Chalk pastels are very different to oil pastels, they are not oil based and have similar qualities to regular chalk used on chalkboards in the classroom. Because of this, chalk pastel techniques are different to those used with oil pastels.
Chalk pastel art is more of a drawing technique than a painting one as you use the sticks and pastels like you would a graphite pencil.
The difference with working in oil pastels is that they are made from wax, which are mixed with oil pigments – because of the oil content the colors are much more vibrant than chalk pastels, mimicking the intensity of normal artist oil paints.
Chalk pastels come as sticks and as pastel pencils, both with varying degrees of hardness and softness.
The softer pastel gives a richer color and will move into the tooth of the paper more effectively.
Chalk Pastel Techniques – Paper Requirements
In order to adhere to paper, chalk pastel needs a light grain or “tooth” to stay on the paper.
As this medium is a dry medium, it is not absorbed into the paper, it sits on the surface, this is why a tooth is required in order to catch the chalk dust and color and hold it in place.
This also means that chalk pastel drawings can be easily damaged when touched as the chalk is very easily removed by a fingerprint or brush mark, which will be very noticeable.
So care is required when having a piece framed or when being transported. When deciding to work on canvas with chalk pastels – take note.
Canvas is much smoother than pastel paper, therefore a much larger amount of pigment is lost when working with pastel chalk and any color you deposit on the canvas will have difficulty adhering.
You will need to choose a canvas that has a rough tooth to make this an effective medium.
How to Use Soft Pastels
Chalk pastel techniques are exactly like those for graphite pencil drawing, and are ideal to sketch ideas out.
Blending Chalk Pastels
When using chalk pastel pencils or chalks on paper, mixing them with water can be an effective way to blend colors and get a smoother look.
The water is applied after the drawing is done and the chalk pastel is on the paper, then carefully apply a small amount of water with a sprayer and blend with a paintbrush.
You can build up the layers using this method, being careful not to use too much moisture and cause the paper to buckle and disturb the integrity of the paper surface.
Using this technique, you can make chalk pastels look livelier and closer to watercolor.
Using your finger to blend colors or create a flatter look that does not show the grain of the paper so as to create definition or background effects, is a common technique.
There are tools on the market available for this purpose, a paper pencil that can be sharpened is very useful to blend with, especially when you are doing fine detail and need to get into those tiny areas of your chalk drawings.
Preserving Chalk Pastels
Even on the correct paper, chalk pastels have a high risk of being rubbed off and fading with time.
Therefore, it is always a good idea to spray the paper with a fixative after completing a piece.
There are special fixatives for pastel chalk drawings that do not leave a sticky residue on the paper to attract dust particles to your drawing or leave spotty marks on the paper that look like oil marks.
So choosing a good quality artist fixative spray will ensure long life and continuing quality for the owner of your drawing to enjoy your artwork for many years.
Unlike oil paintings you will need to frame your chalk pastel drawings for preservation.
Glass will protect the artwork from the elements, insect damage and maintain the integrity of the original interpretation.
Chalk pastels are an exciting medium to use and if you enjoy using graphite pencil, the switch to pastel pencils will be an easy and interesting one to try.