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Soft Pastel Pictures - Three Apples

Updated on May 31, 2018


This project will show you how I produced a picture of three apples on a table using soft pastels and coloured textured paper.

The art project took about 4 hours to complete. I first searched through the Internet for some inspiration and came across some images of apples that I liked, I then stored the images on my computer to refer back to. When I was ready to proceed I called up the images on the monitor and used them as a reference point to make a new composition and using it to produce a digital photograph which I would use as my new art reference.

This hub shows the stages taken to produce a picture using soft pastels on a coloured textured paper.

Some of my techniques come from the Encyclopedia of Pastel Techniques book written by Judy Martin and The Pastel Book written by Bill Creevy. Both books were extremely helpful although they did not help me with my lack of drive and laziness when it came to actually taking any action and doing some art instead of reading about it.

Soft pastel Picture of Three Apples

Getting Prepared

Before I could start the picture I prepared a work space to use, Not having a studio I usually end up using the dining room table to work on. The materials and paper are placed out on the table in a manner that will allow me to get easy access to them, getting prepared at the start can save a lot of time messing about trying to find things later. I try and be consistent in the way that I work which makes it easier especially in confined spaces.

I first started the project by searching for images to use. I used google image search for ideas and inspiration, collecting these images and storing then on a computer for future reference. Next I used the images found on the Internet to guide me and help me decide on a new composition and then I took some photographs of my own and put the image on a digital picture frame to view and use as a reference point.

My art project was ready and I sketched it out with a B3 pencil to get familiar with the subject on some good quality drawing paper and I practiced making the picture at a reduced size in colour using coloured pencil.

When I felt happy with the rough sketches I then started with the final full size version using a textured coloured paper and soft pastels which I had purchased from the local art shop.

Due to a lack of experience it usually takes a number of attempts to get a result worth looking at.

Art Reference, 3 Apples

The 3 Apples digital Photo

3 Apples digital photograph was taken with my AGFA  DC-1003s digital camera, I illuminated the apples using standard light bulbs, the photo was taken in the evening. The camera was fitted to a tripod to make sure I could get a shot without any movement. the image was then edited a little in Corel Photo-paint or similar software package.

I then saved the image onto a memory stick and it was then placed into a digital picture frame for viewing.

The image was then used as my art reference for the soft pastel picture.

Draw the Profile, the outlines

The base layer

The profile and Base Layer goes on First

I used a grey coloured paper Daler Ingres Pastel paper, paper size 18" x 12". Image size 12" x9.5". To produce the outline of apples I used the corner of a soft pastel quickly getting an idea of the sizes of the objects, scaling up from a photo I try to keep it simple. Enlarge by a scale of 1:2 or 1:3 or 1:4. What I mean here is if you measure one measurement on the photo times it by say 2 and you get the enlargement. You can scale up with anything, use your finger, the width of a pencil, a length of paper or even a ruler.

The base layer of soft pastel was sketched out using the side of the soft pastels. With the main base colour applied in a loose fashion I decided on the proportions. Working with the mid tones and the main body of colour and then slowly building up the layers.

Build up Layers

Final Stage. The highlights, Shadows and detail

Build up the layers.

Gradually adding some layers and depth with a small selection of colours. Trying to avoid using the black where ever possible. Building up the layers with as little variety of colours as possible, using each colour layered over the other to make colour changes. A blue over a yellow to get the green. Add a layer of red over the yellow to get the orange. Avoiding using black at all costs.

Final Stage. Highlights, shadows and Detail.

To finish the picture ad the shadows with reflex blue. To get the highlights I make a hole in a small sheet of paper, get a soft good quality eraser and use the hole in the paper as a stencil for removing some of the pastel.

If the edges of some of the objects are mixed up a bit too much I cut up some tracing paper with a scalpel and then use the tracing paper as a stencil to help create a sharper edge to the objects. This works really well if a defined edge is required and you don't want to use a hard pastel pencil to get a defined edge.

Finish off the image by spray fixing the surface. If I can not find the correct spray fixative in my art box I usually go and grab my wife's hair spray can and use that instead.


Extra Notes

To get a crisp edge to a soft pastel picture I first mark edge with a pencil to determine the size of the picture. I usually leave at least 30mm border around the edge. Use masking tape to make a frame around the picture and remove it at the end of the project, this will give a crisp edge to the picture.

When working with soft pastels I keep a sheet of plain paper to lay over the image where my hand is to stop it from smudging the work.

I try to use only five or six pastels. A red, yellow, blue, cobalt blue and white. I try to work with these colours to get the colours for my picture.

When the image is finished I look at it through a mirror. Looking at the picture through a mirror usually shows up some of the errors. Looking at a picture for too long your mind deletes the mistakes and you can't see them yourself. Look at a picture in a mirror and mistakes become clear.

I also tape a clear sheet of paper over the picture to keep it clean and prevent damage from smudging. The picture is then usually put away in the folder a brought out at a later date.


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    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina Crawford 

      6 years ago from Dartmoor

      Really good tips here. I hadn't thought about using a paper template to keep things sharp. it's the bain of a pastel artists life trying to get sharp edges. Rating up and following you.

    • carlarmes profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Bournemouth, England

      I used Reeves pastels to produce this picture if my memory serves me correctly

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      what make of pastels did you use for your picture?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Give me some more. I want to eat them


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