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Pastel Pet Portraits - A Guide

Pastel pet portraits are a wonderful way to create a timeless keepsake of your pet. Pastel is a unique type of art medium, which may not be as well known as paints, such as oil. However, it is a form of art that has been around for as long as oil and actually uses exactly the same pigments. Pastel is perfectly suited to pet portraits, as the pigment is layered upon a textured paper called pastelmat, which allows the formation of all the unique patterns you see in the fur of any pet. 

Pastel Pet Portraits Gallery

Pastel Pet Portraits- The Process

Pastel is my favourite and prefered medium to work in for pet portraits. You end up with rich colours, with the detail and texture built up over layers of pastel. A pastel pet portrait allows me to create a realistic, yet still artistic, representation of your pet.


I have written a blog post about creating a pastel pet portrait of a golden retriever puppy, which you can find here. I filmed time-lapses of the portrait coming to life, which shows you how the fur is built up slowly over layers. The same goes for the eyes and nose. The way that pastels are used, is quite similar to other forms of painting, where the layers are added and it feels like suddenly the realistic features appear.  

Often when creating a pastel pet portrait, I will start off with drawing out the general outline of the pet, and then I will fill in the details of the eyes and nose. They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and I feel once you have got them drawn, you feel like the pet is looking back at you. 

Noses of dogs are generally (but not always!) black. In art you need to consider the "values", this is the lightness or darkness of any colour, I think it is useful to draw in the darkest values, some of which can often be found in the nose and eyes. 

When creating a pastel portrait, the vast majority of my work is completed in pastel pencils. Whilst I may use some soft pastel sticks for some areas on the pet, the rest is done using pencils. This brings me to the next topic, the materials. 

Pastel Pet Portraits-The Materials

Pastel Pet Portrait Materials- soft past

Soft Pastel Sticks

Soft Pastels, by definition, are soft. What does this mean? You get a lot of colour pay-off which allows you to cover large areas easily and quickly. These are used for backgrounds and for earlier layers of a portrait.

Pet portraits in pastel- pencils

Pastel Pencils

Pastel pencils are the same substance but encased in wood. Different brands of pencils have different qualities and colours. I use 4 brands in my work; Stabilo Carbothello, Derwent, Faber Castell and Caran d'Ache. These are high-quality pastel pencils, which have a good standard of "lightfast-ness". Which means your pastel pet portrait will last a lifetime. They can be sharpened to a point for areas of fine detail.

Pastelmat paper

Pastelmat Paper

Pastelmat is different from your average paper. It has the texture of very fine sandpaper. This texture allows for the building up of many layers of pastel.

Why Should You Choose a Pastel Pet Portrait?

Pastel is a beautiful art medium, with a range of different types of pastel which allow me full control over your pet's portrait. I am very much a perfectionist in nature (!) and I find having pastels ranging from thick stick to the fine point of a sharpened pastel pencil very freeing. It allows me to create portraits that are realistic renditions of your pet, whilst retaining a degree of art in their final form.

I find that with pastels you can get a lovely depth of colour, with the blackest blacks and the deepest brown eyes being able to be rendered perfectly onto paper. Once complete, a pastel pet portrait does not need to be left to harden, or need to be varnished, meaning it can be mounted and sent out to you straight away. 

Pastel on paper lends itself beautifully to layering up the colours and texture in order to create a truly realistic pet portrait.

Labrador Pastel Pet Portrait- With pet p

Pastel Pet Portraits as Gifts

Pastel Pet Portraits make fantastic gifts. As you can see in the photograph they come fully mounted in a high-quality mount. I can also offer picture framing if it is something you would like. 

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