Kitty time! + tutorial for pastel backgrounds

This has been a WIP for a long time. I didn’t like where it was going, fiddled with it forever and then some and eventually decided that to hell with it, I’ll just finish it, no matter how it turns out. Didn’t turn into a catastrophe afterall 😀
So, kitty from Sommarnatt by Hanna Karlzon:
Still not 100% happy with it and I screwed up the whiskers but again, live and learn. And in the end, it’s fine.
Done with Prismacolor Premier pencils, some white Posca and Signo Uniball white gel pen. Sennelier soft pastels for background.

I’ll use this opportunity to answer a reader question, yay! Well okay, I already replied to her e-mail but maybe it can help someone else as well. Be warned, this will be long.

Q: How do you do pastel backgrounds after coloring your picture? I’m afraid to screw my work up.
Well, it’s good to plan ahead and pick waxy pencils first of all. The waxier and harder to erase, the better. In this case, I find Prismacolor Premier to be just about perfect. The wax will not let pastel adhere to the pencil well, plus the harder the pencil is to erase, the easier it makes your cleanup. So that’s why the pencil choice. You can also cover lighter areas or less waxy pencil with a blender if that works for you, blender will also leave behind a waxy layer.
Now when you’re done with your work and pastel time, do not be tempted to do your gel pen work beforehand, leave that last.

Supplies needed:

  • Colored pencils, the waxier the better
  • Your picture
  • Chalk pastels of any kind (for cheap decent ones look for Mungyo on Ebay for example, good pastels for a low cost. Don’t buy Sennelier just for the backgrounds, seriously)
  • Craft knife or a butter knife or some sort of blade
  • Kneaded eraser (optional but really good. Like to the point of almost not optional)
  • Regular eraser
  • Fixative (hairspray works as well but I recommend getting a real fixative, hairspray can be unpredictable and the price difference really isn’t THAT huge when you consider possible accidents with your work that took days to complete)

Step by step:

  • Take your pastels, any pastels will do as long as they’re chalk pastels for this particular method.
  • Scrape some pastel dust from the stick on to the paper with a craft knife or hell, a butter knife will do. Oh yeah and protect your desk with paper and the opposite page as well, this will be intensely dusty and smeary otherwise. Do NOT smear dust you want to just get off the paper, blow it away instead.
  • Take a cotton pad or ball or whatever and rub the dust in the paper. Try to avoid the colored parts but don’t worry if you go over them a little. You can scrape several colors at once and then rub once if you wish. That’s what I did up there. Works.
  • Once you’re happy with the background, take this wonderful contraption called a kneaded eraser and dab it over the colored bits that got a bit too friendly with pastels. Now why kneaded eraser rocks is that it picks up the pastel dust with elegant ease but it’s too soft to make a dent in your waxy pencils. So it’s really easy to clean up the pastel. Also good for effects such as the lighter circly things I did up there.
  • Take a regular eraser and very carefully and with a light hand clean the bits you didn’t get with kneaded eraser, sharper corners etc. For accuracy, my favorite eraser is the Faber-Castell Perfection one, it’s a pencil eraser. But you can cut a piece of a regular eraser to get a sharp edge that can get to tight spaces very well.
  • If you accidentally erased some pastel background, don’t worry, rub over it with your finger.
  • When done, take your work outside or bathroom or whatever and blow off any excess pastel dust.
  • Then do the gel pen magic.
  • Spray fixative.
  • Have a cookie, you did a great job!

Tomorrow giveaway time, stay tuned, I’m still trying to decide which book I’ll have you win 🙂 But yes, spoiler, it’s a book.

8 thoughts on “Kitty time! + tutorial for pastel backgrounds

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you found it useful 🙂
      I’ve used Conté, Winson&Newton and Lefranc&Bourgeois fixatives, currently I’m buying the latter. Conté and Lefranc&Bourgeois are the easiest to get for me and out of those two I like Lefranc&Bourgeois better, it gives a real nice finish and makes the colors a tiny bit more saturated, only a tiny tiny bit but I like the oomph effect. I suggest trying out what you can get and afford. Make sure you pick one that is meant for pastels and charcoal, that’s the best for pencils. The differences between fixatives are so small you can’t really go wrong unless you pick a shiny one for instance 😛


  1. Iris, do you recall what two (?) pencils you used to get that gold trim on your butterfly wings and the key? I am off to the art shop to find that kneaded eraser!


  2. Hmmm? I have the cream and Sepia. I’m not finding Golden Ochre in my 132 PC or my 60 FC – what would you suggest as a replacement?

    P.S. picked up a Staedtler Karat art eraser and a white gel pen. Local art store does not carry uni-ball Signo. The gel pen I got seems to make a very fine line and I am thinking I might have more luck with my “dots” that with the blotchy Signo Broad I have.


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