Medium and Hard Pastels
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What are the differences between hard pastels and soft pastels? Which is better?
The hardness or softness of a pastel depends on the amount of binder or filler in its makeup. There are advantages to each style of pastel.
What are the advantages of hard pastels?
Hard pastels have less pigment, and more binder. They are firmer to work with, but the colors are not as vivid. They are good for making crisp lines and details as they can be sharpened to a point. They are often used for outlining or adding intricate details to work done in other media. Because hard pastels are less vivid, some pastel artists use them for background color. Hard pastels are recommended for preliminary sketching.
What is the difference between hard/soft pastels and oil pastels?
The main difference is in the texture. Hard and soft pastels could be described as "chalky." Oil pastels might be described as having a "waxy" or crayon like consistency. They are cleaner, and do not rub off as much. They resist crumbling and do not pose any health risk in terms of breathing dust. Oil pastels are also more permanent and offer intense pigments. However, they are more difficult to blend and never fully harden. Therefore, oil pastels can be smudged in storage.