in USA.
Click on the link below to buy:

Discovery Airlite Core Drawing Board 20 in. x 26 in.


Paper Tape
Flat stock paper tape with a rubber adhesive. High immediate adhesion. Excellent write-on label tape, shelf labeling, and hinging flaps and overlays on artwork and drawings. Accept writing of most pens and markers. 3 in. core.
Click on the link below to buy:

3M Scotch Flatback White Paper Tape 256 3/4 in. x 60 yd. roll


Pastel Tips

My favorite Brands of Pastels

Pastels come in sets and are usually a range of colors from light to dark of each color — for instance the numbers of Rembrandt Pastels for a color such as Lemon Yellow will be numbered # 205.3 — 205.12 – with .3 being the darkest shade and .12 being the lightest. The advantage of buying pastels in a set is they are less expensive than individual pastels and the larger sets come in these ranges of colors — so you can use a highlight or darker tone in the same color range. I buy a set and then replace the colors I use by buying individual pastels to replace them.

A good basic set to start with is Rembrandt pastels. They have a great range of colors and are a bit more affordable and a good texture — medium soft and concentrated. They come in affordable sets of half-sticks so you get more colors to try. You can also buy sets or individual pastels.

One of my favorite pastel brands is Girault — these are firm texture and come in wonderful dark colors, rich tones and muted tones, and the darkest browns and blacks — good for painting horses. Also they are small in diameter and easy to break for a new sharp edge and detail. Buy as sets or individual pastels.

Sennelier — very soft and fragile — good for overall work, and highlights but not as much for sharp detail. Buy as sets or individual pastels.

Schminke — extra soft and buttery — unusual colors and wonderful light colors, skin tones, yellows, unusual greens and blues. Buy as sets or individual pastels.

Diane Townsend Terrages — these are big pastels that have a fascinating gritty texture, very fun to work with — and a great range of very rich dark colors like purples and blues, and a wonderful range of very bright light colors from white to blue to yellow.

Working in Pastel

It is best to work from back to front — background to foreground, overall color to highlights, softness to detail. Sometimes this is painted in sections, or overall depending upon how you like to work.

For instance if I’m painting a horse — I do the background first — working around the outline of the horse, and then I start with deeper colors of the horse and work up to the highlights. Each new layer you add will have the most clarity and sharpness of color while other layers will soften as you go.  Highlights are last. I create the horse’s face and eye usually last.

I usually work from the darkest colors first to the lightest colors last. Shadows and medium tones first, and highlights last.

Ideally, use medium firm pastels first — and softer ones on top. This varies but for instance, once you’ve put down a highlight in a soft light Schminke pastel it would be hard to put a darker harder pastel like Rembrant over it.

Pastel Papers

Good paper is the secret to beautiful pastel paintings.  You will find a variety of papers specially made for pastel. I prefer neutral beige and grey papers and dark grey colored papers. White paper is not ideal. Some papers are smooth while others are sanded.

Canson Mi Tientes is a nice paper for light work — I use the smooth (reverse side).

More layers of pastel require more “tooth” to the paper. Yet I prefer to blend the pastels on the paper to a smooth texture, so I try to find papers that have tooth but not a rough texture.

My favorite all time paper is La Carte Sanded Pastel Paper which comes in many sizes and colors and is available

Other nice papers —

Arches watercolor in neutral or black

Rives BFK watercolor in neutral or beige


Pastel will never fade, they are an archival medium made with pure pigment and a binder

Other Hints

Be careful as you work as you might smudge the colors if you lean on the drawing with your hand or elbow. I use my pinkie finger as a “bridge” to lean on the drawing without touching it.

It is best to work on an easel at an angle, rather than totally flat, or totally upright.

Use white Paper Tape to adhere your pastel to a drawing board.  In order to avoid the tape making marks or leaving a blank spot on the edge of my paper, I make a “hinge” shaped like a “T” with the tape stuck to itself facing in opposite directions — the “Leg” of the “T” shaped tape hinge sticks to the back of the pastel paper, and the “cross” of the “T” shape tape hinge sticks to the board. Paper Tape is sticky enough to stay stuck to your paper, but removable and won’t tear the paper if you use caution. Available at Art Supply stores.


I use fixatives sparingly — rarely while working on a piece, and a merely a touch up at the end.  Fixative can dissolve the top layer of a pastel, which is why the piece looks darker after use – so I use fine spraying Lascaux fixative very sparingly.

Storing and Transporting pastel drawings

Pastel is very fragile to the touch even if you use a fixative sparingly. To store it, mount the paper on acid-free board.


When framing pastels — use acid free framing materials and mats and frame behind glass.  Do not use Plexiglass as it causes static electricity and the pastel dust will adhere to the underside. Use at least 2 mats or a spacer to hold the glass 1/8” or more away from the surface of the paper and pastels. Never use plexiglass as it creates static electricity and the dust from the chalk will adhere inside.


Always sign and date your work, and I suggest you have your best works professionally photographed by a digital photo lab.  Don’t sell or give away paintings you haven’t had professionally photographed!

Cautionary Note

Pastels are intended for use by Professional Artists, and may not be safe for children. There is some debate about the toxicity of pastels. Ordinary care should be sufficient to minimize this problem. Wash your hands frequently or use a “barrier cream” to protect your skin. Surgical gloves could be worn if your skin is extra sensitive, although I find them to be difficult to use. Some people wear masks, I prefer to use a HEPA air filter in my studio.

Recommended reading

For inspiration:

“The Artist’s Way” — Julie Cameron

“Visual Journaling” by Barbara Ganim and Susan Fox

“The Creative Fire” cd by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

For instruction:

“Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”  Betty Edwards

“Painting Animals that Touch the Heart” — by Lesley Harrison

“Draw Horses with Sam Savitt”

“Horses and Movement ~ Lowes Dalbiac Luard” by Oliver Beckett

Animal Drawing by John Skeaping

How to Draw Animals by Jack Hamm

Atlas of Animal Anatomy W. Ellenberger H. Dittrich H. Baum

Inspiring Quotes

“Art, it seems to me, should simplify.  That indeed is very nearly the whole of the higher artistic process: finding what conventions of form and what detail on can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole — so that all that one has suppressed and cut away is there to the (viewer’s) consiousness, as much as if it were (drawn) on the page”
Wille Sibert Cather

“Frustration is a necessary prelude to insight”
Goertzel and Hansen’s book “Cradle of Eminence”

“In spite of all similarities, every living situation has, like a newborn child, a new face, that has never been before and will never come again.  It demands of you a reaction that cannot be prepared beforehand.  It demands nothing of what is past.  It demands presence, responsibility; it demands you.”
Martin Buber

“How do we culturally comprehend the natural world in a meaningful way? How do we collectively search for a marked pathway through epochs of human life?  How do we establish secure and fulfilling relationships with a community?  How do we know our part in the vast wonder and mystery of the Universe?

A measure of our personal and collective development will hinge on two factors:

Our willingness to accept our own responsibility for finding our own myths of love and creativity.

Our ability to hold the ambiguity and creative tension that always precedes the emergence of something dormant or new.”

The Nine Muses by Angeles Arrien

Kim and Mystico