Pa i n t i n g


w i t h Pa s t e l s

essential techniques
for brilliant effects

Maggie Price



58 Chapter 3

So What, Exactly, Is a Soft Pastel?

Creating Realistic Shadows

How Should I Arrange My Pastels?
Important Techniques: Underpainting

Uncover the many ways that shadows help describe forms

Important Techniques: Applying Turpenoid

while enhancing the appearance of light, making your

Important Techniques: Rubbing and Blending

paintings more believable.

Important Techniques: Lifting Off Color
Important Techniques: Working From Reference Photos

86 Chapter 4

Painting Lifelike Reflections

16 Chapter 1

The Basic Principles of
Light and Color

Discover the most important principles of depicting natural
light and shadows in your paintings.

36 Chapter 2

Observing the Color of Light
Explore three of the most common environmental factors to

take into consideration as you attempt to portray the color of
light in your compositions: air quality, altitude and weather. 

Painting Sunlight & Shadow with Pastels • Maggie Price

Learn about the different elements that influence the

appearance of water’s reflective surface, from the angle of
light to the slant of the surrounding land mass.



How should I arrange my pastels?
Pastel artists are faced with a delightful but dizzying array of pastel sticks.
Each time you prepare to make a
mark on your surface, you must first
select a pastel stick, considering its
value, temperature, and hue. How
you arrange your pastels can make
this selection easier. Rather than
keeping each set of pastels in the box
it came in—which can result in a
confusing jumble of sets—it’s a good
idea to put all the pastels you want
to use in one well-arranged box. This
box can serve as your studio set as
well as your traveling set if it’s small
enough. If you prefer a large box for
the studio, you may want a second
smaller box for painting outdoors.
There are many boxes commercially available, but some artists

prefer to build their own or make
their own modifications. Whichever
you choose, the ideal box will have
six divisions into which you can
sort your pastels. Looking at those
divisions from left to right in the
photo below, you will see the value
divisions, while looking from top to
bottom, you’ll see the temperature
As you begin to arrange your
pastels, you’ll find that obvious warm
colors, such as red and yellow, are
easy to identify, and that obvious
cool colors, such as blue, are easy to
see. The ambiguous colors are a little
more difficult. For instance, looking at purple, you may have to ask,
“Is it more blue than red? Or more
red than blue?” Green is the most

difficult color to define in terms of
temperature. The easy solution is to
put greens in the middle of the topto-bottom temperature division.
You will find that simply organizing your pastels is an exercise in
perceiving value. Your eye can see far
more than six value distinctions, so
as you place each pastel, you will ask
yourself, “Does it fit better in this
value section, or in this one?” Over
time, you may move a pastel from
one place to another as your perception of value improves. And, as your
perception of value is sharpened
from this daily practice of organizing
pastels, you’ll find your perceptions
improving as you look at your subject, your photograph or the painting
on your easel. 

D E M O N S T R AT I O N B Y R I C H A R D L U N D G R E N ( E X C E R P T )

Depicting Shadows Cast on
Reflective Surfaces
The interplay of shadows and reflections can create a wonderful subject.
Areas where shadows cross reflections can be rich and dramatic, leading
the viewer to spend time enjoying the painting. When you combine these
elements with the attractive subject of children on a beach, you can create
a powerful composition that transcends the somewhat trite subject and
takes it to a new level.

M at e r i a l s
18" × 24" (46cm × 61cm) white professional
grade Wallis sanded pastel paper

Pa s t e l s
Light Neutral Tan-Soft

Light Cobalt Blue-Soft

Dark Burnt Umber-Hard Medium Cobalt Blue
Burnt Umber-Soft

Blue Violet-Hard

Burnt Sienna-Semi Hard Light Blue Violet-Hard

Light Ochre-Hard

Indian Red-Hard


Medium Orange-Hard


Light Orange-Hard


Pompeian Red-Hard

Light Pink-Hard

Van Dyke Brown-Hard


Walnut Brown-Hard

Burnt Carmine-Hard

Light Pale Yellow-Hard

Medium Carmine-Hard

Light Earth Green-Hard

Pa s t e l P e n c i l s

Light Yellow

Light Yellow

Red Orange

Dark Burnt Umber

Dark Cobalt Blue

Dark Red Earth

Medium Blue Violet

Light Red-orange



Liquitex Matte Medium

Reference Photo

3-inch (8cm) house-painting brush

This is the best of about thirty pictures taken of the boys on the beach. Note that minor

1-inch (3cm) synthetic watercolor brush

adjustments need to be made to the boys’ hands during the sketching phase.

One sheet of white 50-lb. (105gsm) drawing

The color of the background underpainting will serve to tint the paper close to the
color of wet sand. Since water covers most of the sand, the underpainting helps suggest the illusion of texture.

Mineral spirits
Nos. 2, 2B, 4B, and 9B pencils
48-inch (122cm) steel ruler
No. 2 flat color shaper
SpectraFix Pastel Fixative 

Painting Sunlight & Shadow with Pastels • Maggie Price





Complete the Sketch
Draw a value sketch using correct proportions. Make
compositional decisions, such as keeping the figures to the right
and cropping the sand pail on the right by the edge of the painting. To make the painting more interesting, the position of the
hands is changed in this step.

Block in the Figures
Using the same pastel colors used for the faces, block in
the boys’ torsos, arms and legs. Start with the darkest areas and
work toward the lighter areas. Pay particular attention to getting
the transition between areas in light and shadow correct.
Begin the outline of the boy on the left’s shovel, sand pail
and swimming trunks using a medium orange pastel pencil and
a hard, light orange pastel to preserve the edges of the shovel
from the background, so that the shapes won’t be lost as you
continue to work.

Underpaint the Background
Lay in a light coat of soft neutral gray using the broad
side of your stick. Then, using mineral spirits and your 1-inch
(3cm) synthetic brush, dissolve the pastel into the surface of the
sanded paper, yielding a color similar to that of wet sand.
Because this is a complex composition, refrain from underpainting any further. Instead, move on to painting the figures.

Finish the Figures and Fill in the Swim Trunks on the Left
Finish the figures the same way you finished the faces. Use
a color shaper to get the edge between the figure and the background correct. Drag the shaper over areas of slight buildup in
the background to create a clean line. Be sure to clean the tip of
the shaper between strokes so as not to transfer color where you
don’t want it. 


Paint the Pail on the Right
Outline the penciled line of the pail
on the right with a sharpened hard pastel
in light orange and medium orange, or
use pastel pencils in similar shades. Do
the same for the turquoise blue handle.
Having established the edges of the pail,
fill in the rest of the color paying attention to where the sun shines through the
pail and highlights are created.


Block in the Swim Trunks
on the Right
To capture the Hawaiian print of the
swimming trunks on the boy to the
right, begin by blocking in the darkest blue of the trunks as shown in this
detail. The trunks can be loosely defined
since the patterns will be abstracted in
the final rendering.
Begin with a hard dark indigo blue
pastel. Next, use a hard Prussian Blue
and a hard medium-value Cobalt Blue.
Then add the red in the pattern, using
a hard Burnt Carmine. Indicate the
lighter reds with a hard medium-value
Carmine pastel. 

Painting Sunlight & Shadow with Pastels • Maggie Price

Luke and Jake
Richard Lundgren
Pastel on white professional grade Wallis
sanded pastel paper
18" × 24" (46cm × 61cm)


Add Finishing Touches
Complete the swim trunks of the boy on the right using hard white and
hard light gray pastels to indicate the white outline of the print. Next, refine the
pattern using the same colors you used for blocking in. Add a few highlights of
lighter values of the same reds and blues used to complete the trunks.
With the same neutral gray used for the shadow cast by the pail on the left,
paint the shadows cast by the boy and sand pail on the right. Again use a soft
medium cobalt blue to glaze the shadow. Within this shadow area, add darker
values of the reflected colors of the swim trunks and the boys’ skin tones. To
finish the shadow, add a little light neutral gray to indicate the light reflected
under the pail.
Next, complete the reflections cast by the boys with a lighter tone of the
neutral gray used in the cast shadow. Indicate the reflections of the boys’ skin
with darker values of the colors used to fill in their figures.
Finally, add some soft cobalt blue to the reflections to indicate wet areas of
the sand. 


• Maggie Price is a well-known artist in a medium
that is growing in popularity
• 10 full step-by-step painting demonstrations
• Shows you everything you need to know about
painting sunlight and shadow
• Accomplished contributors (Pastel Society of
America signature members and instructors with
good representation in exhibitions and shows)
provide inspiration and demonstrations to give a
variety of styles and approaches
• Gallery of spectacular sunlight and shadow effects

About the Author
Maggie Price is the co-founder, former editor and current contributor for The Pastel Journal. She has written more than 100
articles about pastels and distinguished pastel artists. She serves
on the editorial advisory boards of The Pastel Journal and The

Artist’s Magazine. She is also the author of Painting with Pastels:
Easy Techniques to Master the Medium (North Light Books, 2007).
Price teaches workshops in pastel each year worldwide, and
juries or judges art exhibitions. More information and images of
her work can be found at

an imprint of F+W Media, inc. 

ISBN 13 . . . . . . . 978-1-4403-0391-3
ISBN 10 . . . . . . . . . . 1-4403-0391-6
UPC . . . . . . . . . . . 0 35313 64948 6
EAN . . . . . . . . . . . 9 781440 303913
SRN . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Z7062

Category . . . . . . . . Art Techniques/Pastel
Price . . . . . . . US $24.99, CAN $28.99
Trim . . . . . . . . . . 8.25"w x10.875"h
Page count . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128
Binding . . . . . . . . . . . . . Paperback

Painting Sunlight & Shadow with Pastels by Maggie Price

Publication month . . . . . . . . April 2011
Word count . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30, 228
# of color illustrations . . . . . . . . . . 250
# of b/w illustrations . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Interior color . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4c