Pan Pastel Review
Pan Pastel Review
Since I started with colored pencils, I have been absolutely fascinated with the work pastel artists can produce, however, when I very first tried pastels it was a disaster. I soon discovered the importance of good pastel paper and good quality pastels.
I have reviewed pastel pencils and pastel blocks, all of which have their unique uses and are so important to the pastel artist. However, not very long ago, PanPastels exploded onto the art scene, with a mysterious look of women’s makeup pot’s, they soon become incredibly popular in their own right.
I was so fortunate that PanPastel contacted me and asked if I would like to test and review a beginner set they sell, I was over the moon and so excited to be finally trying this new medium type out. After reading this review and hopefully watching the speed drawing I completed with the PanPastels, if you are interested in getting into PanPastel, you really should check out the PanPastel web site, they have so much easy to follow information and sets to suit all artists.
The company was formed via the partnership of Ladd Forsline and Bernadette Ward, it was mainly due to the fact that the pastel scene hadn’t really changed or improved much throughout the last couple hundred years and they both had ideas and plans, resulting in PanPastels
Pan Pastel Characteristics
One of the first things that I noticed and found incredibly helpful and professional was, when I received the set, I was sent some worksheets and a PanPastel booklet. The worksheets are fantastic, they show you how to use the PanPastels, blending and mixing as well as step by step instructions for some simple art projects they also offer more complicated projects for the slightly more advanced artists.
The booklet goes into how the company was formed and a few techniques with the PanPastels and then toward the back of the book, they have listed all of the products they sell, individual PanPastels, Sets, applicators to lay the pastel with and a color chart listing all the full range of pigments they have available.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the PanPastels themselves look like make up trays, however there is good reason they come in this format as opposed to the sticks and cylinders of pastel you may traditionally be aware of. With pastels such as blocks and cylinders, anything that is shaped, has binders and fillers mixed in with the pigment to allow the manufacture the ability to shape the pastel. With the PanPastels however, with the pigment being in their own individual clear plastic trays, no binding agents or fillers is needed.
Due to the absence of binders and fillers in PanPastels, this means that each tray you get is almost 100% pigment, giving you that vibrant, rich pigment medium so many pastel artists have embraced and really come to love.
Another characteristic of the PanPastel is the various applicators used for applying the pastel to your surface of choice. It is actually this feature of the PanPastels that makes them slightly more appealing to those artists who simply cannot stand the texture and feel of pastel powder on their hands, they either don’t like the physical sensation of the mixture on their skin or just don’t like the mess which can accumulate during the course of the artists painting.
The various applicators that can be used with the PanPastels are shaped and different sized sponges, again, if you go directly to PanPastels website, they provide everything you will need to get started with the medium or simply top up on your supplies. There is also various sized plastic palette knives and spatula’s with removable sponge applicators. You can also use the traditional tools for blending that one might ordinarily use for pastel blocks and pencils, tools such as the rubber smudgers or paper blending stumps.
There are so many benefits to using PanPastels over the traditional pastel medium, although not to the extent of making the other pastel mediums redundant. Perhaps the most common performance of the PanPastel is covering large areas in a relatively fast time. For colored pencil artists this is a hugely appealing aspect of the medium, filling in large areas with colored pencil can be incredibly time consuming and dare I say it, tedious. On the speed drawing and video review that I have created, you can see just how fast this can be achieved. Even though the speed drawing has been sped up considerably, in the actual review video you will see it more clearly.
Not only can filling in large areas be achieved fast, but this can also be accomplished with accuracy and beautiful results. Skylines and beach scenes often require a seamless gradient appearance and this can be accomplished effortlessly with PanPastels.
There is obviously no drying time required with PanPastels, however, the medium, when applied to the surface, can have water applied, giving an almost watercolor effect. One of the reasons an artist might use this technique would be to cover large areas in layers whilst maintaining the tooth and texture of the paper. When lots of layers of soft pastels and PanPastel is the softest pastel you will find, is applied, the tooth of the paper becomes filled in, making the process of adding detail with pastel pencils or blocks difficult.
PanPastel is a medium that generally works well with many other mediums, so many artists use the medium for backgrounds in work they would otherwise have used markers, watercolor paint, colored pencils etc. The same has to be said with adding detail to a PanPastel painting, as previously mentioned, I spoke about using pastel pencils or blocks, which are fantastic tools for detail, non the less, colored pencils are another excellent alternative for adding detail on top of a PanPastel painting. For me personally I prefer to use a colored pencil with a slightly harder cored pencil for working on top of PanPastel, perhaps something like the Faber Castell Polychromos, the Caran d’Ache Pablo or the Derwent Artist or ProColor. Softer colored pencils will of course work but I tend to get better results with the brands mentioned.
Although for me personally, I have preferred to use PastelMatt paper, PanPastels are so versatile, they can be applied to pretty much any surface and still achieve good results. The smoother the paper however, the less layering you will be able to do, but layering may not be a technique you employ in your art work in which so much more options have just appeared to you.
There is one particular learning curve that colored pencil artists in particular will have to get over. As colored pencil artists, we are always looking for the perfect opaque white archival tool for our work. Failing the search for such an illusive beast, the only alternative is to leave the white of the paper were you want bright highlights, which in itself is not always an easy process. Pastels however allow the artist the ability to add highlights onto a dark background. Should you apply a black PanPastel background to depict a night sky, you can achieve the illusion of stars by simply using a white pastel pencil or PanPastel applicator. Whilst it is so refreshing to have this option, it is still a difficult concept to grasp after years of protecting the highlights, but of course this is more to do with me than the actual product.
Bristol Vellum is a nice surface to use, particularly if your art requires a lot of detail, Marker paper can also be used but with this surface layers will be very limited. Other papers that can be used are Watercolor, PastelBoard, UART Sanded paper and even canvas. Wood can also be used as a surface to work on, however this is a surface I have not tried at all.
PanPastel Lightfast Ratings
I am not really sure why, but when I first discovered PanPastels I didn’t really consider the issue of lightfastness, I guess I just thought that with it being a powder consistency, the medium would not be protected in this way. I know this sounds absolutely crazy and it is, PanPastels do have lightfast qualities and excellent ratings at that. On the PanPastel website, they have provided a color chart of all the pigments available and under each color is printed a star system indicating that particular pigments lightfast qualities.
PanPastel Sets Available And Pricing
There is a total of 92 colors in the PanPastel range, 80 of the colors are are your classic type and the remaining 12 are metallics and Pearlescent. Also according to PanPastel, the single jars in which the PanPastels are contained, hold 9ml of color or 0.30floz, which equates to approximately 40% more pastel than leading brands pastel sticks.
Some of the sets available are the 5 Color Sets, these sets comprise of 5 Colors, a storage jar, 1 soft mini applicator, 2 soft knife covers and 1 soft sponge bar. These sets are perfect for beginners. The 5 Color set cost approximately £30 here in the UK, in the US the set costs $25 and in EU €22
The 10 Color sets comprise of 10 colors, 2 storage jars, 2 soft mini applicators, 4 soft knife covers and 2 soft sponge bars. Some of the color schemes in this rage are Seascape, Drawing, Extra Darks Cool and Extra Darks Warm. A set such as this would cost approximately £62 here in the UK, in the US $39 and in the Europe €41
The 20 Color Sets comprise of 20 colors, 4 storage jars, 3 soft mini applicators, 2 soft sponges, 1 large oval sponge, 2 soft knives and 10 soft knife covers. The 20 Color sets here in the UK will cost approximately £117, in the US $90 and in Europe €101
There are other sets and combinations available, some sets put together by Pastel artists from YouTube etc, the tools can also be purchased in different formats as well, it is well worth visiting the PanPastel website to see just how many color sets and kits are available. It is also worth mentioning that the prices mentioned above are from the partner stores PanPastel have linked on their website, sets can also be purchased from PanPastel via Amazon and the links I have provided regarding UK prices are to Amazon.
Pan Pastel Conclusion
I completely understand all the hype and love for this medium on the internet, PanPastels tick a lot of boxes, boxes that artists have been requesting to be ticked for a long time. I loved using PanPastels, although the ability to add highlights at will, wherever and whenever you like as opposed to the completely opposite process for colored pencil artists, has taken a few trial projects to get my head around.
The pigments in the PanPastels are so pure and rich that it is an absolute joy to watch a painting come together. I originally tried to paint a bird, but half way through decided that I still had a bit to learn regarding the medium and thought it would be better start on something slightly less complicated. This was when I turned to my botanical passion and drew an Apple. Don’t forget to see the PanPastels demonstrated check out my speed drawing and to see the PanPastels from another perspective check out my YouTube video review