Pan Pastels are often incorporated into coloured pencil paintings that are not destined to be entered into pure coloured pencil exhibitions or competitions.
Pan Pastels, a product from the USA, are small lidded plastic containers that contain very fine powdered pastel pigment. This is applied to the painting surface with small sponges. It will 'take' on cartridge paper and also on coloured papers with a non glossy surface. On most art papers it can also be erased with a standard plastic eraser.
This product has excellent lightfast ratings, and produces lower amounts of dust than regular stick pastels.
There are 92 colours available ranging from very light to extra dark. They can be bought individually or in sets of 5, 10, 20 or 80 colours. A number of mediums are also available including a colourless blender (more on that further down the page).
Although it can be used alone, for our purposes we will look at its use in conjunction with coloured pencils.
A popular use is for backgrounds, giving a faster result than using just a pencil point to fill a large area. Because it blends beautifully it is ideal for soft, 'bokeh' backgrounds with out of focus circles of light - similar to what a photographer would achieve with a camera and a wide open lens aperture.
As you can work on top of the Pan Pastels it makes sense to complete the background of a drawing in this manner first, and then continue with your coloured pencils rather than leaving the background till last.
Another use is to enable us to get good coverage of light pencil tones on coloured or black paper. Three examples are shown below. In each image...
As you will see using a thin layer of Pan Pastel offers opportunities for extending techniques on coloured papers.
This sample on Somerset Velvet (old Formula) shows the extreme blackness of the 280gsm velvet surfaced paper.
Heavy application of coloured pencil can result in the soft surface lifting as seen with the red sample.
You will see here that the Seawhite paper is harder and less black.
The surface has a shine and while it takes the Pan Pastel (and erases) equally well, it also takes the coloured pencil without lifting the paper surface. Looking at the samples side by side,however, the Seawhite is the less attractive and the Somerset and Stonehenge ( below ) look better.
The third sample has been done on the identical basis and photographed in identical light.
You can see that the Stonehenge 250 gsm paper sample has a good black surface which is soft enough to take good colour, smoother than the Somerset, but not as soft so pencil colour tends not to lift as easily. The Pan Pastel still erases well.
Stonehenge paper is manufactured by Legion Paper in the USA where it is also known as ‘Rising Stonehenge’ after the old mill that used to produce it. When the mill ceased to exist, Legion Paper spent a long time finding an alternative manufacturer who could produce the paper to the original standard. This is an expensive print making paper but well loved by coloured pencil enthusiasts. It is available in the UK from Jacksons Art.
The Pan Pastels range of products includes a colourless blending powder, which can be applied to colour on the paper to make it easier to blend.
Whilst developed for the pastels it has been found to be effective with wax type coloured pencil, as it breaks down the grip of the colour on the paper and converts the pigment to something more like pastel. This can then be blended and smoothed using foam tools or a protected finger. You would then need to fix the drawing in the same way as you would for pastels, to enable further layers of normal wax pencils to be added.
Although this works well on a dedicated pastel paper (like Pastelmat) when using it on smoother papers the surface will first need to be primed with a layer of fixative.
A coloured pencil artist correspondent in the UK, Deb Stanley, looked at the Pan Pastel blender and reported the following...
Alyona Nickelsen, in the USA, now markets her own brand of blending powder under the 'Brush & Pencil' brand along with a pair of dedicated fixatives which are made for using with this process. This may seem to be a very similar product to the Pan Pastels colorless blender, but Alyona tells us that the process of using and handling is different.
Alyona's products are available in the UK from a few mail order companies on the Internet.