Pastel Art Supplies List

A list of the art supplies you need to start pastel painting.

When you first decide to start painting with pastels, the choice of art supplies available can be overwhelming and confusing. So here's an art supplies list of what you need for pastel painting.

Pastel Colors

Google Images

Don't get intimidated by all the pastel colors available. Start with a starter set, and build up from there by either buying further sets or individual sticks. If you buy half-sticks rather than full-sized pastels, you'll get a wider range of colors for your money.

Pastel Paper

Different brands of pastel paper have different textures or surfaces to give the pastel something to grip onto. This can be quite prominent, like a honeycomb pattern, or simply a slight roughness to the paper. It's worth trying a few brands to see which you prefer as it's very much a personal preference. I tend to like paper without a pattern.

Sanded Pastel Card

Pastel painting art supplies
Photo © 2010 Marion Boddy-Evans
Sanded pastel card is stiff sheet of paper with a coating that gives a soft but gritty surface that really grabs and holds pastel. Think of very fine sandpaper stuck to card. It's more expensive than pastel paper, but do try it at least once as it holds far more layers of pastel more readily. Working with soft pastels on it gives a creamy, painterly feel.


Applying Fixative
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To fix or not to fix is a perennial pastel painting question. Too much and it'll darken the colors. None at all and your artwork may be ruined by a careless smudge.

Sketchbook for Practicing

Pastel with sketchbook
sketchbook with pastels. MIXA

Part of learning to paint is to spend time practicing and playing, not aiming to produce a finished painting every single time you pick up a brush. If you do this in a sketchbook rather than on top-quality paper, you're more likely to experiment.

An Easel

Artist Easel
Peter Dazeley Getty Images

Easels come in various designs but my favorite is a floor-standing, h-frame easel because it's very sturdy and I can step back regularly as I'm painting. If space is limited, consider table-top version.

Drawing Board

clothing designer sketching ideas in studio
Drawing Board. Getty Images

You'll need a rigid drawing board or panel to put behind the sheet of paper you're painting on. Pick one that's larger than you think you might need, as it's very annoying suddenly discovering it's too small.

Bulldog Clips

Bulldog clips
Dorling Kindersley Getty Images

Sturdy bulldog clips (or large binder clips) are an easy way to keep a piece of paper on a board, or for holding up a reference photo.

Pencil for Initial Sketching

Red Pencil
Sketching Pencil. Getty Images

If you like to sketch before you start painting, use a relatively hard pencil such as a 2H rather than a soft one, to lightly draw on your paper. A soft pencil risks being too dark, and smudging when you start painting.

Disposable Gloves

Hand holding a drop of paper craft rain from cloud
Getty Images
You'll need to decide whether you want to hold pastels in your fingers or wear gloves to avoid contact with the pigments in the pastels. A few pigments are toxic, for instance cadmium-based reds and yellows, but many are inert. Be aware of what you're using and be aware that some people are allergic to latex and/or talc used in some gloves.

An Apron

Happy female design professionals inking up etching plates for printmaking
Artist Apron. Getty Images

Pastel will wash out of your clothes, but if you wear an apron then you don't have to worry about it.