How to sharpen pastel pencils – I posted this once before, then my artist blog went to blog heaven! Here it is again as I am always asked about this subject! This is the technique I use to create all of my Pet Portraits Commissions.
There are many tools, blades and sharpeners available to sharpen the pastel pencil and some are more useful than others. The variety of tools available proves it is an issue but I think I’ve found the easy way!
All you need is a sharp stanley knife and a humble file!
Once you try this technique you’ll never waste another penny on anything else and you may find it helpful if you use my download art tutorials.
I’ve used the most difficult pastel pencil to sharpen as an example, the old formula derwents. They have even been reformulated to overcome this problem, however, using a stanley knife and file, they can easily be sharpened to a fabulous point which makes them perfect for creating lots of fur especially on my dog portraits.
The most important thing to ensure is that your stanley blade is sharp as you need to peel back the wood casing from the pastel ‘lead’. Try to expose a reasonable amount just so you don’t have to keep repeatedly sharpening, however you can do it little by little if you wish.
You can sharpen your pencil pastel two ways, the first is the point, excellent for fine details, especially that realistic pet portraits fur
All you need to do is gently move the edge of the pastel pencil up and down the file turning the pencil as you go along, this will give you the pin sharp point you are after. If you use a medium roughness file it will grip all the pastel dust in it’s grooves preventing that nuisance dust created with finer sandpaper.
The second way to sharpen the pastel pencil is once more, remove the wood casing with a stanley knife, then simply run the pencil along the file without turning it to create a flat area, ideal for covering large areas of colour. The ‘edge’ is great for whiskers and longer fur as you can turn the pencil as you use it, creating long and even lines. How many times have you added whiskers to find the end of the whisker is fatter than the beginning due to the point dulling as you move along? This way you just roll the edge as you go along so it’s always sharp leaving you with beautiful whiskers on your animal art!
All that remains is a bit of cleaning up! Just use a large watercolour brush to clean off the file between colours. I tilt the file over a container and brush down so the dust goes into the container and not into the air or on the floor.
At the end of a pastel pencils session I wipe my file over with a baby wipe so it’s perfectly clean for the next day’s work.
Please feel free to ask questions and share this with other pastel pencil users.