Pastel colors

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.


Soft Pastels (Bleiswijck Holland)

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

Some well known pastels have specific names: Pinkmauve, and baby blue, as well as magic mintpeachperiwinkle, and lavender. (source: wikipedia-en).

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”


Café P. de Gruyter – Amsterdam – Digital woodcut (B. Mulckhuijse 2018)

Read more about this work…


Historical images

For inspiration I have collected a number of images of pastel artworks through the ages.

18th century pastel portrait

The Eighteenth-Century Pastel Portrait | Essay | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

By Jean-Baptiste Perronneau, Olivier Journu (1756). Pastel on paper, mounted on canvas (58.1 x 47 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

19th century cityscape

Robert Finlay Macintyre 19th century London Cityscape Pastel Painting

Att: Robert Finlay Macintyre (1846-1906) 19th London Cityscape Pastel Painting

Art Deco Architecture on the Ocean Drive (Miami)

Art Deco architecture

Art Deco architecture on the Ocean Drive in Miami (US).

Chevrolet (‘Chevy’) Bel Air

Pin on Classic cars

Chevrolet ‘Bel Air’

Fifties American Diner

Pin by Minga.jpg on Lonely Heart Diner | Pastel fashion, Fashion photography, Editorial fashion

American fifties diner in pastel

Ice cream


Scoop Ice Cream Parlour in Minehead Somerset (UK)


Read more about visiting this restaurant…

The counter


American 1950’s retro kitchen

Balanced blue and pink kitchen with a 1950s vibe

Retro kitchen

More kitchen inspiration…

Don Johnson – Miami Vice

Miami Vice Don Johnson Sonny Crockett

Miami Vice’s Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson).

More fashion tips… 

Fresh prince of Bel Air

Will Smith's style on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Promo pics and screencaps of the show

Will Smith’s style on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air


Pastel movie

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

Edward Scissorhands (1990)

See more pastel movies… 

If you still haven’t had enough…

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