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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Try This Fun Challenge!

     'After the Rain'              9x12            pastel           ©Karen Margulis         available $275

Have you ever painted a pastel painting with hard pastels only? If you have been painting with pastels for awhile then you probably have started a good collection of pastels. Most of us desire the softer pastels but we often begin our pastel journey with a set of the less expensive harder pastels such as Nupastels or even Rembrandts. But hard pastels can be just as much fun to use as the softer ones and you can certainly use them for the entire painting process. 

This week I challenged myself to paint using a set of 24 Nupastels. It was for my Patreon Monday demo and I was almost successful! I got about 98% of the painting finished with just these 24 hard pastels. In the end I did have to pull out some soft pastel for the finishing marks....but not because the hard pastels weren't good enough. It was only because the set of 24 had limited neutrals and I needed them to tone down the grasses!  Here is a photo of the set I used. Patreon members can access the full demo.


  • Choose the largest set you can afford. You need to have a good range of values from dark to light as well as a range of need some of the duller neutrals as well as the pure intense colors. You can modify colors by layering but it is nice to have a larger variety to begin with. 

  • Plan to remove any labels and break bigger sticks in half. You want to be able to use the pastels both on the side as well as the tips. Removing labels will allow you to paint and draw! Also Nupastels are too long for me so I like to break them in half so I can have more control. 

  • Choose the right paper. Hard pastels have more binder and less pigment so they tend to be more successful on sanded paper which grabs onto the pastel better. I do use them on all paper types but sanded papers will be less frustrating especially for beginners. 

  • I like to keep my hard pastels separate from the softer ones. I have a box of assorted hard pastels that I will use for underpaintings and finishing detail marks. I don't keep them in any kind of order. It is nice to have this little box available!

Below is the demo painting before I added a few marks with some softer Terry Ludwig pastels. You can see that the grasses and dirt were a bit too bright and artificial. I needed some neutrals to tone them down a bit!


If you have any hard pastels, challenge yourself to use ONLY the hard pastels for an entire painting. If you can't make note of what you were missing. Perhaps you can fill in your hard pastel collection for future paintings!

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