Using the Derwent Pastel Shades Paint Pan Set – Our Top Tips

Derwent’s Pastel Shades Paint Pan Set is filled with a beautiful selection of opaque paints in subtle pastel shades. Use these soft, refreshing paints to create washes of delicate colour or layer to build up intense hues. With accessories and a sturdy plastic palette to complete the set – you’ll have everything you need to enjoy pastel hues on the go!

Open the Derwent Pastel Shades Paint Pan Set and you’ll be greeted with a selection of punchy yet delicate colours reminiscent of a sweet shop. All you’ll need is a wet brush to activate the pans to create everything from milky washes, to thick, opaque colour ideal for highlights. The set includes the following colours and accessories:

  • 12 Pastel Shade Pans – Lemon, Peach, Coral Pink, Pink Flamingo, Orchid Pink, Lavender, Cornflower Blue, Turquoise, Mint, Artichoke, Storm Grey, Silver Blue
  • A small water brush
  • A small sponge
  • A sturdy plastic palette box with plenty of mixing space.
The Derwent Pastel Shades Paint Pan Set is photographed on a white background alongside Derwent Pastel Blocks and skeleton leaves in complementary pastel shades.

Maybe you’re new to pastels? Or aren’t familiar with gouache-like paints? Our top tips have some great exercises to help you get you on your way to mastering pastel shades.

Dilute colour to make delicate washes

A dilute, gradated wash of Pastel Pan paint in Lemon, Peach, Coral Pink and Pink Flamingo.
A gradated wash of dilute Pastel Pan Colour using (top to bottom) Lemon, Peach, Coral Pink and Pink Flamingo.

You can use Derwent’s Pastel Shade pans similarly to a traditional watercolour paint. Just take a wet brush, swipe over the pan and you’ll be able to easily lift the colour. Drop some colour from your loaded brush onto the palette and dilute it with a little water. Paint this out and you’ll create a delicate wash of colour. Try adding more and more water to your mixture, and you’ll be able to create washes that become paler and paler.

Mix with minimal water to create a gouache-like paint

Opaque, circular swatches of Pastel Shade colour are spotted and layered over a sheet of paper. Spots are painted in Turquoise, Cornflower Blue, Pink Flamingo, Lemon, Mint and Coral Pink.
Opaque circular swatches of Turquoise, Cornflower Blue, Pink Flamingo, Lemon, Mint and Coral Pink.

Try lifting colour like in the exercise above, but use only a little water to activate the colour. Run your brush over the pan a few times and you should notice a thick paint building up. Load your brush with this thick mixture and paint onto your paper. The colour will be much more bright and intense than the washes from the first exercise.

Layer washes to build up intense colour

Dilute swatches of Lavender Pastel Shade are layered. Where the layers overlap the colour is more intense.
The colour of these Lavender Pastel Shade washes are most intense where the layers overlap.

Using thick colour means you can apply bold colour in a single layer. But you can also create radiant washes built up from successive layers. Create a dilute wash, like in the first exercise, and paint your first layer onto paper. Let this dry before adding another layer on top. Repeat this process until you have a wash of vibrant colour.

Smooth out colour with a dilute wash

A wash of Turquoise Pastel Shade on NOT and Hot Pressed watercolour paper. A dilute wash of the colour has been used to even out the washes below.
A dilute mix of Turquoise Pastel Shade evens out the patchy washes below on both NOT and Hot Pressed Watercolour Paper.

If you create a wash that looks a little patchy or needs evening out, don’t worry! You can easily smooth them out by painting a dilute wash of the same colour over the top. All you’ll need to do is lift a bit of colour with a wet brush, then dilute with water on the palette. Paint this watery wash over the top of the patchy areas. As it dries it should even out the brush strokes in your wash – much like gouache!

Don’t worry if bubbles form in your mixes

On the left a wash of Lavender Pastel Shade contains lots of bubbles. On the right side the wash has dried and the bubbles have disappeared to create a smooth wash.
Left – There are lots of bubbles in this wash of Pastel Shade Lavender. Right – The same wash has dried and the bubbles have disappeared.

Sometimes when you’re mixing colour or painting washes little bubbles can form in your mixes and washes. If you see any – don’t worry! These bubbles will dissipate on their own and your paint will dry to a smooth finish.

Use greys to create a broad range of shades

Swatches of Lemon, Pink Flamingo and Mint line the top of the photo. Below the same colours are mixed with Storm Grey and Silver blue to create tones and shades.
Lemon (left), Pink Flamingo (middle) and Mint (right) are painted into swatches (top), then mixed with Storm Grey (middle) and Silver Blue (bottom) to create a range of shades and tones.

The Pastel Shades paint pan set includes two greys – Storm Grey and Silver Blue. Storm Grey is quite a warm grey, while Silver Blue is much cooler. Try out both these greys in each of your mixes to create shades and tones of other pastel shades in a variety of temperatures. This contrast in temperature will bring life to your paintings.

Lift colour with an eraser to create patterns and texture

Dry washes of Artichoke, Turquoise and Storm Grey have been lifted using a soft white and kneaded eraser.
These dry washes of Artichoke (left), Turquoise (middle) and Storm Grey (right) have been lifted using a kneaded eraser and soft white eraser.

If you use your Pastel Shade paint pans on a smooth surface, you can erase the colour with a soft artists eraser to make interesting textures and patterns. Just leave your washes to dry completely (they must be 100% dry) then use a soft eraser – like the Technique Eraser from the Derwent Specialist Erasers pack – to gently lift colour. This can be a great way to quickly add texture into your paintings, and also offers a great way to add highlights or lighting effects.

Use thick colour to paint light over dark

Opaque strokes of Coral Pink and Lemon have been painted over the top of dark swatches of Storm Grey and Artichoke mixed with Storm Grey.
Thick, opaque mixtures of Lemon and Coral Pink are painted over the top of Storm Grey and a Storm Grey/Artichoke mixture.

Because Pastel Paint pans have gouache-like qualities, they can be used to paint light over dark. To test this out you’ll need to paint a patch of colour using one of the dark colours in the set. Make sure you leave this layer to dry completely! Once it’s dry, pick a lighter colour and mix it thickly in the pan. Load your brush with this thick mixture and paint some details over your dark background. Pastel Shades are opaque, so when you use them in less dilute mixes you shouldn’t see much, if any, of the dark background showing through.

Combine with Metallic Shades for a subtle shimmer

Three Pastel Shades have been layered with three matching Metallic Shades to create shimmering soft shades. The colour combinations are Pink/Pink, Lavender/Purple and Mint/Green.
Metallic Shades are layered over the top of Pastel Shades. The colours used from left to right are – Pink/Pink, Lavender/Purple and Mint/Green.

Derwent Pastel Shades mix beautifully with all other Derwent Paint Pans. You can create some particularly striking effects by combining them with the Derwent Metallic Paint 12 Pan Set. Metallic Shades can be mixed in with your pastel shades, or layered over the top to create colours with subtle shimmer. Colours can be infinitely layered without reactivating the layers below. Adding a little sparkle can be great for painting naturally iridescent subject like butterflies, fish and beetles and also makes an exciting addition to calligraphy projects.

Close up of three Pastel Shades layered with three matching Metallic Shades to create shimmering soft shades. The colour combinations are Pink/Pink, Lavender/Purple and Mint/Green.

Use with Inktense for a pop of vibrant colour

Pastel Shades in Peach, Coral Pink mixed with Bright Orange Inktense, and Flamingo Pink Pastel Shade mixed with Poppy Red.
A drop of Inktense has been added to each of these Pastel Shades to create more vibrant colour. Both Peach (left) and Coral Pink (middle) have been mixed with Bright Orange Inktense paint, while Flamingo Red (right) has been mixed with Poppy Red.

Love your Pastel Shades but occasionally need a colour with a little more oomph? No worries – the pastel shades are fully intermixable with all other Derwent Paint Pans – making it easy to give them a vibrant pop! Inktense Paint Pans are especially great for adding vibrancy quickly. Remember, a little Inktense goes a long way! Try taking a small dab of colour from your Inktense pans and add it to one of your Pastel Shade mixes. Not only can you mix these paints, you can also layer them. The colours complement each other beautifully. Try painting a vibrant Inktense background, then layer opaque pastel shade details on top!


Buy your Derwent Pastel Shades Paint Pan Set today, or browse the rest of our Derwent Paint Pan Sets.

2 Responses

  1. Thanks. I ordered the Derwent Pastel Set and as I wait for delivery I was looking for examples of how to use . Your examples are the best I found, true photos of results!

    • Hi Sharon. Thanks for your feedback. So glad to hear that you found our blog post helpful!

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