Pastel Tutorial | Broken Color Techniques

Learn how to create broken color effects from Robert Carsten in this pastel tutorial from the October 2011 issue of Pastel Journal.


When my goal is to create broken color effects in a painting or to create situations in which color complements peek through final layers, I’ll often start with a pastel underpainting. I use a sanded paper—Art Spectrum or Wallis, for instance—and cover the surface with a variety of pastel colors, which I then wash down with alcohol or odorless mineral spirits. I let it dry and then proceed with painting, allowing these preplanned or surprise colors to come through in scattered areas, creating quite interesting color techniques.


Pastel Tutorial: Early Summer Day


"Early Summer Day," Step 1 | Pastel Tutorial

“Early Summer Day,” Step 1

Step 1:

Working on a piece of Wallis pastel paper taped to a work board, I begin with harder  pastels, such as Nupastels, to scribble various colors onto the surface. I wanted my initial colors to contrast with those of my preplanned, plein air subject, so I used mostly
complements or split complements to the colors in my subject.









"Early Summer Day," Step 2 | Pastel Tutorial

“Early Summer Day,” Step 2

Step 2:

I wash over the colors, using a brush and isopropyl alcohol. To prevent buckling, I pick up the tape’s edges (while the surface is still wet) and pull the paper taut, then re-secure the tape back to the board.










"Early Summer Day," Step 3 | Color Techniques

“Early Summer Day,” Step 3

Step 3:

When dry, I apply more pastel, this time using softer pastels such as Terry Ludwig, Sennelier, Mount Vision and Great American Art Works, to achieve a greater density of color.












"Early Summer Day," Step 4 | Color Techniques

“Early Summer Day,” Step 4

Step 4:

Then, I brush over the pastel again with alcohol and let it dry. I like to use a fan brush, wiping it clean with a paper towel before going over a different color. The fan brush gives me more nuance and control at transitions when I’m painting with color.










"Early Summer Day," Step 5 | Pastel Tutorial

“Early Summer Day,” Step 5

Step 5:

Next, I use Nupastels again to create strokes and add delicate nuances of color. I spray the surface with a light coat of workable fixative before continuing the painting, which helps prevent my ground colors from slurring with my top strokes. These underlying colors
come through, creating a broken color effect in the loosely applied overpainting.












In this landscape, which I painted over a pastel underpainting washed with alcohol, you can see the vibrant underlying colors showing through in places, which invigorates the surface and amplifies the painting’s overall impact.

"Early Summer Day" | Pastel Tutorial

“Early Summer Day” (pastel, 17½x11½) by Robert Carsten



Find the full article, which includes Robert Carsten‘s pastel tutorial on color techniques, in the October 2011 issue of Pastel Journal.


Looking for more pastel pointers? How about these on Visual Bridging or these on Hatching, Cross-Hatching and Feathering from Richard McKinley!


View more vibrant, impressionistic works by John Pierce Barnes in this online gallery.



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