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!

The Best Way / How to Sharpen Your Pastel Pencils to a Super Sharp Point

Pastel pencils are loved by many, including myself, as they’re easy to blend and produce vibrant colours. But they’re also hated by many for their shockingly easy ability to break and snap, especially when trying to sharpen them with a conventional sharpener. This can be incredibly frustrating as they’re not cheap, I have sometimes in the past sharpened a whole pencil till it’s non existent without even being able to use it once, simply because sharpeners break them so easily. Well, I’m happy to inform you that I, nor you, no longer have to put up with this problem. For the past year, I have been sharpening my pastel pencils so quickly and effortlessly and with hardly any breakage. This method involves the use of a craft knife and a sanding machine and can be seen as quite dangerous if you’re not careful so I urge you to be. If you’re more comfortable with a safer option, I suggest using a sanding block / paper instead of the sanding machine to sharpen the pastel.

To begin the process, I take a craft knife and carefully shave off the wood casing of each pastel pencil. Using both of my thumbs, I guide the knife carefully down the wood casing, making sure to avoid the pastel nib. you will start to see the pastel emerge from the casing so you have an idea of how far to shave down. Just keep shaving small amounts off each time till you reach the pastel, this will take time to learn how to do properly, you may break the nib the first few times trying this. Just try to go slowly and patiently. This can be dangerous and will take some practice to get right, you need to be careful not to apply too much pressure to avoid snapping the pastel. Have a bin near by for the wood casings to fall into, hopefully most of the bits will fall in but just pick up the bits that fling off which always happens.

to achieve the sharp point, you may wish to use sand paper or even a nail file like so, firmly but lightly rub the tip back and forth at a very small angle to get a nice sharp point. This can be dusty so be conscious not to breathe any pastel dust in. try and hold it away from your face and over a bin to help. To safely sand the pastel to a point with my sander machine, I first make sure the outlet is attached to my hoover. I then turn my hoover on first before I start sanding anything down and leave it on until I’m finished, unfortunately this adds to all the noise. As the sander creates all the pastel dust, it is instantly taken away by the hoover and because of this I don’t even have to wear a mask in fear of breathing in pastel dust. You must make sure that your hoover is a good one that contains all the necessary filters such as HEPA so that it doesn’t just blow the dust back out into the room.

To begin, I hold my hand away from the machine as much as possible, lightly letting the pencil tip make contact with the moving sand paper and turning it around side to side. You can even use a pencil extender if you wish to keep your hand as far away from the machine as possible. I press the button down in quick concessions too, not only for extra safety so it isn’t at full power unnecessarily all the time but also for the loud noise that can be very disruptive. You may want to use headphones or ear plugs when doing this.

Sharpening pastel pencils this way has totally transformed my experience with pastel pencils. No longer is it frustrating and more costly than it should be. The process is a rather quick one after some careful practice and I can always rely on having a sharp pointed pastel pencil ready to go. My work has benefitted from this immensely too, before this method I would always try and work with blunt tips on my pastel pencil’s as I always dreaded going to sharpen them again in case they snapped off in the sharpener. Now, I always have the perfect sharp tips because sanding them down takes a few seconds with this method and rarely any breaks.