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Friday, August 03, 2012

How to Sharpen a Pastel Pencil

'Jewels'      5x7          pastel          ©Karen Margulis  available on Etsy  $45
I rarely use pastel pencils in my work.  When I was new to pastels I would buy sets of pastel pencils on Ebay so I have quite a few of them. But I found that they didn't suit my painting style so I resorted to using them to sign my name.  I stopped using pastel pencils for even this task when I had trouble getting them sharpened.  I tried every kind of sharpener I came across and had no success. Most of the time the pastel tip would crumble or break off in the sharpener. Often the hole wasn't the right size and nothing would happen.
So I gave up and put my box of pastel pencils on the shelf. Until now that is!

'Just Two'               5x7             pastel          

A few months ago a read a tip about sharpening pastel pencils. I apologize but I didn't write down where I saw so I can't give proper credit but I want to pass this tip on since it is so good!  Instead of fancy sharpeners, all you need is a sharpener for makeup pencils. They are made to sharpen the delicate and soft tips of products such as eyeliner, lip liner and eyeshadow. These products are softer and more delicate than the softest pastel pencil. The sharpener can handle these products without destroying them. It makes sense!
But how do they really perform?

My Secret Weapon...Mary Kay Makeup pencil sharpener!
I had forgotten all about this tip until I bought a bag of travel size toiletries at the thrift store. You can get some nice unused products from upscale hotels in these bags!  As luck would have it one of my bags had a makeup pencil sharpener by Mary Kay. Ahhh yes! I tried it out on a pastel pencil and the results were amazing. A nice sharp point with no breaking or crumbling. It was a wonderful discovery! And best of all I had only paid $1.00 for the entire bag. I haven't tried any other brands but here is a link to Amazon's top rated makeup pencil sharpeners.

Now I have a box of sharpened pastel pencils and I even put them to use on these bird nest paintings. No more broken and dull pastel pencils!


Jo Castillo said...

Thanks, I had just been sharpening them by hand with a razor blade, in an old holder like a window scraper.

Camille Day said...

Karen, this is great and I can't wait to try it out! I have really struggled with this problem and, like you, have tried every sharpener on the market....except this one! Thanks so much!

Karen said...

Thanks Jo & Candy! I haven't tried any other brand besides the Mary Kay one I have so I 'd love to hear if you have success! The MK one works great!

Urania said...

Thanks so much Karen. I had a perfect sharpener years back. Lost it in a move. I thought it was the last one on the planet. Thrilled to know about where to find another one that will not destroy the point at each sharpening. Now I can put away my 'kitchen knife'. Joy! Joy! Again Big Thanks! Urania

Karen said...

Your Welcome Urania! I hope you find one that works as well as the Mary Kay sharpener I found. It had been so nice to get a nice sharp pastel pencil!

angela j simpson said...

I've never really tried pastel pencils - but struggle to get the detail I want with thick soft Unison sticks! I love these bird nests - just what I wanted to do myself once I had sorted out some reference photos - I'd even set a challenge for my photographer friend to take some for me. Now i know how to sharpen them I shall get some !

Victoria Kopjanski said...

I recently purchased pastel chalk pencils. Is there any special way to use them? Alsoi are they the same as pastel chalk sticks? I am new to art world and loving it. Thank you in advance for any tips, tricks and answers.
Vicki Kopjanski

Karen said...

Victoria, Thnaks for reading my blog. I really don't use pastel pencils in my work so I don't have any good tips. They are the same as chalk sticks only in pencil form so they can be used with other pastels. They are harder than many pastels so are good for details and for blending areas. Have fun!!