What to do with soft pastel dust? Tips and tricks for safely removing pastel dust from your artwork

Dry pastel as a media has very few downfalls in my opinion, but one of the main issues pastel artists face is the extra dust debris that is left on the paper. This dust is not only annoying and obstructive to your work, but is also harmful to your lungs. I noticed over time that blowing the pastel dust off my work would slowly start to ruin my artwork. what’s worse is that it would also make my lungs wheeze as I unknowingly breathed the dust in. Artworks become ruined when you blow on the excess dust due to some of that dust falling over your work, getting re-placed to different parts of your art and sticking where it shouldn’t be. This is very easy to see if you blow a lot of black excess pastel dust on light paper, it will usually leave a feint black layer.

As you blow the pastel dust around your artwork over and over again, you’re actually depositing all kinds of unwanted colours to different parts of your work and they’ll start to make your drawing look flat and muddy. More importantly, as you blow the dust, the first think you’re likely to do is intake a deep breath of air to re-fill your lungs, sucking all of that pastel dust in that you’ve just blown and disturbed into the air around you.

How do I deal with pastel dust? Short answer: I carefully hoover it up. At first I used a small handheld hoover, this wasn’t the greatest option. As it was small it didn’t have a HEPA filter so the dust would just fly straight out the other end and still be breathable. It also didn’t pick up everything from the paper as it wasn’t powerful enough. I now use a household hoover, the high majority come with HEPA filters so they are sure to catch all of the fine pastel dust particles. When hoovering up the excess dust, You’re going to want to have your artwork taped down. Be careful not to hold the nozzle to close to your work, as the powerful suction will try to attach itself to your drawing. I learnt that the hard way by being left with a lovely circular nozzle mark left on a commissioned portrait I was working hard on. It may take some practice, but hold the hoover nozzle about 10cm away from your artwork, sort of waving it around to all the area covered with dust.

Hope this helps!