Pan Pastels: Comprehensive Review and How to Use

If you’re a beginner to an advanced artist looking for a versatile set of paints that can be easily transported and used on location, then pan pastels are a perfect choice. They are a great way to create beautiful, vibrant portraits and landscapes. They’re also really easy to use!

In this article, we will answer questions about what pan pastels are, how they work, and which colors you should purchase. We’ll also include a detailed tutorial with helpful tips!

If you’re interested in trying out these versatile art supplies but don’t know where to start (or what you need), then keep reading!

What are pan pastels?

Pan pastels are soft oil pastels, similar to chalk or charcoal in texture but they can be blended like watercolors.

They consist of a mixture of pigments, binders, and fillers that can be applied to surfaces such as paper or canvas with brushes or fingers.

You can also learn more about Soft Pastels and Oil Pastels in our detailed comparison.

Pan Pastel Characteristics

Pan pastels have a few characteristics that separate them from other types of paints. Most importantly, these unique features are what make pan pastel such a versatile medium for artists!


Pan pastels are a type of oil-based paint that comes in a pan form instead of a tube or jar.

Textures and Blendability

The first thing to mention is the fact that they’re oil-based paint instead of watercolor or acrylics. This means you’ll be able to blend your colors easily on paper with just your fingers without any priming beforehand whatsoever (unlike traditional painting). You can effortlessly layer multiple textures and shades together like never before seen in art supplies!


Another great aspect about their composition is how resistant they are against the light (despite being an oil-based paint!). If you expose your painting under direct sunlight or even fluorescent lighting, there will be no fading at all over time!


Pan pastels are the perfect choice for portrait painting due to their high opacity and rich, opaque color. You don’t have to worry about your layers underneath peeking through at all!


It’s important to mention how versatile pan pastel colors can be in terms of their usage. They’re not only used by artists but they’ve also been adopted by cake and makeup manufacturers as well. Since they’re highly pigmented, it’s easy to achieve a full-coverage look with just one swipe of the brush (or finger!). You can create both smooth and textured effects using this type of paint which makes them perfect for landscapes or abstract artworks!

However, because of the high concentration of pigment used in each color, applying too many layers can cause cracking since it sits on top of the paper instead of seeping in like watercolors (which can lift off easily if you try to blend too much).

Color Assortment

Pan pastels colors chart offers an amazingly broad spectrum of vibrant hues compared to other mediums like watercolor and acrylic paint. If you’re looking to get into pan pastel art but don’t know which colors to purchase, we recommend the 20-color Pan Pastel Pure Colors.

PanPastel 30201 Ultra Soft Artist Pastel 20 Color Set - Painting/Pure Colors w/Sofft Tools PanPastel 30201 Ultra Soft Artist Pastel 20 Color Set - Painting/Pure Colors w/Sofft Tools
  • Highly pigmented & ultra soft
  • Mixable, instant & easy
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When it comes to skin tone, many artists avoid using pan pastels. They often complain that the colors are too dry and chalky looking once they’re on a surface. However, if you choose your colors carefully, there won’t be any problem with color texture when you use pan pastels for portrait.

It’s true that Pan Pastels Skin Tones come in limited varieties but don’t let this discourage you because these six shades have enough diversity between themselves so as not to look samey-samey. You can also blend two or more of these together to create different tones according to your preference.

Pan pastels sets are made up of individual colors (or pans) that you mix together on your palette to make custom colors.

Advantages of Using Pan Pastels

They are used by both beginner and advanced artists because they’re so easy to use — especially if you have some experience with other mediums like oil paints, watercolors, crayons, or colored pencils.

  • Their creamy consistency makes them an excellent choice for creating colorful portraits that pop off the page!
  • They don’t need any blending tools (like a brush) and can be applied in thick layers without weighing down your paper.
  • There’s no drying time needed either – just start painting right away!
  • Painting with pan pastels requires very little prep work compared to other types of art projects; there’s no need for messy gesso priming or sandpaper surface preparation.
  • Pan pastels are erasable with any eraser.
  • Each color comes from its own individual pan — instead of being preloaded into one tube — it’s easy to take pan pastel painting on the go. All you need is a small travel palette and some paper to get started!
  • They also work well with stencils since they can be laid down on top of the paper without disturbing how smoothly layers underneath are blended together.

How to Use Pan Pastels?

You can use pan pastels on their own or mix them with other mediums like traditional oil paints, watercolors, and acrylic paint.

One of the most popular methods is to layer different colors together using your fingers (or a sponge) until you achieve the desired effect. You don’t need any special tools for blending either — just gently rub your color into another one next to it!

There’s no set way of painting with pan pastel — it’s a process that you can develop your own style with as you try new mediums and techniques!

Here is our detailed impasto painting technique tutorial.

Pan Pastel Tools and Supplies

There are four fundamental items you will need in order to work with pan pastels. Below is a list of what we consider the essential things for working successfully with this medium. You can expand your kit as much as you like, but these basics will get you started easily!

  1. Pan pastel colors
  2. Paper. Or you can use any of these pastel boards they offer – either one that comes with black gesso already painted onto it which you can use as-is or simply paint over your own favorite colors; alternatively buy the board and do all this yourself.
  3. Palettes
  4. Sponges or brayers. Many artists also like using cotton swabs for blending colors.

How to Apply Pan Pastels to a Surface

Pan pastels are applied to paper or other surfaces in the same way oil paints and acrylics are. The only difference is that you’ll need more color pigment for pan pastel art supplies since colors come from individual pans.

    • You can use your fingers, brushes (recommended), sponges, palette knives, specialized tools like PanPastel Extenders, and even household objects like cotton swabs, make-up brushes, eye shadow applicators, stamps, stamps/brushes combo. Just make sure to take it slow when applying pigment — this will help prevent smudges created by too much pressure against the surface.
    • Keep layering translucent layers of paint one after another until you achieve desired effect and let each layer dry before adding another one on top. This step prevents blending mistakes and makes future corrections easier.
    • Some artists like to apply more than one color at once (blending them together with their fingers) while others prefer spreading pan pastel paint across the surface first before blending colors. There’s no right or wrong way of creating art — experiment with different techniques and find out what works best for you!
    • After applying layers of pigment, let your painting dry completely. The time that takes varies depending on how thickly colored it is but usually ranges anywhere from a few hours up to several days. Some large-scale artworks even take weeks until they’re fully dry because thicker applications require longer drying times.
Use some kind of fixative spray finish so smudges don’t accidentally ruin the design after all this hard work!

Pan Pastels Painting Techniques and Tips

The uniquely shaped pans of pan pastels make them a versatile painting tool. They come in hundreds of colors and can be used to paint anything from rocks, ground, hair, fur…

Here are some tips for working with pan pastels:

      • Use a palette knife to pick up color if you’re using it as an underpainting or on top of another medium.
      • If you want your art piece to have more texture then gently press the brush into the surface before applying two coats instead of one. This is especially helpful when applying pan pastel over acrylics as they only require one coat but many artists find that double coating works better than single coating so experiment! You’ll know which method works best for you after a few paintings.
      • If you’re using pan pastels on top of acrylics then use an alcohol-based medium or gel to blend them together smoothly rather than oil (which is thicker and will make your colors harder to work with). You can also add the pan pastel over dry paint if you like texture in your painting – this is especially helpful when creating backgrounds for landscapes, rocks, etc…
      • Pan pastel has more pigment so it’s easier to cover what’s underneath (such as black paper) but don’t expect it not to be transparent! Ink and graphite are very hard materials/paints that resist covering completely which results in light shadows showing through even after multiple coats of color. This makes pan pastels perfect for creating shadows in paintings.
      • To create more detailed backgrounds, try making your own pan pastels paint by grinding regular pigment sticks up into a powdery texture. This is great for creating background textures that aren’t possible with other art supplies you might already have at home.
      • Keep in mind that it’s best if the paper or canvas underneath isn’t too textured since this can get messy when applying pan pastel paints onto them! The smoother the surface, the better chance of achieving desired blend effect without having to go over multiple layers and wasting time correcting mistakes along the way.

The best way to learn pan pastel painting is by simply experimenting with different supplies until you find what works best for your style! Don’t hesitate on asking fellow artists if there are any techniques you don’t know about because there’s a lot to learn!

Pan Pastels Tutorial: Creating a Landscape

1. The first thing you’ll need to do is a pencil sketch of the landscape. This can be done with a regular graphite pencil on paper or through digital drawing software if that’s your preference!

Don’t worry about details yet – it’s more important to focus on shapes and creating an outline for where everything will go. You can always erase mistakes later so don’t stress out too much about this step!

2. Start painting the background by applying pan pastel paint generously and covering the whole surface. Make sure to leave some of your paper visible so you can see where it runs out! Apply two coats if you’re using semi-transparent paints such as earth tone colors since they will show through after one coat.

3. Experiment with different colors, blending techniques, and shapes to achieve the desired effect.

You can also use another tool such as a toothpick or pencil.

4. Use a palette knife or brush to apply color in smooth strokes then use another tool that has sharp edges to create more texture with ragged lines when needed.

5. Add some darker shadows around objects/the horizon line if desired by adding black pigment overtop. This step isn’t necessary but helps improve the contrast between different textures such as light vs dark parts within the same piece. You can also add additional layers of lighter shaded colors for extra dimension in paintings.

6. The final step is adding finishing touches such as highlights with white pan pastel paint and details which can be done by drawing over the top of previous layers.

7. Add your signature to the front and voila – complete!

Final Words

Pan Pastels are a great choice for painters working in oils and acrylics. They provide the paint texture and color saturation of an oil or acrylic without any drying time, mess, or hazard to your health. You can easily add more layers over dried areas with little consequence because you don’t have to wait days before applying another layer.

If you’re new to using pan pastels, it may take a few sessions of trial and error before finding your groove. However, with enough time and patience (and some guidance from this article!), we know you’ll learn how to create beautiful pan pastel art for your portfolio soon enough.

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