Used since the Renaissance, pastels are colors in stick form made from pigments mixed with a binder, usually gum Arabic or chalk (chemical binders like methyl cellulose were developed in the 20th century). Derived from the Latin for “paste,” the name pastel was coined in France, where the medium became fashionable for portraiture during the 18th century. Pastels range from hard to soft, depending on the amount of binder (the more, the harder). Hard pastels are dust-free and best for drawing outlines or details; as with all pastels except those with oil-based binders, they require fixative to prevent smudging. If you’re looking for a pastel or color stick in the firm category, check out our list of recommendations below.
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