We’ve already learned about using pastels with polymer clay, then we explored the types of pastels there are out there. Now I want to give you some more info about one specific brand of artist’s quality pastels, PanPastels. While you can still have phenomenal results with regular student quality pastel sets, polymer artists often want to invest in PanPastels. So here’s more info about them, helping you buy them with a better understanding. Remember, pastels are a general type of art material, but PanPastels are a brand name for a specific pastel product by the ColorFin company.
If all artist quality pastels are good enough, why would I want to splurge on PanPastels? Because they’re SO easy to use for our purposes. Polymer artists don’t apply sticks of pastels to a rough surface the way that pastel painters do. We’re applying powdered pastels to our unbaked polymer clay, usually using a brush or sometimes a sponge or finger. PanPastels come in a flat pan, just like blush or eye shadow, that load onto a brush in just the same way. The pan is also quite soft. That makes it super easy to load a lot of pigment onto the surface of the clay with ease.
I have to admit that I tend to avoid trends and I dismissed the popularity of PanPastels as a cult craze. But you know what? Using PanPastels changed my entire polymer clay experience. It was a total game-changer. I’ve never been much for using tons of products with my clay…I guess you could say I’m a purist. But these things are different. Rather than using the clay as a mere canvas for painting, PanPastels allow me to fundamentally change the character of my clay and what I do with it.
PanPastels come in flat, round, plastic jar (or pan) that has a screw-on lid. The pan, itself, also has a threaded bottom so that you can stack the pans into a tower, with only a lid at the top. This makes them easy to carry and store. Just unscrew at the level of the color you want to use.
This also works nicely for you to collect specific color sets if you need to bundle several together for certain types of projects. You could make towers of blue or yellow, for example, customizing them however you’d like.
In most sets, there is also a thicker, empty pan for holding small sponge-tipped applicators. I don’t typically use them, but you might. If so, they will also screw onto the tower allowing you to have tools right at hand.
The PanPastel line contains 92 colors and 5 mediums. They’re packaged in a variety of sets, some of which give you the impression there are more colors. Confusion abounds. So here’s a breakdown. There are colors, metallics, pearlescents, and mediums.
Although it looks like PanPastels come in a huge array of colors, in reality there are only 20 hues. Each hue, such as Ultramarine Blue, also comes in a tint, a shade, and an extra dark shade. So each of the 20 colors has a light version, a dark version, and an extra dark version. You can see here the range of colors of Turquoise and Hansa Yellow. The tint version contains white, the shade version contains black, and the extra dark version contains more black. Only the pure color contains the single pure pigments, without white or black.
Each container of PanPastel has the color name and the color type of the back of the label, so you always know which one you have.
Obviously, things get weird with black and white…how can you call them a color and then shade/tint them with white or black? So in addition to white and black, there’s an array of neutral grays in various gradations, plus the nearly-blue color of Paynes Grey in all variations.
Not strictly pure pastels, the six pearlescent colors contain mica powder to make them shimmery. They don’t behave the same as pure pigment pastels, but they’re a fun novelty. They’re high quality, much denser than eye shadow, and are pure-ish colors (as opposed to the fashion blends you’ll see in eye shadow).
Similar to the pearlescent colors, PanPastel also carries a line of six metallic colors. They’re your usual assortment of copper, bronze, pewter, silver, and a couple of golds. And again, they contain a heavy load of mica powder so they’re sparkly.
What if you want to make a one of your regular colors sparkly? PanPastel mediums are colorless sparkly pans, in both white sparkle (pearl) and black sparkle. They come in both a fine and coarse version. There’s also a colorless blender, which I’ve never found a use for. Imagine talcum powder in a pan. (I’ve not found these medium very useful with polymer clay, but your mileage may vary.)
Unlike other artist’s quality pastel lines, PanPastel has an array of accessories that you might want to consider. If you got your colors in a stacked set but later decide that you want to have them in separate containers, you can buy new lids. By the way, be aware of the fact that PanPastel containers and lids are made from styrene, and will fuse with unbaked polymer clay if you leave them touching. Always put your pans away when you’re not using them!
The peachy colored soft sponge-tipped tools that PanPastel uses are called Sofft tools. They can be purchased separately. There is a huge array of pads and various sized and shapes as well as “fingers” that are sleeves that fit over light blue palette knives. If this is your jam, you have many to choose from. You could also use sponge-tipped makeup applicators as well as cosmetic sponges, which appear to be the same material.
Oh yes, my beloved trays! This is my favorite accessory. I rapidly got tired of unscrewing and re-screwing the jars and lids as I was using them. Not only is it time-consuming, but the lids cross-thread easily and make me cranky. I tried adding a bit of vaseline to the threads, but that just collected the powder and made things worse.
Instead, PanPastel sells trays that hold the pans, minus lids. The trays are perfectly sized so that the pans snap it securely and won’t fall out. But you can easily pull them out if you’d like. One tray holds the colors that I want to use and then entire tray has a lid. It’s very convenient and easy to use. There are two sizes of trays, both 20 slots and 10 slots. You can buy them on Amazon or on Blick or in fine art shops.
Because they’re fine artist’s materials, you won’t find these in the craft department. Get them where you buy oil paints and canvases. Online, good sources are Amazon, Dick Blick, and Jerry’s Artarama. Outside the US, I’d look for them wherever fine art materials are sold.
What colors should you choose? I have all the colors and I seldom use the very light tints. I use the extra dark shades the most, but that’s because I usually use them on white clay and I love the shading. If I were to pick one set, I’d pick the shades set. I’ve never used the mediums. I seldom use the grays or blacks.
By the way, you can buy sets of a whole variety of color combinations for special color needs. There are sets of portraits, landscapes, sets with or without mediums, sets with a tray or without. So think about what you need and see if you can’t find a set that gives you a better deal. The colors in each set should be mentioned in the listing, so pay close attention. No matter what the set, it will contain the colors I’ve mentioned here. There aren’t other colors.
You don’t have to buy a whole set. You can buy any color you’d like, individually. My suggestion is to get a set of student quality pastels (sticks) and use them for a while. You’ll soon get the feeling for which colors you use most in your work. Have fun experimenting!
PanPastels are Expensive
One more note, and that’s about cost. PanPastels are an investment. I don’t recommend that you buy them if you’re struggling to make ends meet. Student quality pastels will work nearly as well. PanPastels are artist’s quality materials and the prices are comparable to other sets of the same quality. Artist’s quality materials are expensive. Period. But these pans last forever. You likely won’t use up any of the colors and if you do, you probably deserve a new one. 🙂
And if you’ve not already checked it out, please explore the Pastel Challenge in the Discovery Challenges in the Community. It’s a treasure-trove of discovery!