Making Chalk Pastels




Intro: Making Chalk Pastels

You can make your own chalk pastels with your custom colours. This is a very simple recipe, but there are several for making pastels. The binder ingredient can be different, and some recipes involve no binder at all, just the distilled water. The whiting chalk I am using could be replaced with kaolin or even plaster. Your results will be different so experimentation is needed as always.

Step 1: What You Will Need


•Distilled water

Gum tragacanth •

Whiting chalk

Pigment color


2 bowls


measuring implements

stirring spoon


non-latex exam gloves


Working with art supplies is often like cooking, using similar tools. It is a good and safe idea to have a specific set of instruments just for your studio and not use what you have in your kitchen!

Step 2: Make Your Binder

If you have 2 different sized bowls, start with the smaller to mix your binder.

Measure out the amount of distilled water you want, here I have 20 teaspoons of the water as this is a sample recipe.

Dissolve into the water the gum tragacanth in a ratio of 1 part tragacanth to 20 parts water. Therefore here, I am using 1 teaspoon of gum tragacanth.

Step 3: Mix Up Your Binder

This mixture will be the binder for the pastels. Gum tragacanth will likely make a softer pastel chalk versus another binder.

Use your whisk and mix together. The binder will become thick and gooey and form peaks on your whisk, something like meringue.

Step 4: Choose Your Colour

In the other bowl measure out your chalk and pigment.

These materials are fine powders that can be an annoyance, if you do not have a well-ventilated space, consider using a respirator with a filter for fine particulates.

Here I have used 5 tablespoons of the whiting chalk for a sample mixture. This wil make between 5-8 pastel sticks.

Add your pigment to the chalk. This colour is cerulean blue, and I used 5 teaspoons. This amount of pigment is based purely on what kind of colour you desire. I do not recommened using anything more than a 2 part chalk to 1 part pigment when you are first trying to find your perfect colour.

Step 5: Combine Pigment and Whiting Chalk

Pigments can be deceiving; a small amount can go a long way and a lot can sometimes seem to never be enough. The colour you see with the dry mixture here is what the finished pastel should produce. It will become darker when the liquid binder is added. If there are small clumps in either powder try sifting or breaking them up or you may encounter streaks of intense pigment or of white while using your pastel stick.

Step 6: Combine Binder and Powder

Add your gum tragacanth mixture to the pigment mixture until the consistency is like dough. The colour is now intense. Add SLOWLY, the dough should be a dry consistency. With the amounts I used here, I had some binder mixture left over.

Step 7: Roll It Out

Roll out your dough into pastel-like sticks in whatever size you prefer. They will be easy to handle and quite maleable from the gum tragacanth. Lay them onto several layers of newsprint to dry. I placed newsprint on top of the sticks too.

Please note, pigments are gorgeous, they can also be somewhat toxic. Some colours more so than others. More often than not the more beautiful shades have a higher toxicity (heavy metals). Best to use gloves when handling pigment in this manner as a precaution especially if you are going to try this often.

Another option for making the pastel shapes is to use a left-over tray from a store-bought pastel box to mould your new pastels or use a knife to cut measured sticks. You will have to turn them out onto the newsprint as well. This will help them dry.
Leave for at least 48 hours, or longer if you are in a humid climate.

Step 8: Done

Homemade chalk pastels



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    5 Discussions


    8 months ago

    If they were lightfast I'd make a whole set.


    10 months ago

    So, Here's what I did differently. I used 30:1 ratio for the binder plus a drop of rosemary oil for preservative (without a preservative your gum will mould). Even then, the binder was REALLY thick. This left the pastels harder than I would like. So I added more water the gum mixture.

    I also used pure pigment instead of adding chalk. If I wanted I lighter color, I mixed the pigments with titanium white pigment.

    I used a 3:1 ratio of pigment:binder and I feel I could used even less binder solution to get an even softer pastel. It needed two weeks to dry fully. But in the end...loved it!

    I find these to be softer pastels. The store bought are rigid, like true blackboard chalk. Sometimes the harder pastels are better for drawings where you want to "shave" the chalk on to paper for smudging. This version are a little bit more forgiving when pressing on a page, though it still smudges well. You have control over the shape and size of the pastel which can be fun. Less expensive too, so if you need a large amount of this medium for a project, it is a great way to experiment.