How to Keep Yourself & Your Pastel Art Clean – 7 Top Tips

A common complaint about soft pastels I hear time and time again is about getting messy!

Pastels can be messy on your hands but you don’t need to be messy everywhere else. I am the most untidy person I know (apart from my mum and sister ha!) and if you saw me in the kitchen you would be in a state of shock with how much mess I can create from so little

BUT my pastel art is clean and mess free and I’ve never had an issue, in fact, I never knew it was an issue until people started asking me how to stay clean.

Clean Tip 1

Firstly, I work upright on an easel, this allows any pastel dust to fall into the gutter of your easel. But I have to say, I don’t really get a lot of dust in the gutter.

Clean Tip 2

That’s because I use a good quality pastel paper such as Pastelmat, Velour or a sanded paper. These quality papers are excellent at grabbing the pastel and it means there is less dust to fall. I also use Unison soft pastels, they are professional soft pastels which don’t create lots of dust. Some brands create lots of dust because they are either too soft or too much binder (student ranges)

Clean Tip 3

I keep one hand clean. I use my right hand to pastel and the other hand for everything else. I used to have my reference photo on my smartphone and so I had no choice but to keep that hand clean. So this was an accidental discovery and very useful now as I don’t get pastel on everything I touch.

Clean Tip 4

Don’t blow your pastel. If you have dust on your work, do not blow it, tap the back gently. Blowing is very bad. The dust will go everywhere, including on and in you. Instead, buy a camera lens dust blower to gently direct the pastel down into the gutter of your easel or use used masking tape to pick up loose dust.  You can also put a piece of sticky side up tape at the bottom of your easel so any dust sticks to it. 



Clean Tip 5

Make sure your pastels are clean before you use them. If you drag a dirty pale coloured pencil or stick through light colours they will muddy.

Clean Tip 6

Create yourself a 1980’s style wrist band so you have somewhere handy to clean your pastels, watch this video to see how:



Clean Tip 7

Keep a damp flannel to hand to wipe your hands if you need to. There are few things worse than putting a muddy brown or green finger into fresh white pastel, watch this video to see how:




The bottom of your drawing board can get very messy and be difficult to clean – actually, impossible!!  Put a piece of wide sellotape along the bottom which is very easy to wipe clean (NEVER use a vacuum cleaner as the outlet will blow pastel dust all around you!)

Do you have any top tips for staying clean?  If so, let me know in the comments below