Organizing Pan Pastels

Pan Pastels are a wonderful dry painting medium. They blend with ease and erase completely with a common eraser. For someone just stretching their wings into painterly tools, they create goof-proof painterly effects.

Because I love these tools so much, and because I just posted a Christmas card that I made today which utilized them – I thought I would show you how I organize them for use in my studio.

I purchase Pan Pastels in either individual containers or a stacked set.

Pan Pastels in individual containers or sets.

I prefer buying them in these options compared to buying them already in the palettes, because it gives me extra containers that I can use for the tool sets. I do buy the palette containers, but empty, so that I can put the colors in them myself in the order that I want. I don’t tend to want them in a rainbow assortment as seen below:

Pan Pastel Palette assortment

Pan Pastels are labeled with all kinds of wonderful information. The key to understanding how to blend and shade with them is to understand this labeleing. In simplest terms, you get a hue, and then you have a tint (mixed with white) and two shades (mixed with varying amounts of black).

Pan Pastel labels

If you look across the rows, you will see that four colors are for each hue. From left to right, and Dark to Light:

  • Extra Dark Shade,
  • Shade
  • the pure Hue,
  • Tint

For example:

  • Phthalo Green Ex Dark
  • Phthalo Green Shade
  • Phthalo Green
  • Phthalo Green Tint

For a simple leaf, I might start with the pure Hue, then color one side with it’s Shade and add shine or light to the other side with its Tint. Finally, add some contrast in the most shadowed portions with Extra Dark. But that is only using a single color application. I typically blend these colors and for a leaf, oftentimes I pull out Yellow Green to liven them up.

Christmas Card with Pan Pastels

But there are lots of wonderful videos about how to use them. Let’s get back to how to store them.

I put the colors 4-across in rows, in empty palettes, by hue as you saw in the labels picture, above.

Otherwise I have a couple of palette that I purchased, pre-loaded, for the sparkle/pearl and metallic colors – which don’t follow that scheme. That is the small palette on top.

I take the pans out of the stacks, put an assortment of tools for the set of four in each hue into a base container and label it for that hue. I put the lid on that container and put it in my tool box.

Assorted Sofft Tools
Sofft Tools, sorted by hue.

I keep a set of shaped tool handles, extra Sofft sponges and some fantastix blenders for mixing colors in the container.

You can purchase the empty Sofft Storage Tool jars, usually three to a stack with a lid.

I use extra lids for the other colors only for colors in the palettes that tend to have a lot of fallout, or any of my colors that have taken a beating and are broken up. The palette lids still fit over the top and nothing gets wasted.

Pulverized Pan Pastel, lidded inside of palette.

I hope that has given you an introduction to one of my favorite coloring mediums.

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