Earth pastels

This is a natural chalk/pastel recipe used by many Renaissance artists for drawings. Making your own pastels allows you to create them as soft or as hard as you like. Commercial pastels have to be made hard enough to withstand breakage during shipment. As long as you're not shipping these, you can make soft pastels that are more yielding and do not dig into the under-layers of the paper as much as harder pastels do. The paint quality will be richer, and the colors more intense.

Ingredients:  earth pigment, water, binder of your choice (limestone powder, wheat paste, honey or white soap (grate and dissolve a small amount in water)).

Prep Time: 5 – 45 minutes, depending on which binder you use.


  1. Mix pure earth pigment with a small amount of water (with a palette knife) to create a thick, paste-like material. Start with a 1:5 proportion (water to pigment) and adjust as needed. Add binder.
  2. Roll it on an absorbent surface (newspaper or paper towels). Roll it into stick form, and let it dry. If the dry pastel doesn’t hold together or is too crumbly you should add a tiny bit of binder such as wheat paste, limestone powder, dissolved soap, or a honey/water solution (1:5) - example: 1 Tbsp. pigment: 1 tsp. limestone powder. Experiment because each pigment has different properties and acts differently.  

Wheat paste recipe:  
wheat, rice, or rye flour work well. Use about 1 part flour to 6 parts water. Mix flour with a small amount of water to make a smooth paste. Then add hot water to make a thin consistency. Cook on low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens to an oatmeal-type consistency. Use immediately or refrigerate to preserve it for a few days.