PanPastels and Colored Pencils

PanPastels and Colored Pencils

Have you used PanPastels and colored pencils? If so can you offer any suggestions on type of paper, solvents, techniques? Thanks. Louise

I haven’t used PanPastels with colored pencils, but have seen some wonderful work done with that combination. I’ll begin by sharing some of the basic principles I’ve picked up, then share tips from other artists who have used them.

PanPastels and Colored Pencils

The Basics

The first thing to consider is the paper you use.

Pastels require toothier paper. That’s because they don’t have a binding agent to help them stick to the paper; at least not to the same extent as colored pencils. Artists rub pastels into the tooth of the paper to make them stick. The same is true for PanPastels, so you need to use a pastel paper.

Canson Mi-Teintes is probably the “smoothest” paper I’d try. Most of the artists whose videos I’ve watched are using Pastelmat or something similar.

Most of the artists I’ve watched combine these two mediums do not layer one over the other. That is, they do the background with PanPastel because the pastels are fast and easily blended. They work around the subject of their piece and save that clean paper for colored pencil.

I’ve never seen anyone use solvents on PanPastels, but I haven’t watched that many videos. In the videos I have watched, artists simply apply the PanPastels and blend them.

So that’s the limit of my knowledge on PanPastels. Time to ask some experts: Artists who use them!

The Voices of Experience

I posted a question on the Monthly Sharpener, an art forum for colored pencil artists. Several artists answered my questions, and I’ve summarized what I learned.

  • Many artists use PanPastels for backgrounds because they blend so easily and are ideal for blurred or bokeh-style backgrounds. But many of the artists who answered my questions also use them under colored pencils, and one adventurous artist used them over solvent-blended colored pencil when she didn’t like the look of the blend.
  • If you use PanPastels under colored pencils, use the pastels sparingly. You need to leave enough tooth for the colored pencil to stick to.
  • One or two artists mentioned using fixative with PanPastels. Those who use fixative most often use it after finishing their work. Pastels of all types are rubbed into the tooth of the paper to make them stick, so fixative is usually unnecessary. In addition, fixatives sometimes darken the colors of pastels, so test on a sample paper first.

The most interesting information to me was the comparison between PanPastels and Powder Blender. Both blend color smoothly, but PanPastels stick to the paper without the use of fixative. Powder Blender is not permanent without the use of fixative.

In other words, you can get much the same affects with PanPastels as with Powder Blender, but without the additional step of sealing your work.

PanPastels and Colored Pencils

If you’re interested in learning more about PanPastels, check out the company website. The website includes a helpful resources section, where you can watch videos on getting started, basic tips and techniques, and tutorials. Kits to get you started are also available.

The November 2020 issue of CP Magic also includes a tutorial by Cathy Antkes Choyce, in which she combines PanPastels and colored pencils.

Final Thoughts

When I began answering this question, I had no intention of trying PanPastels. After doing a little research and asking questions, I’m rethinking that notion. PanPastels are available open stock and in a variety of sets through Dick Blick and other art suppliers.

For further information, the following artists have published great tutorials (real-time and time lapse) on using PanPastels with colored pencils.

Lisa Ann Watkins of Animal Art by LAW

Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art

These are artists from whose videos I’ve learned a lot on a variety of colored pencil techniques. If you don’t care for the YouTube ads, all three of these artists have Patreon page links on their YouTube channels.

And don’t forget the videos at the PanPastels website.

PS: Thank you to the fine people at PanPastel who provided the images I used for this post!

Do you have a question about colored pencils? Ask Carrie!


  1. Patricia E Wilson

    I have never used pan pastels but have used other mediums like alcohol markers and colored pencils. I saw a recent video that used the alcohol markers to color the object and then used the pencils to define it. Very interesting. I do know that they stated that you have to use two different mediums in the right order and that was helpful. Your article was very helpful and interesting and appreciate you educating us on the different products and paper. I make cards and have also found and learned that paper or cardstock does make a big difference in the finished result. Thank you.

  2. LCC

    I’ve taken the plunge and added some “landscape” colors of Pan Pastels to my studio, to try this year. Any advice/ suggestions are very helpful to catalog for future use.

    Posting to direct people to Ebay as a source for very good discounts in new/ used Pan pastel line.

    Just c

    1. LCC,

      Thank you for your comments and for taking the plunge on PanPastels.

      I can’t offer you any advice, since I haven’t tried them myself. I think they can be very useful, but I have no personal experience with them.

      Bonny Snowdon and Lisa Ann Watkins have both used them and have published YouTube videos about them. They’re my go-to source for this sort of thing, so you might want to give them a look.

      Lisa Ann Watkins also has a new book out about drawing animal portraits, and there is at least one tutorial in that in which she uses PanPastels.

      Thank you again for reading this post and for leaving a comment!

  3. Jae Haussling

    Thanks. Will watch tutorials. Am fascinated with tools of artists and their beautiful work. I have wc, cpencils and acrylic. But have shaky hands and painful back. I spend hours encouraging others. I want to try applying my knowledge, even if results are not good.

    1. Jae,

      Thank you for your encouragement to others.

      Since you have some health problems, you might want to read some of Jana Botkin’s posts on this blog. She’s dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome and has found ways to work around it. Though your situation is different, you may find some help in her suggestions. You can search the blog for Jana’s name or for carpal tunnel.

      Don’t let shaky hands keep you from making art. You’re drawings don’t have to be perfect and they don’t have to look like the drawings of other people. They should look like your drawings. And who knows? You may have a very unique style just waiting to be discovered!

  4. Andrea

    I took a class using pan pastels and colored pencils last summer. It was something new to me so I wanted to try it. I had used stick pastels in the past but these are different. The class was a gift so I completed it but it wasn’t my thing. It may have been the instructor, but I didn’t want to make the investment into the pastels with all the other things I do.

    1. Andrea,

      Thank you for taking the time to read this post and share your thoughts.

      I haven’t yet tried PanPastels, but that’s partly a product of time constraints. I have so little time to sit down and draw that I prefer to use the tools I know! I have to say that PanPastels fascinate me, though, especially since I recently learned that they can be used for under drawings!

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