Pastel Pointers | A Tour of Terry Ludwig Pastels

terry ludwig pastels

A display of pastels is like a candy store for artists!

Most artists who work in pastel become addicted to the medium. Those magical sticks of pure pigment are so luscious; it’s like candy for artists. This is why the participants of the biennial International Association of Pastel Societies (IAPS) convention affectionately refer to the vendor’s tradeshow as the “Candy Store.” As artists enter the tradeshow, they become the proverbial child in the sweet shop. Eyes dart from one tempting stick to the next; mouths water with anticipation; and ultimately one of each is wanted!

Recently, I was fortunate to be instructing in the Denver Colorado area and was able to tour, along with the workshop participants, one of the most popular pastel manufacturers in the United States: Terry Ludwig Pastels. To see Terry’s pastels displayed is to understand the association to a candy store. Boxes of every hue of the rainbow in various value ranges are set out in a tabletop sea of temptation. They simply demand attention. Terry began experimenting with the manufacture of pastels in 1995 to fill a void. He was frustrated with the lack of color options commercially available and felt there were too few choices when it came to very soft pastels. The results of his efforts is a line of more than 400 uniformly consistent and highly pigment rich, intense colors. Handcrafting these pastels from a broad range of quality pigments with minimal addition of binders, produces one of the softest, velvety pastel sticks available on the market today.
terry ludwig

Pastel-maker Terry "Willy Wonka" Ludwig

My tour began with Terry showing the containers of pure pigment and explaining how they are often combined to produce exotic variations. Finding and retaining good quality pigment sources is always a major concern and the prices are as volatile as any other commodity. Next he explained the importance of keeping precious records so future batches of pastels would be consistent. He demonstrated the machinery used in the mixing process and the wooden cradle forms used to form the pigment paste as it dries into the unique square shaped stick he is known for. Once dry, the sticks are carefully sanded to a smooth uniform edge, making them perfect for thick broad strokes as well as thin precise line work.

Having a tour of Terry Ludwig Pastels is like finding the golden certificate that gained entrance into the scrumptious world of the Willy Wonka Chocolate factory in the 1971 movie. Come to think of it, Terry just may be the Willy Wonka of pastels, making sticks that are filled with wonder and creative possibilities. So, if you find yourself in the Denver, Colo., area, be sure to stop by the Ludwig facilities (at 8113 W. Brandon Dr. in Littleton). Even if you don’t have the golden certificate to gain entrance into the backroom operations, the candy store out front is worth the trip. Or visit his website at for an online “tour.”
Photos courtesy of Randy Jensen.

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