Painting Tips to Mix Pastels & Watercolors


Many artists love to experiment with mixed media; this is a normal part of the creative process. One such experimentation is mixing of pastels and water colors. For example, sky and ground may be painted in with watercolors and then pastels applied over top for the objects on the ground. There are a few tips, however, that will make your life a little easier if you choose to experiment with pastels and watercolors.

Allow Paint To Dry

  • Allow your watercolors to completely dry before applying pastels. If you try to rub pastels on to a wet surface, the water will simply smudge the pastels instead of allowing the pastels to color and blend smoothly. This is especially true if you are using a chalk pastel (which is very similar to blackboard chalk but in colors). If you are using an oil pastel, the oil may not smooth out correctly on a wet surface.

Watercolor Wash and Pastel Blending

  • If you are creating a landscape, use a watercolor wash for the sky and then use white to light gray pastels for the clouds. Blend the pastels smoothly with a stomp (a hard rolled piece of paper) or cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs. Artist Debra Jones demonstrates how she uses pastels and painted watercolor washes for portrait figures. She states that washes can be used for establishing dark areas or to neutralize white paper.


  • Take scrap pieces of pastel paper, canvas or various other papers (even matte-colored or white poster board) and experiment. Have fun and try different methods, techniques and different pastels such as chalk or oil. See what effects you can achieve by not letting the water dry (this will smudge, but this may be what you're after). Conversely, use the pastels first and then try transparent watercolors over them to see what effects you can bring out.

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  • Photo Credit the artist image by Louise McGilviray from
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