Painting Fine Detail in Pastel

written by Sophie | Beginners, Pastel

Painting fine detail in pastel is a subject that is not often discussed. You would be forgiven to think, that the crude and often chunky pastel sticks do not lend themselves too well to hyper realism or fine detail. It is hard to pinpoint exactly where your marks will go on the paper, and stick don't have a sharp point such as a pencil or a pen. 

Sophie Ploeg Pastel

So how do you create fine detail in a pastel painting?

Well there are lots of ways of doing this. Many artists have developed their own way of creating detail in pastel art. It pays off to explore different ways and see which one suits you best and which one suits your subject matter best. 

Perhaps you prefer working with pastel pencils (which you can sharpen easily) or perhaps you don't mind sharpening your pastel sticks on some sandpaper so that you can work with a sharp fine edge or point. 

These two methods work really well. There are plenty more ways to do this, but I'd like to show you one method of creating detail that I like and often use. 

Creating Detail by Layering

My method requires you to layer your pastels a little: you put down one mark, for example a dark colour. You then go over it with a lighter colour but you leave a small bit of dark uncovered. That small area is your fine detail!

So in order to paint something really small, like the fold of an eyelid, you can simply paint around it and over it, but leave the narrow small area that you need exposed. You can use this method for anything, from painting eye lashes to the leaves on a tree or the pattern on a teapot. 

In this little clip I show you how to do it for an eye lid. The clip is taken from my new pastel painting eCourse The Pastel Place. If you would like to learn more pastel painting techniques, then why not join The Pastel Place for a deep dive into pastel?

Published: May 9, 2019

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  1. I am self taught pastel artist and learn different techniques on the fly and by accident many times. Always looking for new tips and ideas to help me improve as an artist!

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