New Pastel Painting Tip video – all about breaking pastels


I am finally getting back to a normal-ish life and schedule after the madness of two shows (‘Emergence’ and ‘Caught Red Handed’) back to back. They went well and it was wonderful to work towards them and produce so much new and exciting work but things like regular blogging kinda took a back seat! But I am getting back into the swing of things.

Today I made a new pastel painting tip video about how I break pastels when I acquire a new box. I have been asked by students how and why I do it. This video will answer that question! My main message? Be not afraid!!

Of course if you have a box of half sticks, there’s no need to do any breaking (although you might like to do so anyway). I should also say that usually, I’ll sort the box into values first, then do the breaking, but for this video, I wanted to start with the brand new box.



I usually don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to technical things so I do what produces the fastest result. You can, for instance, score the pastel with your finger prior to making the break.

Soft pastel scored prior to making the break
Soft pastel scored prior to making the break

Doing it this way, you may get a cleaner break. But not always and not with every brand of pastel. It also takes longer and since I’m usually in a hurry and I’m never sure of the result, I generally just get in there and make the break the way I show you on the video.

So, experiment. The main thing is to gulp, and break those pastels!


I’d love to know what you thought of the video and my pastel painting tip. Please reply to this email or alternatively, you can always leave a comment under the video on YouTube.


My next video will be a new demo so look out for that in the next month or so. I haven’t quite decided what to do yet so if you have any brilliant thoughts about that, be sure to let me know!!


I always love hearing from you so drop me a line sometime 🙂

Until next time,

~ Gail




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7 thoughts on “New Pastel Painting Tip video – all about breaking pastels”

  1. Hi Gail , enjoyed your new video ..breaking pastels.
    I hate breaking them but we must !
    Recently I was setting up my new plein air pochade box ,adding a selection of colors , values and brands . I was breaking some pastels into smaller pieces for the box which is the medium Sienna with pastel insert 9×12 and I realized I wanted some Terry Ludwigs in it …I never break them .Well , I decided it was time so I scored each pastel I wanted to use with a small exacto knife all around and then carefully broke the 1/3 piece off . I still feel bad but I now have those luscious Ludwigs in my plein air box.
    Thanks for all of your inspiration always.

  2. I learned to break soft pastels by removing the paper and then scoring around the pastel with my finger nail or a razor blade or exacto knife. This gives me a cleaner break especially if the pastel is “really” soft (sennellier/ludwig, etc). I found that breaking with the paper still on and wiggling the piece out often created LOTS of crumbly bits that were unusable (too much waste). Also the paper on some brands is stuck to the pastel.

  3. You have returned with a bang. Congratulations on an outstanding blog. The more you do the more comfortable you become. One of these days they are going to discover you and put you on TV. Good Work

  4. Dear Gail,

    Just a quickie to say I enjoy your newsletters, and that I particularly enjoyed your video on “Breaking Pastels”.

    I have to tell you that my first reaction was “What vandalism!!!” My second was, “That might be a good feeling!”

    My pastels are up in the attic – I saw them only today – and my art paper is under the bed. I promise myself, one of these days…

    Don’t reply to this. Spend every moment you can creating beauty.

    It was great to see you looking young, lovely and lively. You go, girl!



    1. Hi Isobel,

      I know you said not to reply, and I appreciate it, appreciate you knowing how email etc etc takes away from the creating. But I just wanted to reply because of that!!

      Damn it, get out those pastels… just 15 mins a day. Set a goal to use up those pastels by the end of the year!!

      Laughed at your words about vandalism!!!

      Thanks for your lovely words 🙂


  5. Hi Gail ! I discovered by default that working with broken pastels is so much easier ! Dropped one by accident and found that I used that piece so much more ! Now I always break them !! Thanks for your blog …so interesting

    1. Hi Hominy! And thanks!
      It’s so funny how life can show us the way if we are open to it. I mean, who knew that broken pastels could work so well??!

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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