PanPastel Portable Pans



Introduction: PanPastel Portable Pans

I like the look and feel of painting and drawing with PanPastels(TM) and Sofft(TM) tools.

In the past I put off using PanPastels for en plein air painting or urban sketching because it was too much trouble to screw together a dozen or more pans and pack them up for traveling.

This Instructable describes how I make compact, portable pans from standard PanPastels.

There are three steps to creating the portable pans:

Step 1. Selecting the Empty Portable Pans to Use

Step 2. Selecting the Solvent to Use

Step 3. Filling the Portable Pans

Here are links to my other two PanPastel Instructables:

The PanPastel Pocket Palette

PanPastel Portable Tools

Note: PanPastel and Sofft Tools are registered trademarks of Colorfin LLC of Kutztown, PA USA. I am not affiliated with Colorfin in any way and the ideas and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.


You will need the following materials:

PanPastels (as many colors as you want for portable painting)

Empty full-sized watercolor pans (as many as the different colors you selected above)

8-10 ozs of solvent (see below)

3" square of aluminum foil

You will need these tools:

Scraping tool (Sofft Tool knife, small palette knife or piece of old credit card)

Pipette (optional)

Step 1: Selecting the Empty Portable Pans to Use

There are many options when it comes to portable pans. I wanted something small enough to be portable but big enough to hold adequate PanPastel pigment to make painting easy and efficient.

I selected some full-sized watercolor pans I found on Amazon (Metal Case on Amazon). The pans were 3/4" X 1.25" X 5/8" and had a small magnetic pad on the bottom. This meant that they could be positioned in a metal case and yet moved about easily.

You could select smaller sizes (eg. half-pans) or larger sizes depending on how you plan to carry and use the portable pans.

I put 12 of the full-sized watercolor pans or 24 of the half-sized watercolor pans in my Pocket Palette case. That leaves room for the painting tools.

Step 2: Selecting the Solvent to Use

A solvent is used to liquify the binder used in PanPastels. The binder gives the PanPastels their soft, buttery spreading texture while holding the pigment particles together in the pan. A solvent will let us reform the pigments in a new pan and then evaporate away leaving a resized pan of PanPastels.

I tried several different solvents (listed below) and settled on 90% isopropyl alcohol as my solvent of choice because it was readily available, cheap, relatively non-toxic and evaporated quite quickly. I got a bottle at Walmart in the health section.

Here are the other solvents I tried. They all worked for this project:

Fingernail polish remover (acetone with all kinds of supplements)

Acetone (hard on your liver)

Odorless mineral spirits

Low Odor Thinner from Daler Rowney (Picture 2)

It should be noted that water will NOT work. The binder must be some kind of fatty material and water does not dissolve it.

Step 3: Filling the Portable Pans

The process of getting the PanPastel from the original pan to the portable pan begins with a gentle shaving of the surface of the large PanPastel pan. Any hard-edged tool like one of the Sofft tool knives, a palette knife (my choice) or a piece of old credit card will do. (Picture 1)

Rub the knife very gently across the surface of the big PanPastel pan. This should create small shavings of the pigment/binder material (Picture 2). Catch the shavings on the piece of aluminum foil until yo have a couple of teaspoons worth for filling a full-sized watercolor pan. The surface of the big PanPastel pan should remain smooth and ready to use for painting. Only a small amount of pigment is removed.

Pour about half of the shavings into an empty watercolor pan (Pictures 3 and 4). Pour from the bottle or use a pipette to add enough solvent to the pan to just cover the shavings (Pictures 5 and 6). Now add the rest of the shavings and again cover with solvent (Picture 7).

Hold the watercolor pan between your thumb and index finger and "thump" the pan several times on the table. This should get rid of any bubbles in the solvent and settle the shavings below the solvent surface. The shavings should form an even layer in the bottom of the portable pan after a few "thumps" (Picture 8).

Set this pan aside and let it dry for several hours until the PanPastel material is solid. (Don't try to hurry this drying by pouring off any solvent as this will remove some of the binder that is needed to keep the pigment together.)

Repeat this process for each color you want in your portable palette (Picture 9). Note: This picture shows both full-sized watercolor pans and half-sized watercolor pans on some of the colors. You can swap pans in and out of your metal case.

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