Pan Pastels for Botanical & Natural Science Illustrators

I recently received a question from a botanical artist about using PanPastels. I decided that the best thing to do was to do a blog post and open it up for discussion. So here goes:

I discovered PanPastels at a trade show in 2009. I have always admired pastels for their brilliant pigments, but hated the dust and potential health hazards they can cause. I was also concerned that I could not get enough detail with them for tight work. When I saw the demonstration I was hooked! They have successfully made the pastels almost dustless and they can even be erased with ease from the paper. They work beautifully in conjunction with watercolor. I used them in my book, Mother Monarch to blend skies and create clouds. I also used them to add a touch of velvet to the butterfly's wings.

There is a great You Tube Video on the different Sofftt Tools you can use to apply the pastels. I used the larger sponges to make the skies and clouds. They are wonderful to block in large areas. I then used the smallest applicator to apply the smaller details, but found that they did not give me the definition I was looking for. I was able to use a fine pointed tortillion stump to get some of the finer details and used watercolor pencil to get even sharper detail. You can see this in my honey bee depicted here.

Whenever I get excited about a new medium I want to jump in and buy it all. I have learned from experience that this habit is getting expensive!!!! They offer the colors in sets, but I prefer to make my color choices myself and this is always based on the brightest light fast colors I can find. In order to keep costs down I make my color choices based on a limited palette. I start with about 12 colors: green yellow, orange yellow, orange red, violet red, violet blue, green blue, PURPLE, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, pthalo blue, white and black. I like the palette to be as bright as possible because I know that I can always mute down any color easily. After buying the initial 12 colors I soon discovered that I needed more and greens were very important. I bought a variety of greens and recently they added a new line of darker colors which I have found were needed to extend the range of the colors.

The company has also come up with tray palettes which I highly recommend. The individual colors come in round screw top and bottom plastic containers that can be stacked. I tried this and found that the threading was a bit difficult and it was a pain to keep screwing and stacking the colors. The trays fit 10 or 20 pans in them and are easily stacked making a great and easy way to use.

If you are thinking about buying PanPastels I hope that I have convinced you to do so! They are a great buy, safe to use and lots of fun!

Do you have any experience with PanPastels? If so, please let us know what you think.