Street Painting Chalk Art | Pastel and Chalk Guide

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Street Painting Chalk Art Pastel and Chalk Guide

When I started street painting I relied heavily by the recommendations of other artists of what products to use. I really didn't find a whole lot of information in the beginning, and I soon discovered that not all Chalk/Pastels are created equally. This is a good thing because depending on what kind of surface you are working on will call for different grade of product. And learning what's best to use is just trial and error. Not only that, but artists have different styles and methods they like to use and the products will always reflect that. I'm only 3 years into working with this medium and admittedly so I'm still very much learning, but I figured I would take a stab at writing down an "Art Pastel and Chalk Guide" to help any beginners out there.

:earth: Keep in mind I live in the USA, so I'm going to be linking to stores and products I know of in the US. But I'm sure these can be found in your area as well in local mom and pop art shops, craft supplied stores, and local pigment pastel makers. If you know any in your area, by all means I'd love to add it to this list!

Soft Pastels vs Chalk Pastels? What's the difference?

Well first off stay away from anything that says White board chalk, Oil Pastels or Hard Pastels. They are usually lumped in the same location at stores as the Soft Pastels Chalk Pastels are. Because they look the same in the package, double and triple check the name.

You want either Soft Pastels or Chalk Pastels. The difference between the 2 kinds is simply the type of binders and fillers which are used when they were created.

Chalk Pastels are chalk based mediums, more of a powdery substance compressed. In other words they have more of chalky filler added to the pigment. They tend to be harder, more durable and cheaper to make. Chalk pastels are great for kid projects and they tend to wash away better from the natural elements.

Soft pastels are a grade of both chalk and oil pastels in terms of binding. They are less waxy then oil pastels but not as hard as chalk Pastels. They typically are easier to blend, have a much truer pigment then chalk pastels. Depending on quality, soft pastels will range from fairly affordable to really expensive. This all depends on the brand and type of binders and pigments used to make it. Soft pastels tend to with stand the weather elements a bit longer then chalk pastels. More often than not I'll eventually have to power wash off any remaining elements of the street painting. Don't worry though, it's not permanent and won't stain your surface. With enough rain and exposed to the weather it will wash away if you don't feel like power washing.

Most artists use a combination of both Soft and Chalk pastels depending on their style and technique. The most common I've seen the chalk pastels be layered down as a base for the soft as to not run though all the good soft pastels. Basically it just comes down to what works best for you! There is no wrong or right way of doing things, just like in any other art medium.

Tempera Paint. Okay so now you know the difference between soft and chalk pastels, let's move on to Tempera Paint. Tempera paint is used in a lot by kid art because it's cheap and like then name "Tempera" its temporary. Tempera Paint is liquid chalk, almost like paint without the more permanent qualities of say acrylic paint. To make Tempera Paint you need to get the Tempera Paint Powder, which should look like a jar of pigment. This allows you to mix in water to the right amount of pigment you want in for you work. Some people add in sugar water or egg whites to the mixture to avoid any cracking while the paint dries on the surface. I've seen Tempera Paint used as a base for asphalt or parking lots so that the surface is easier to work with. If you are competing in events, make sure you read over the rules, not all events accept the use of Tempera Paint.

Soft Pastels and Chalk Pastels Brands

Alright so I've now introduced you to the basics, let's get down to brands. The following is a list of soft and chalk pastels that I have used before and my experience recommendation of using them. I'm going to start with most affordable to the more expensive. Keep in mind there are thousands of commercially sold brands out there, these are but a few. It's good to pick up a box when you see them just to try them out and experiment with.

►Crayola kids sidewalk chalk

Great practicing tool and many artists use this as a base filler when starting projects. Because it's cheap and you can layer and blend soft pastels over the top for more color and detail. Crayola makes many different kinds so it's recommended that when you see something new just pick it up for when you want to try them out. It's all about experimenting.

►Simply Art Chalk Pastels by Loew-Cornwell…

I actually just saw this brand in the store, so I've not tried it yet. But figured it was worth a mention seeing as its new. Say's Chalk Pastels on the case… I wonder because they really look more like soft pastels. Hmm…

The following Soft pastel brands I've sorta lumped together as they are usually in the same price category and made of similar quality. I've had about the same experience with Reeves, Alphacolor Artist Loft and Faber-Castell soft pastels. I have these in my arsenal because there is one or 2 colors in the case which I really like. In some colors I like these better then even Koss Pastels. Most of these are intended for paper, however nothing says you can't use them fro street painting!

►Reeves soft pastels…

►Alphacolor soft pastels…

►Artist Loft soft pastels…

►Faber-Castell soft pastels…

►Koss soft pastels…

Just about everyone is going to use Koss Soft Pastels at least once. It's the default brand name at most Street Painting side walk Chalk Events. It's a good beginner pastel, and many artists just use them because it's probably the best color you're going to get out of the inexpensive brands. You can blend well with them and it's versatile on most surfaces. I never buy these online. I haven't found it cheap enough to do so when I can just pick up a box at an event for $10 bucks. So I usually just stock up buying an extra box or two for each event.

►Rembrandt soft pastels…

Now we're getting into the more pricy stuff. Rembrandt I've heard mixed reviews about from artists, some love it some hate it. For me it's just like any other pastel brand, there are going to be colors that you love and other colors that you don't. They are of a higher quality, but for the price, eh… I just can't really justify it. It's really only intended for paper. So I'm mentioning it to at least try it out if you want to. But for me I've found better ( read on :D )

►Eternity Chalk

Aka "The Butter Chalk"… or at least that's what we tend to call it. It's smooth, creamy and comes in the shape of a stick of butter. It's unlike any other brand I've ever worked with. Its great to have a case of this on hand for those large filler spaces. Eternity chalk's also makes a variety of vibrant neon chalk that glows in the dark under a black light.

Street Stix…
Large semi waxy large pastels. They say 
rain-durable, but keep in mind not rain resistant. Which basically means they will hold up in light rain showers. I've found them to be a little to waxy for my needs and are often hard to blend with... but... in certain situations are great for a base or touch ups.  They have saved me where weather was basically on and off. But again takes some getting used too. Worth a try. 

► SoHo Street Pastels…
Another one of the larger pastel sticks, I find these to be very similar to the street stix. They are a good option to try out if your not a fan of the soft Eternity sticks. SoHo's hold up in most climate situations and you can buy open stock if your lucky to have a jerry art arama near you. Some colors far better then others, it again comes down to personal preference. 

►Mountain Vision Pastels Co.

I really really like Mountain Vision Pastels! They are if not probably one of the best quality made soft pastels I've ever used. It's not as soft as Eternity, but not as hard as Koss and the colors are very vibrant. I'm truly impressed with there flesh tones for portraits. If you're going to be spending the money on a higher quality pastel, I would chose Mountain Vision. He offers several sets online on or you can contact him though his website for individual colors.

Da Vinci Angel in the rocks CHALK by charfade

►Home Made Soft Pastels…

Recently I took a class on how to make your own Soft Pastels by artist Alice Scott Crittenden. ( I provided the link to her recipe in the link above ) Its a lot of work, but the pay off is huge once you start understanding the method on how to make your own. You can literately create that one color that you need with out having to blend several of your other pastels. I always seem to run out of indigo blue, deep purples and deep rich dark brown because those are the colors I use to add contrast instead of using black. So making your own you can make many of the colors you tend to run out with fastest. It is a lot of prep work and supplies to get started will cost you, but if you plan on being a street painter for many years to come, its worth investing in learning how to make your own.

There are several recipes on the internet with a little Google searching, I also found a few in this book, Sidewalk Canvas: Chalk Pavement Art at Your Feet by Julie Kirk-Purcell…

Its a bit intimidating at first, but I can tell you it is worth your while!

Well that's my take on Soft Pastel Brands! I hope it was worth the read. Really meant to help those just starting out, like I said at the beginning I'm still learning myself. The best you can do is experiment! Find out what you like and that you dont like. I plan on writing a follow up to this Journal for other supplies or at least listing what I usually bring to events! ^^

If this Journal has helped you in any way, feel free to comment and fav. Also Feel free to comment if you are an Street Painter on any brands to add your 2 cents to the melting pot! :D Sharing is Caring!

Robin by Luis-Bello

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Cass Womack

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Hi, thank you for the informative article! My NAHS (National Art Honor Society) club is going to do a street painting adjunct to a county art festival in November, and I have no idea how much chalk to plan for per square. I figure we'll have 4', 6', and (maybe) 10' squares - or we can just give each artist chalk and let them draw their own square? But in any case, would you say a 6' square would take a 24 pack of good pastels, or more, or less? (We'll have the cheaper chalk and tempera paint for base layers, I'm mostly wondering how much of the quality pastels we'll need). 

I'd appreciate any and all advice!