Pastel Course Materials

This blog post refers to the upcoming Learn to Draw with Pastel Course which begins on February 1st. Click here for details.

Pastel Pencils

For pastel pencils, I recommend Faber Castell Pitt Pencils and the colours suggested for this course are White, Black, Ivory, Light Flesh, Terracotta, Caput Mortem, Dark Naples Ochre, and a shade or two of green (however colours close to these will work fine!) Pastel Pencils are available to buy individually from

There are often cheaper sets of pastels available from discount stores and I find usually these contain a higher percentage of binder and less pigment making them a little more difficult to work with, but are a workable budget option. Although cheaper, just please be aware that they can turn people off using pastels. 


The paper needs to be thick/heavy enough to carry layers of pastel, also it needs to be uncoated (ruling out printer paper) and needs a slightly toothed (textured) surface to hold the pastel. Any pastel specific paper from budget shops such as The Works, Poundland etc (in the UK) I have always found adequate. My personal preference is Daler Rowney Ingres pastel paper, but there are lots of great brands available. For this course a lighter shade or white will work best.

Other Materials

The only other equipment needed is some masking/artist tape to fix the paper to a surface (drawing pad, smoother table, book, etc), and a standard pencil sharpener. A blending tool will be useful but definitely not necessary.

Learn to Draw with Pastel

A lot of people have been in touch to say they miss the group experience of the Facebook courses. For this reason, I am moving the Patreon monthly courses to Facebook groups in the hope it includes more people and those taking the courses can regain the group support they are missing out on.

Another benefit to hosting the courses on Facebook groups is that it would also allow people from beginner to higher levels to take the same courses as I can be present to give individual feedback.

February’s reference photograph

About the proposed courses

As a group, we would work from the same reference photograph over the course of a month. Above is a possible reference for the first month to be drawn with pastel, but references will generally be voted for and requested by course participants.

Working from a blank page without any drawing aids, the course will teach how to lay out the drawing, build up layers of pastel, choose and blend the right colours, learn about light and shading, add a background, learn about the materials you will be using and gain the ability to apply all of these skills to future drawings or paintings.

Each month’s drawing will be broken down into four stages, with a focus on each stage every week. I will work through each stage during the course, rather than pre-recorded, to allow requests for any techniques or stages to be delved into further. A video of the entire drawing will be available, along with shorter clips to show various techniques and a PDF booklet.

Course participants can share their progress, questions, comments and anything else in the group and I will be available for individual feedback throughout.

The next course start date is February 1st. You can sign up by clicking on the image below.

Tiska the Hungarian Vizsla

This portrait was drawn with Faber Castell Pitt Pastel Pencils and Unison soft pastel on Daler Rowney Ingres pastel paper. It measures 12″ x 8″ / A4 / 30cm x 20cm.

This was such a beautiful reference to work from. Tiska has such a sweet, delicate face it was lovely to have such great lighting on her reference which allowed me to capture her. You can view some more Vizsla portraits here.

View a time lapse of Tiska’s portrait
Tiska’s complete portrait alongside the reference.
Commission a portrait from £18.50

5 Common Struggles when Drawing or Painting Dogs

1. Black Dogs

This is the the most common complaint I hear when teaching, and a reason a lot of people think a portrait of their dog might be impossible.

Drawing or painting a black dog is no more difficult that a dog of any other colour. Once the reference photograph has enough light, especially on the face, then there should be no issue and the same is true for any coloured dog. Making the most of every available colour and tone, and every dot of light reflection really pays off when drawing a black dog – it’s always a surprise just how many colours are hidden in the coat!

2. White Dogs

This is such a similar issue to the last point, and one that pops up almost as often.

White dogs are never white! The white reflects every surrounding colour, and the only truly white areas are those which catch the light. If drawing with pencil or charcoal, don’t be afraid of large blank areas if that’s how they appear on your reference. Stay true to what you see, and avoid the urge to fill in every part of your paper or canvas.

3. Difficult Reference

Working from a blurred, dark or very small reference requires extra attention and an acceptance that the finished piece might not be as realistic as one drawn or painted using a clearer reference.

The most common mistake when drawing from a bad reference is to try to invent what’s not there. Focus on the features and make the most of any light available. Sadly, often these references are all that is available because the dog has passed away, so it is crucial to stay true to what you can see, even if it is not as much as you would like to.

4. Hairy Dogs

The trick to drawing or painting hairy dogs is to see the overall form of the hair as it is, rather than attempting to add it on afterwards. Hair bunches together into shapes, rather than individual strands. Only wispy, stray hairs can be captured individually.

5. Unusual Poses

The logical thing might seem to try to mark unusual poses or features, but make the most of them! These give the subject movement, character and individuality so make these the focus of your portrait.

For example if the dog has no eyes, take the time to focus on the closed lids. If they are pulling a goofy face, capturing this accurately will bring a huge amount of individual character.

I hope you have found this blog post useful! For more art tips and discussion please join my Facebook Group or visit my website.

Rory the Hungarian Vizsla

This portrait was drawn with Faber Castell Pastel Pitt Pencil on Daler Rowney Ingres paper and measures 16″ x 12″ / 40 x 30cm.

I have drawn or painted so many Vizsla portraits and for a breed with virtually no variation in colour or markings it always amazes me how different they all are! Rory was no exception, this was such a beautiful reference to work from.

View a time-lapse of Rory’s portrait
The complete portrait alongside the reference photograph.
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French Bulldog

This portrait was drawn with Faber Castell Pastel Pitt Pencil on Daler Rowney Ingres paper and measures 16″ x 12″ / 40 x 30cm.

The reference photograph for this portrait was quite blurred, but the large paper size allowed me to add in a higher level of detail.

Timelapse video of this portrait

Jonathan the Ginger Tabby

This portrait was drawn with Faber Castell Pastel Pitt Pencil on Daler Rowney Ingres paper and measures 16″ x 12″ / 40 x 30cm.

Before adding any detail to Joseph’s portrait, I added a light coloured layer of pastel pencil to help keep as much light as possible throughout the portrait, as I always think Ginger Tabbies seem to have their own internal glow!

Click below to view a time-lapse of this portrait.

Jospeh, Pastel 16″ x 12″

Blending Tool

For anyone who draws with pastel, have you ever tried using a blending tool?

I find mine really great for areas of finer detail, the flat rubber or chamois end presses the pastel down and allows for much sharper detail. It’s not something I use all the time, I don’t find it useful for larger areas, or for landscapes or anything which needs that lovely pastel ‘fluffiness’ such as wisps of hair or coat texture, and it may not suit everyone’s style.

Below is a photo of mine, it’s had a lot of use, excuse the shabby state of it!.

Blending tool

For this portrait I have built up a couple of base layers with ivory pastel pencil (which is more like a light cream colour from Faber Castell) to bring lots of light in as Ginger Tabbies always seem to me to have their own inner glow. I won’t use the blending tool for the main areas of the coat, only finer details where I want the blending to be more accurate.

I also use a blending tool for some smaller portraits, especially if there is fine detail or intensity that I don’t want to lose. Rather than layering with lightly coloured base layers, I started with the darker colours, flattening each down with the flat end of the tool. It allows me to build up lots of fine layers without losing accuracy, which is especially important for a smaller portrait when there isn’t as much space to move and blend freely – this one measured 8″ x 6″ / 20 x 15cm. You can see a time-lapse from start to finish here:

Dogue de Bordeaux

This portrait measured 8″ x 6″ / 20 x 15cm and is drawn with Faber Castell Pastel Pencil and Unison soft pastel on Daler Rowney Ingres Pastel Paper.

This was my first time drawing this beautiful breed, so I was really excited to start! With such a small paper size it was difficult to capture the finer details, so I used the more vibrant soft pastels to bring highlight the features.

Watch a time-lapse of this drawing.
Commission a pastel portrait from £75
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