Pan Pastels for Botanical & Natural Science Illustrators

by Mindy on December 16, 2010

in Uncategorized

I recently received a question from a botanical artist about using PanPastels. I decided that the best thing to do was to do a blog post and open it up for discussion. So here goes:

I discovered PanPastels at a trade show in 2009. I have always admired pastels for their brilliant pigments, but hated the dust and potential health hazards they can cause. I was also concerned that I could not get enough detail with them for tight work. When I saw the demonstration I was hooked! They have successfully made the pastels almost dustless and they can even be erased with ease from the paper. They work beautifully in conjunction with watercolor. I used them in my book, Mother Monarch to blend skies and create clouds. I also used them to add a touch of velvet to the butterfly's wings.

There is a great You Tube Video on the different Sofftt Tools you can use to apply the pastels. I used the larger sponges to make the skies and clouds. They are wonderful to block in large areas. I then used the smallest applicator to apply the smaller details, but found that they did not give me the definition I was looking for. I was able to use a fine pointed tortillion stump to get some of the finer details and used watercolor pencil to get even sharper detail. You can see this in my honey bee depicted here.

Whenever I get excited about a new medium I want to jump in and buy it all. I have learned from experience that this habit is getting expensive!!!! They offer the colors in sets, but I prefer to make my color choices myself and this is always based on the brightest light fast colors I can find. In order to keep costs down I make my color choices based on a limited palette. I start with about 12 colors: green yellow, orange yellow, orange red, violet red, violet blue, green blue, PURPLE, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, pthalo blue, white and black. I like the palette to be as bright as possible because I know that I can always mute down any color easily. After buying the initial 12 colors I soon discovered that I needed more and greens were very important. I bought a variety of greens and recently they added a new line of darker colors which I have found were needed to extend the range of the colors.

The company has also come up with tray palettes which I highly recommend. The individual colors come in round screw top and bottom plastic containers that can be stacked. I tried this and found that the threading was a bit difficult and it was a pain to keep screwing and stacking the colors. The trays fit 10 or 20 pans in them and are easily stacked making a great and easy way to use.

If you are thinking about buying PanPastels I hope that I have convinced you to do so! They are a great buy, safe to use and lots of fun!

Do you have any experience with PanPastels? If so, please let us know what you think.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy December 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

Love love love Pan Pastels! vibrant colors no dust!

Miriam Hughes December 16, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I started using pan pastels this year and it is taking some getting used to, but I love them.  I feel like it is a combination of painting and sculpting!

Robert Sloan December 20, 2010 at 5:30 am

I've also found that Pan Pastels work well with pen drawing as a coloring medium. Where I might have used a watercolor wash with a tightly detailed pen drawing, on a vellum surface paper I can pen sketch and then blend in Pans colors for soft transitions like watercolor washes. 
Since I'm not trying for detail in the color work, that combination can be striking in botanical sketches.

Mindy December 20, 2010 at 5:48 am

Thanks Kathy, Miriam and Robert for your feedback! It sounds like all of you are using them in very creative ways. I will have to try them with Pen & Ink. So many botanical artists only use watercolor. I love to use mixed medium. It makes the process more interesting when I can experiment and come up with something different.

Pamela Mason December 20, 2010 at 3:58 pm

In the bee painting, how did you use the  watercolor pencil to get even sharper detail? Did you use very little or no water after applying?

Mindy December 23, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Hi Pamela: I used the watercolor pencils dry. I do not recommend that you apply water with the pan pastels. They like to stay. Can't wait to see what you create with them.



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