How To Sharpen Pastel Pencils

If you are struggling with how to sharpen pastel pencils, i know how you feel because I struggled too.  I must have spent around £100 on pencil sharpeners and other people must have spent £50 helping me work that out!

That’s a lot of money considering that now I spend less than £5 a year sharpening my pastel pencils.

The problem with sharpeners

is not that they aren’t any good, it’s that pastel pencils make them go blunt really fast!  So your brand new expensive state of the art sharpener may work brilliantly for the first few pastel pencils but then it’s suddenly start to go wrong and you’ll have blunt and broken pastel pencils all over the place.

I have heard that some crank handle sharpeners made by Swordfish are great if you sharpen them intermittently with a graphite pencil.  That seems like a great way to waste a graphite pencil and also, this trick did not work for me.

I have also heard that some cute little supermarket sharpeners work really well too.  Then i found out that they are only good for one painting!

Then I hear from others who’s sharpeners have lasted for years sharpening pastel pencils.  This just makes me wonder if they have installed a magic blade or in fact, don’t actually sharpen their pastels that much at all…

As a full time artist, I use pastel pencils every day and any sharpener I’ve ever owned has ultimately been a waste of money.

So now I use a simple knife and sandpaper., this is the way my Dad used to sharpen his graphite pencils.  He’d be so proud of me now!

But this technique took me a couple of months to perfect.  I didn’t have anyone teach me how to do it so I had to learn it myself.


 It’s not going to be easy to learn.  So be patient, it will be worth it!


You need to pay attention to 100% of the information in these 2 short videos.

The first video shows the basic method.  The second video show’s you 3 different ways you can sharpen a pastel pencil, yes 3!

It’s not just a matter of picking up a knife and hacking away at the pencil:

  • Watch how I hold the pencil
  • Watch how I hold the knife
  • See how I PUSH the knife (this is key)
  • Look at the scooping action (this is also key)


  • See the angle that I hold the pencil at (this is key too)

The most important part of all this is PUSHING the knife with your thumb.  If you use your whole hand to push the knife, you’re going to do some damage, to yourself, to the pencil or to someone or something close by!

Lastly, make sure your knife blade is sharp.  They do last longer than pencil sharpener blades but no blade is going to stay sharp forever.  The sharper your blade the easier it will be to PUSH the knife with your thumb.

Let me know how you get on, either below or in my soft pastel group on facebook.

The first video shows the basic method.  The second video show’s you 3 different ways you can sharpen a pastel pencil, yes 3!  you can’t do that with a sharpener 😉

Sue is a Soft Pastel Artist and International Tutor from England UK
She's passionate about soft pastel art and teaching her students from around the globe.

"Art makes my heart sing and my soul smile"