A few people have asked about the materials I use when painting. For colour portraits it’s a combination of pastel sticks and pastel pencils. The exact ones vary depending on the colours I need and type or size of the image.


When going for more realism I’ll use pastel pencils for nearly the entire painting. Being able to sharpen the tips to a fine point allows for greater detail and control. I use pastel pencils from Daler Rowney and Faber-Castell and can find very little difference between them. I tend to stick more with the Daler Rowney simply because I have more of them however I will still lift a colour from another set if I need it.

Pastel Pencils in tin

Pastel Pencils

Some pencils get used more than others, they also have a tendency to break while sharpening. I’ve tried a few different sharpeners but have recently moved to hand sharpening with a sharp Stanley knife.


Pastel sticks are larger, great for covering big areas. I’ll use them when I want to get a lot of colour on the page and build up the image. They are also great when going for a more impressionistic or loose look. The marks made on the page can also be very easily manipulated with fingers or tools and blend easily. I use pastel sticks from Rembrandt, they are soft and apply very nicely with a high concentration of pigment.

Box of Rembrandt Soft Pastels

Soft Pastels

There are a few tools I use when painting with pastels. Colour shapers let me move pastel around in a controlled fashion and rub it into the paper surface. I found these very small ones which suit my purposes, namely making many small strokes representing hair or fur. Most of the time I just use my fingers!

Two Colour Shapers

Colour Shapers

Paper-wise something with a bit of tooth is great as it holds more of the pastel meaning I can put down several layers, you won’t be able to do this on smooth paper. I also like paper with a bit of weight to it, sturdy so I’m not afraid to lean into it with a pencil or eraser when I want to.

Daler Rowney Pastel paper

Pastel paper

I have and regularly buy a variety of different papers, different sizes, colours, weights. I use coloured paper and select the colour with the portrait in mind, thinking about how to use it to my advantage. The only times I use plain white paper is when painting a portrait for a mug, even then I remove the paper from the image on the computer after to prepare for printing on the white mug. Select paper which is acid free and has a good cotton content for archival purposes. Cotton paper feels nicer to work on too.