Soft Pastels Tutorial
Welcome to this Step by Step Tutorial of an Autumn Leaf in Soft Pastels on White Pastelmat paper. The tutorial below is for those looking to learn how to layer with soft pastels and create fine detail. The student quality Prismacolor Nu Pastels have been used for this tutorial but any brand can be used - you can work with a wider colour palette than stipulated on this page if you choose, the more colours used, the more effective the final results will be. A colour chart is found below but it is not important to match precise colours, simply use as a guide. The paper used for this tutorial was Clairfontaine Pastelmat, ideally it is best to use the same paper to benefit from the ease of blending, however if you are unable to access Pastelmat or have some other brand to hand, you can use that instead. The photograph below can be used to work from.
This tutorial is based on my own working preferences but is not the only way to work with Pastels, different artists will have there own way of working and so you will probably aquire your own style the more Art you do. I have found Pastelmat paper is probably the best paper to begin with as pastels layer and blend easily, making this subject more enjoyable. I don't tend to blend pastels with my fingers and blending is possible by layering rather than physically blending however I did use a sponge to blend the initial base tones. Pastels are a great medium in that you can easily cover up mistakes by simply applying another colour over the top and are fun to work with, obviously they can be messy and I do always stipulate that this medium can produce a lot of dust so ideally wear a mask or if you plan working with Pastels on a regular basis ensure you work in a well ventilated room and do some research on safe working spaces for Pastellists.
I hope you enjoy this Tutorial!
Stage 1 - Base Tones
I began applying colours loosely as the Pastelmat paper grabs pastel so well that you do not need to apply much pressure. This is simply the base layer and so placement does not need to be neat. Using the reference image on this page to guide you and FIG 1 above, use the following colours to cover: Khaki Green, Fern green, Sand Yellow, Orange and Terracotta
Aim for around 80% coverage but do not saturate. Once all the colours have been placed, using your fingers or a sponge (which you can buy from most Art outlets and online stores) smooth the pastel colours downwards following the same direction as the veins on the leaf (FIG 2) blend in a small, circular pattern to ensure all the pastel fills the fine grit of the paper.
Stage 2 - Layering
To aid you with application, using the Terracotta pastel (or pastel pencil if you have some), draw in the veins of the leaf, apply a second layer using the Sepia Brown tone as you can see above, I intentionally applied the second line a little way off the first line. Begin by applying the darker mottled sections on the leaf using the Sepia Brown and follow this up with the Terracotta tone. These 2 colours help to add depth before I start applying the Vibrant Red tone followed by the Orange tone, always follow the same direction as the veins. When applying the orange over the top of the red, you will find that these colours easily blend together without the need for additional help from a sponge or finger. Apply speckles of Terracotta to darken up the edges (see FIG 4) then begin adding highlights of Sand Yellow and Light Yellow Green to the upper section of the leaf.
Stage 3 - Detailing
Over on the left side of the leaf, the colours are mostly rust and green tones so the following colours can be used for this section:
Terracotta, Sepia Brown, Khaki Green, Fern green, Cool dark Green, Light Yellow Green and Sand Yellow
Using FIG 5 above as reference, begin by applying the darker Fern green to the edge of the leaf, follow up with a layer of Khaki Green over this and apply the Light Yellow Green to the paler under-section of this area and then create the mottled effect of the leaf with the Cool Dark Green. For the bottom section of the leaf where there are more mottled effects, build up the tones using the Vibrant Red and Terracotta before applying the mottled effect with the Sepia Brown, also darken up the veins again and apply any shading beneath the veins ideally with a slightly lighter tone (apply Sepia and then Terracotta to get the same effect). Use the Sand Yellow and Khaki Green to add in some highlights and use the Flesh Pink to finish off the stalk at the end. Apply a serrated edge effect all the way around using the corresponding colours in that section or use the Sepia Brown for a darker effect.
Subscribe to Our Newsletter
Subscribe to receive our Free Newsletter filled with the latest information from the Step by Step Art website which includes Mini tutorials, Art product recommendations, Articles on varied mediums, Special guest articles and Information on the latest 1 Day Art Workshops run by Karen M Berisford