Pastel colors have remained popular over the centuries. Pastel colors date back to the 16th century, when they were used by Italian and German artists. But also in the 20th century popular TV-series “Miami Vice” pastel colors were the trademark of the main character Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson). What are pastels and what makes them so special?
How pastel colors are made
The name pastel color originates from the pastel stick. This art medium consists of a pure, powdered pigment with a neutral colored (white) binder, often chalk or gypsum. Meanwhile there are a large number of variants on the market with other binding material, including eg. oil pastels, hard pastels and pastel crayons.
There’s a significant distinction between the painters’ material pastel stick versus the color pastel. While it is quite possible to make bright and strong colors with pastel sticks, when we talk about pastel colors we specifically soft and light tints.
To make things even more confusing, also an artwork produced with pastels is called a pastel!
The ability of these pastel sticks to make very light tints of one pure color pigments, has yielded the name pastel colors.
Properties of pastel colors
As I mentioned already, pastel colors contain pure pigments, which results in very pure color. Light and pure neutral gray is sometimes included, but gray blue, gray green and the like are not considered ‘true’ pastels.
Looking at the different color systems, pastels have some characteristic parameters (values):
- HSB/HSV: High Value (Brightness) in combination with low Saturation
- HSL: High Saturation in combination with high Lightness
- Munsell: High Value (8-9) in combination with high Chroma
Some example of HEX-code of pastel colors; all three values for R, G and B are relatively high:
- RGB (hex): #fea3aa, #f8b88b, #faf884, #baed91, #b2cefe, #f2a2e8
Since all pastel colors are very bright, they lack the dramatic light versus dark contrast. Pastel art works therefor often seem soft, romantic and sweet.
Commissioned work “De Gruyter”
For inspiration I have collected a number of images of pastel artworks through the ages.
18th century pastel portrait
19th century cityscape
Art Deco Architecture on the Ocean Drive (Miami)
Chevrolet (‘Chevy’) Bel Air
Fifties American Diner
American 1950’s retro kitchen
Don Johnson – Miami Vice
Fresh prince of Bel Air