Colour Ranges and Their Combinations

Pastels are pure sticks of colour. No need for brushes or palette knives, colour is simply at the end of your fingertips. This makes pastels ideal for both quick, open sketches and detailed, fully executed paintings. Both hard and soft pastels are available:

Hard pastels

Nicolas - Jacques Conte patented his invention of the graphite pencil in 1795. He was soon making a large array of pencils and pastels.

Conte Carre sticks are a small, hard pastel, traditionally favoured for detail sketches and life drawing. They are also useful for fine linear marks and highlights to finish a soft pastel picture.

Soft pastels

Soft pastels are the most popular. Easy to apply and creamy to blend, most ranges have at least 200 colours. The large number of colours in a range is necessary as the dry sticks cannot be mixed on a palette like paints. The selection of colours available as a result is very important if you're going to be able to paint whatever you like.

Our range has been developed from 40 full strength colours (Tint 4). Each full strength colour is available in three lighter tints (Tint 1,2,3 - Tint 1 being the lightest) and one darker shade (Tint 5). The result is a wide range of strong, clean colours complemented with suitably graduated tints for tones, shadows and highlights.

Combining different pastels

Pastels can be freely intermixed. For maximum permanence use colours which are rated AA or A.


Most artists like to be sure that their colours are permanent. Fortunately, the 20th century has seen enormous improvements in the lightfastness of colours. All Winsor & Newton colours rated AA or A are recommended as permanent for artists' use. Permanence ratings are on the product labels and our colour charts.  In pastels however, the pigment is not protected by the binder. This combined with the quantity of white required to make pale tints, results in some colours being only moderately durable and these are given a B rating.

There are only 14 such colours out of 200. These offer unique hues and are the most permanent currently available in that part of the pastel spectrum.  The application of fixative greatly improves the permanence of these colours by protecting the pigment and in fact 5 of the 14 qualify for an A rating when fixed.

Colour Blending

Although pastels cannot be mixed to the same extent as paints, colours can be blended to approximate tints if you run short. Blending red and white on the paper will of course give a pink. However, blending colours will fill in the texture of the sheet and give flatter areas of colour.

If used excessively blending can make the picture look rather dull and laboured. Blending works well as a complement to the textured areas of work. Try to use it where you want smoothness and finesse and not to skimp when really you need more tints.

Opacity and Layering

Pastels are an opaque medium because they are made using inert pigments like chalk to form the stick and produce the paler tints. Subsequent layers will cover initial ones unless you utilise the texture of the paper to allow the underlayers to show through.

Jackie Simmonds

Complementary Colours

Exceptional brilliance of colour can be achieved by using complementary colours next to each other. The vibrant outcome is very effective in abstract work.

Using and Storing Pastels

As their wrappers are torn away and the pastels are used on their sides for broad marks you will probably loose track of which ones are which, especially when you have dozens.

It's a good idea to make up some swatches of the colours when they're new, so you'll know which ones to buy again and you will have a reference you can refer to once the wrapper has gone. Make the swatches on the paper which you use most and remember to make any comparisons using the same colour paper.

Pastel sets are lined with foam inserts and if your temperament suits it you can replace each pastel in its slot as you work. Most of us cannot help but use lots of pastels at once and a useful alternative is using boxes which are greens, browns, reds, etc. Fill the boxes with rice or ground rice as this will keep the pastels clean.

Cutlery trays can be useful for mixed boxes of colours and if you like to line up the pastels, corrugated cardboard will keep them in their place.

A supply of damp but not wet rags as you work is an excellent way to keep your hands and work clean. Household dishcloths are good as they are strong enough to be wrung out and used again.

Basic Palette

Your initial palette needs to represent colours from across the spectrum and have a selection of both strong and pale tints. An assortment of  24 colours will get you started. More colours and tints can be added later for different styles and subjects.

Basic Palette:
Winsor Lemon Tint 4, Winsor Yellow Tint 4, Winsor Yellow Deep Tint 4, Winsor Red Tint 4, Permanent Alizarin Crimson Tint 3, Quinacridone Magenta Tint 4, French Ultramarine Tint 4, Indanthrene Blue Tint 5, Cobalt Blue Hue Tint 2, Winsor Blue Red Shade Tint 3, Permanent Green Tint 2, Hooker's Green Tint 4, Oxide of Chromium Tint 1, Permanent Sap Green Tint 1, Olive Green Tint 5, Yellow Ochre Tint 1 and 4, Burnt Sienna Tint 1 and 4, Burnt Umber Tint 3, Raw Umber Tint 5, Davy's Gray Tint 1, Ivory Black, Titanium White.

Using All The Tints of One Colour

As your palette expands and you settle on favourite colours you'll find having all five tints of one colour will be useful. All tints of French Ultramarine for example for skies or Oxide of Chromium for landscapes. The lower tints for the highlights and the higher tints for the shadows.

Additional Colours for Particular Techniques

As pastels cannot be mixed in the same way as paints, there is a greater need for additional colours for different techniques. Remember to make up a hand made chart of your palette as you purchase new colours. This reference will be indispensable for matching colours as you're working. In the following pages the tint numbers are abbreviated, eg. T5 is Tint 5.

Landscape Painting

In addition to a basic palette across the spectrum for landscape, yellows, blues, greens and earth colours are endlessly useful.

Landscape Colours:
Winsor Lemon T4, Winsor Yellow T5, T3, Winsor Red T3, French Ultramarine T3, Cobalt Blue Hue T4, T3, T2, Winsor Blue (Red Shade) T3, T2, T1, Winsor Green (Blue Shade) T4, Permanent Green T2, Hooker's Green T4, Oxide of Chromium T1, Green Earth T4, T3, T2, Permanent Sap Green T4, T3, T1, Olive Green T5, Green Ochre T3, Yellow Ochre T4, T1, Raw Sienna T4, Gold Ochre T2, T1, Burnt Sienna T4, T1, Indian Red T5, T3, T2, Caput Mortuum T2, Burnt Umber T4, T3, Raw Umber T5, Payne's Gray T1, Davy's Gray T5, T2, Ivory Black, Titanium White.

Jackie Simmonds

Portrait Painting

Portraiture needs that spark of life and character; clean, crisp colours and tints will achieve these. Pinks, violets and earth colours make the subtle tones required for portraits.

Portrait Colours:
Winsor Lemon T1, Winsor Yellow T3, Winsor Red T3, T1, Permanent Alizarin Crimson T3, T1, Permanent Rose T1, Quinacridone Magenta T3, T2, T1, Ultramarine Violet T4, T3, T2, Cobalt Blue Hue T5, T2, Permanent Green T2, Oxide of Chromium T5, T1, Permanent Sap Green T3, Yellow Ochre T5 - T1, Raw Sienna T4, Gold Ochre T2, Burnt Sienna T4, T2, T1, Indian Red T3, T1, Caput Mortuum T2, Burnt Umber T4, T3, T2, T1, Raw Umber T5, T4, T1, Davy's Gray T5, T1, Ivory Black, Titanium White.

Gerry Ball

Flower Painting

Flower painters often have a high key palette of full strength pastels.

Flower Colours:
Winsor Lemon T4, Winsor Yellow T4, T3, Winsor Orange T4, Winsor Red T4, Permanent Alizarin Crimson T4, Permanent Rose T4, Quinacridone Magenta T4, Winsor Violet T4, French Ultramarine T4, Winsor Blue (Red Shade) T3, Cerulean Blue Hue T4, Winsor Green (Blue Shade) T3, Winsor Green (Yellow Shade) T4, T3.

Jean Martin

Animal Studies

Earth colours are favourites for animal tones.

Animal Colours:
Yellow Ochre T5 - T1, Raw Sienna T5 - T1, Burnt Sienna T5, T3, T2, Indian Red T5, T4, T3, Caput Mortuum T5 - T1, Burnt Umber T5 - T3, Raw Umber T5 - T1, Ivory Black, Lamp Black, Charcoal Grey, Titanium White, Zinc White.

Sam Thompson

Seascape Painting

Blues, greens, ochres and greys are the common colours for the sand, sea and sky of a seascape.

Seascape Colours:
Quinacridone Violet T5, French Ultramarine T5, Indanthrene Blue T5 - T1, Cobalt Blue Hue T4, Winsor Blue (Red Shade) T5, T4, Winsor Green (Blue Shade) T5, T4, Winsor Green (Yellow Shade) T2, Hooker's Green T5, Oxide of Chromium T5, Olive Green T3, T1, Yellow Ochre T5, T4, T1, Raw Sienna T5 - T1, Gold Ochre T4, T3, Burnt Sienna T5, T4, Burnt Umber T5, Raw Umber T3, T1, Davy's Gray T5, T3, T2.

Gerry Ball


Cityscapes need blues, greys, browns and reds and tend to be rather equal in tone. Country buildings use more ochres and are a little lighter in tone.

Colours for Buildings:
Winsor Red Deep T5, Permanent Alizarin Crimson T5, French Ultramarine T5, T2, Indanthrene Blue T5, T2, Olive Green T3, Yellow Ochre T5, Raw Sienna T5, T4, T3, Gold Ochre T5, Burnt Sienna T5, T4, Indian Red T5, T4, T3, Burnt Umber T5, T4, Raw Umber T5 - T1, Paynes Gray T5 - T1, Davy's Gray T5 - T1, Charcoal Grey.

High Key (Bright) Colour

These are generally the Tint 4 colours. High key palettes are popular with impressionist styles, flowers and for more abstract effects in pastels.

High Key Colours:
Winsor Lemon T4, Winsor Yellow T4, T3, Winsor Yellow Deep T4, T3, Winsor Orange T4, Scarlet Lake T4, Winsor Red T4, Permanent Rose T5, T4, Quinacridone Violet T3, Winsor Violet T3, Cobalt Blue Hue T4, Winsor Blue (Red Shade) T4, T3, Cerulean Blue Hue T4, T3, T2, Winsor Turquoise T4, Winsor Green (Blue Shade) T4, Winsor Green (Yellow Shade) T4, Permanent Green T4, Permanent Green Light T4, T3, T2, Burnt Sienna T4, Titanium White.

Low Key (Subdued) Colours

These are generally earths, greens and greys. Tint 1s and Tint 2's are usually low key and the Tint 5's in some cases too.

Low Key Colours :
Winsor Lemon T1, Winsor Orange T5, T1, Winsor Red T1, Permanent Rose T1, Quinacridone Magenta T1, Ultramarine Violet T3, T2, T1, French Ultramarine T2, T1, Indanthrene Blue T5, Winsor Turquoise T1, Oxide of Chromium T5 - T1, Green Earth T5 - T1, Permanent Sap Green T2, T1, Olive Green T5, T3, T2, T1, Green Ochre T5 - T1, Yellow Ochre T5, T2, T1, Gold Ochre T4, T2, T1, Burnt Sienna T2, T1, Indian Red T5 - T1, Caput Mortuum T5 - T1, Burnt Umber T5 - T1, Raw Umber T5 - T1, Payne's Gray T5 - T1, Davy's Gray T5 - T1, Ivory Black, Lamp Black, Charcoal Grey,  Zinc White.

Bernard Dunstan