The artist of today can choose from a wide range of cheap and easy-to-use materials. With the invention of synthetic colors and artificial binders, artists could use chalks and pastels, which were not possible before. Different kinds of pastels are made of different things, which changes how you draw and how the picture turns out.


Chalk is a calcium-rich rock that forms when tiny organisms that live in salt water die and sink to the ocean floor. Chalk found in nature is usually white, but minerals or iron deposits can make it gray or red. Chalk is a hard, powdery drawing medium that can be used quickly to sketch on dark paper.

Chalk or synthetic materials that mimic chalk’s properties are important parts of many other drawing tools, like hard and soft pastels. However, chalk is better for chalkboards and sidewalks than art projects, so most people use pastels instead.

Hard Pastels

Hard pastels are sticks for drawing made of chalk, dust, and color. Because chalk is so white, it washes out the colors, making them look pale. Hard pastels make sharp and bright lines on both light and dark papers. Some hard pastels can be sharpened, but they don’t stay sharp like pencils. As a result, drawings made with hard pastels look like they were made with a soft pencil or charcoal.

Soft Pastels

Soft pastels are also made of pigment, water, and a small amount of chalk or an artificial binder. Because these pastels are soft and easy to shape, they make smooth, smudgy lines that are easy to blend on the canvas. Soft pastels cannot be combined on a palette, so many artists keep a wide range of colors so they can find the excellent shade. Some call pictures made with soft pastels “pastel paintings” instead of “pastel drawings.”

Oil Pastels

Some pastels are made to look and feel like oil paints instead of chalks, which are dry drawing materials. Wet binders like oils and waxes hold the pigments together in these pastels. Most of the time, colors made with oil are more vivid. Because oil pastels are wet, you can mix them like paints on the canvas or a palette.

Pastel Pencils

Pastel pencils are a more modern way to draw. They combine the color effects and texture of pastels with the ease of clean-up that comes with colored pencils. In these tools, a core of chalk-based pastel is wrapped in a wood shell. You can sharpen a pastel pencil with a regular pencil sharpener in your hand. With pastel pencils, you can draw clean, detailed pictures with a pastel look.


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