How to use Chalk Pastels in the Artroom

Chalk pastels are one of my favorite products to use in the art room. They allow a child to lay down a lovely layer of color with just their fingers. No paint, brushes or water necessary to create a colorful work of art. And if you’re into color-mixing, you can’t beat pastels. They are soft, glorious and come in every color imaginable.

So why do they have a bad rap in the art room?

Well, they are dusty for one.

And pretty messy.

And some kids (okay, me) don’t like the chalky, dry feeling on their hands.

Truth is, it’s very hard to keep clean with chalk as it’s impossible to apply chalk neatly. Once you embrace this, I think you are on your way to some pretty amazing art lessons.

I invite you to join me for a 4-part video series that explores why chalk is worth exploring, how to prep chalk, how to avoid the mess and projects that use chalk effectively.

Video #1 Introduction: What’s Possible with Chalk Pastels

Video #2: Chalk Pastels Art Projects

Video #3: White Paint & Chalk Technique

A really cool technique for chalk pastel is to dip the chalk into white paint. Here’s the thing. If you dip the paint into a liquid-whether it’s water or paint- the chalk gets wet, too. And it starts to smudge on the paper and blend with the paint color.

It creates a very texture, and beautiful piece of art.

Video #4: Best Practices for Working with Chalk Pastels

If you are working with a new set of pastels, go ahead and break the long sticks in half. The smaller the piece, the easier it is for a small child to work with.

TIP # 2:

Use black paper instead of the white. For many of my projects that feature chalk pastel, I set out colored paper (black is my favorite) for the background base of the drawing. The dark background allows the vibrancy of the chalk pastel to really pop.

TIP # 3:

Draw first with a black oil pastel or waxy black crayon. The trick here is to encourage a child (especially one that is 10 and under) to draw large. Larger drawings are far easier to color, especially when you are using chalk. Color right up to the black line and smooth the chalk.

TIP # 4:

After drawing with an oil pastel and coloring with chalk, outline the good drawing lines with a black oil pastel. This really makes the piece stand out.

TIP # 5:

Use chalk pastel over dry paint to add highlights, contrast and extra details. There is simple no better way for a child to add layers of interest, contrast and texture to a piece of art than using chalk over dry paint.

Should you spray a child's chalk art project?

So if you are past this and you have just created a chalk lesson with your kids, you might be wondering what’s next?

There are a few things that you can do to ensure that chalk art gets home safely:
Newspaper: Before beginning a chalk project, lay a double spread of a newspaper down on the table. Not only does it help the children color evenly (a double layer provides some padding against a hard table) but you have an instant chalk protector on hand. Simply fold the newspaper over the artwork (tap excess chalk into a trash can) and place in a child’s portfolio. When you work on the artwork again, the children already have their “placemats”.

Hairspray: You may have noticed that when you sprayed chalk pastel artwork with hairspray, the spray tends to discolor/lighten/darken or even pixilate the artwork. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking spraying as you never know what’s going to happen. The only advice I have is to use the brand with the finest spray. For me, Final Net Hairspray is the best.

Fixatives: Quite honestly, I have tried a few fixatives over the years and I haven’t found one that works better than hairspray. They are expensive and I suspect aren’t meant for cheap school-grade chalk.

Pastels: The best way to ensure that chalk will stay put is to use good chalk. In the past, I have always bought the most inexpensive pastels. They have always served me well but better quality pastels have more staying power.

For more free art lesson on CHALK PASTELS, click HERE.

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  • Sheri Blackburn

    I teach K-5 Art! Another teacher gave me your web sight! I just watched your demonstrate on using chalk! Wow it will be so helpful in my classroom!!! Your so amazing! Thank you!! I will buy your book for sure!!!

    • Patty

      Thank you Sheri! Glad you found me 🙂

  • Shira Waldman

    Thank you Patty,
    This was an amazing tutorial. I feel so much more prepared to tackle my first year as an art teacher (K-8).

  • Adina

    These were SUPER interesting! I work in a kindergarden in Romania and the children are between 2 1/2 – 6 years old. I actualy do the backstage work: researching for activities of all kind and actualy preparing all the materials. I was thinking and suggested that children try different types of painting/drawing activities (other than the classic waterpaints and colour pencils). But because I am not an art teacher I started to research on different blogs. I got your videos in my mailbox and watched them. They are so helpful for me, because now I can suggest new painting and drawing activities and I can even show the educators how to do them. This will be a new and awesome experience for the children also.

    Do you have any suggestions or ideas on what type of artistic activities we can try with such small children?

    • Patty

      Hi Adina!
      I love this question! For very young children (ages 2 ½-4) I love activities that are highly exploratory or processed based. By this I mean, very little instruction. Set out the supplies and invite children to explore. When children get to 4 ½ -6, I believe they love projects with a bit more structure…setting out a select palette of paint and creating textured paper, or teaching children how to do a very simple directed drawing then allowing them to paint how they want. I have a lot of lessons on this site for 5 year olds..take a look and enjoy exploring! You can search based on grade level. In the States, 5-year olds are generally Kindergarten.

  • Susan Churchill

    Love it! Especially the mix of oil and chalk pastels and I can’t wait to try the pastels and white paint! Thank you!

  • Jenifer

    Will I be able to watch the Calder video by joing the waitlist ?

    • Patty

      Hi Jenifer!
      We have a Calder bundle inside The Sparklers Club…definitely one of my favorite bundles. And yes, you can access the bundle and many more by becoming a member of The Sparklers Club. Click the image above to add your name to our notification list. We’ll email you information about enrollment.

  • Julie Hunt

    Thanks Patty for excellent inspirational ideas that can be applied throughout the year in classrooms everywhere. Thanks for introducing us to the joys of chalk pastels for children. I want to get my fingers dirty as well 🙂 and paint with chalk! The mixing of paint using chalk pigment is wonderful and hands on. Thank you! The white glue outline is also another added relief touch. Your demonstration of how to clean up after using chalk is wonderful for classroom management. All in all— a great lesson or should I say lessons! Looking forward to the arrival in August of your book ? that I purchased.

  • Cynthia Eckhart-Weldy

    Fantastic! Thank you, Patty! Summer break is almost over so I usually start watching your inspirational videos to get my creative juices going!

    • Patty

      Happy and pleased to help with the inspirational juices!

  • Candi

    I love this. Especially the part about removing black and white from sets. I dont allow my kids to use black paint alot. They must learn to mix black and brown.

    • Patty

      Great idea…and such a great learning tool

  • elaine

    Thanks Patty for making these particular videos free to non-members. I am a Sparkler and “teach” art to my granddaughters, ages 3, 6, 8 (BTW, being a Sparkler was just what I needed, as I am NOT an artist or art teacher by profession). Their mother wanted to do a series of chalk art lessons for the summer break and the tips you gave in the series of videos will be helpful to her. Thanks for all of your wonderful work!

  • Raziya Swan

    Excellent tutorial!!! I know these tips already, having a Masters degree in Art Education and having taught art for almost 20 years. However it is still enjoyable to have a refresher. Thank you so much.

    • Patty

      Your welcome 🙂

  • Lisa Eaton

    I loved this as a reminder of the ways to use pastel. I love pastel, but forgot about some of the techniques and tips.

  • Erin

    To “finish” my students chalk pastel projects I laminate them! That way I can put the onbulletin boards for the whole school to see!

    • Patty

      I’ve done that in the past as well and they look amazing!

  • Carrie

    I love how you showed so many examples, on a variety of papers, and combining media.
    I was surprised you didn’t demonstrate using liquid starch with pastels. I was wondering if you have experimented with it before.

    • Patty

      Hi Carrie…Yes! Liquid starch and pastels are a great combination. There are many techniques…so maybe I’ll save a few more for the next training. 🙂

  • Debi

    Thank you Patty. These are great suggestions for using chalk pastels and I can’t wait to try them.

    Your videos are great but personally I am struggling with the music in the background. I find it distracting and would rather listen to your voice. When I watch other videos on you tube and they speed up the video and attach music I turn the sound off because for some reason it drives me crazy. Just a personal preference I thought I would share.

    • Patty

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.:)

  • Diane Wetherill

    You chalk lessons provided very valuable tips and the end results are stunning. Thank you!

    • Patty

      Thank you Diane…I hope I convinced teachers to use this underused media…I’m a chalk fanatic!

  • Elsa Clark

    Very nice! Good ideas.

  • Donna Freeman

    Loved these lessons!!!!

  • Jessica

    The videos were clear, comprehensive, colorful, friendly and practical for teachers. Really like them

    • Patty

      Thank you Jessica!

  • Debbie Mitchell

    Thank you for the GREAT ideas!
    I’m not new to art or crafting, but I will be teaching art for the first time this fall.

    • Patty

      Congrats Debbie! You’re starting the best job in the world 🙂

  • Patti

    Thank you for these great videos! I got many new ideas for working with chalk pastels!!

  • Jenny Tabor

    I loved these lessons and am excited to implement them into my classroom!

  • Donna Biddix

    Very cool ideas. I love chalk but hate the mess.

  • Diana

    Absolutely amazing !!

  • Jennifer Nutt

    The videos on using chalk and oil pastels are awesome! The explanations on technique are very informative and comprehensive! I am excited to share these projects with my students!
    Congratulations on publishing your book! I’m really excited to become a Sparkler and buy it.

    • Patty

      Thanks Jennifer! You don’t have to be a Sparkler to buy the book…it’s available through Amazon 🙂 And thanks ou so much for your comments. So glad you found the videos helpful!

  • Sandy Carwile

    Thank you for expanding my use of chalk pastels in the classroom and for practical classroom management to keep the mess at a minimum.

  • Kelly

    Thank you for the detailed information… can’t wait to try it!

  • Ingrid Van Slyke

    Hi ..
    Nice article. I am a high school art teacher but also a professional soft pastel artist. There are many tricks you could do to reduce the “mess” with soft pastels in the classroom. I teach pastel painting in my class and have great results .if you would like more information please let me know.

  • RITA Gross

    Wonderful tips, exactly what I need as a first year teacher to get the year started using inexpensive materials. I love the tip about using different colors of paper to save coloring time since my classes will be short.

  • Deborah A Aspen

    Thanks for the info on chalk pastels – which we all love, despite the mess. I’m lucky enough to have a laminating machine, so for ‘finished’ work that is going to be displayed, I laminate, which works really well. The colors remain true, the art is ‘permanent’, and after a quick trim, everything is ready to be matted and framed. I would add that to the list of options above…if folks have access to a machine. Laminating film is pretty inexpensive – it’s the machine that is a huge expense up front. But if a school already has one – this is a process I’ve used for art show work for years.

  • Alison

    Hi Adina,

    I cannot wait to get your books, unfortunately I could not see the videos on chalk pastels. PLease let me know. I teach K-5 Art.

  • elham.pirmoradian

    I am so happy to find this useful website. Thank you so much. I want to learn more about art but I can’t pay. It’s great to be able learn these great art lessons and hopefully use it in your life at least make good time and memories with lids

  • Tanya Kilpatrick

    Thank you so much Patty! I have always wanted to use chalk but did not quite understand the process. This explained a lot! I can’t wait to try these with my students! I teach Pre-K through 6th grade art.

  • Cindy

    Thanks! I had no ideas you could layer tempera and pastels. I feel more relaxed about using pastels with young students now. Not as afraid of the mess!



  • Ruth

    I am teaching art for grades 1-5 this year. Everyone is recommending signing up to your site.

  • Rochelle Dekow

    Great tips. I can’t wait to try these suggestions in the classroom.

  • Ginny Mapes

    Nice, I learned some new techniques for using oil pastels and chalk. Great tips forgetting rid of the chalk dust.

  • Loli

    I have learnt so much today. Thank you. I am going to have a go at it myself. ?Loli

  • Kriti

    Very good explanation…. thanks

  • Lou

    I just want to thank you for your generosity. I’ve bought some projects from you. But I’m not an art teacher specifically so haven’t bought a membership. (I spend a FORTUNE buying things as I teach a very specific group of special needs kids and resource prep is incredibly time consuming). Anyway, just want to say that I appreciate how much you put up for free and how generous you are with your knowledge. You are far and away my favourite teacher blog to scroll through for ideas for integrating art into my classroom. (I’m a big believer in Visual Arts being great for so many other types of learning with my kids.)

    • Lou

      oh and I’m here today after making a GIANT mess trying to introduce chalk pastels with no knowledge of them last week. Haha! Didn’t even try them myself first. Oops. Just had an idea (elmer’s glow glue, learning about deep see angler fish, and the availability of black cardboard and a lovely new box of chalk pastels…) and decided to go with spontaneity….Needed to know what to do next time so I didn’t end up with pages of smudge….

  • Kathy Gillikin

    Excellent points. Very helpful.

  • Jason Gilmore

    Very Very helpful videos! thanks!

  • Olivia Harms

    YOU’RE AMAZING! I teach art in public elementary school from K-6th grade. This is a wonderful technique! I am excited to teach this 🙂

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