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January 2019

How to Draw a Landscape with Soft Pastels - Blending & Layering Colors


Creative Studio

Welcome to the studio, a place to relax, to be inspired and to develop your own creative potential. Here, we will explore ideas and create art with mediums and techniques that will have you achieving rewarding results with your own art.

Soft pastels are a unique medium, unlike any other. Their incredible color,
texture, and ease of use offer an opportunity to expand your artistic abilities like you never thought possible.

In this lesson plan, we explore a landscape in soft pastel, and the basic steps to
creating your own pastel painting.


  1. Faber-Castell Soft Pastels 72 Count
  2. Masking Tape
  3. Pipe Insulation (for blending)
  4. UArt Premium Sanded Pastel Paper 9 x 12, 400 Grit, Beige
  5. Easel
  6. Cardboard

Getting Set Up
Pictured here is a piece of scrap cardboard (about 36 in. x 24 in.) that I prop up on my easel as a backing for the paper, and the tape hinges I make to hold my paper in place as I paint. Taking a few minutes to make these hinges is the best way to secure the paper, allowing all 4 corners to be exposed and the paper to lie flat.

How to make the tape hinge:
1. Tear a 2 in. piece of tape and position
it vertically on the corner edge of the back of paper with the sticky side facing you.

How to Make a Tape Hinge

2. Tear another 2 in. piece of tape and
position it crossing over over the sticky
side of the vertical tape, fastening it to
the backboard. Repeat for all 4 corners.

Tape 4 Corners

Popham Beach, Maine

Popham Beach Photo

I took this picture of one of the most breathtaking beaches in Maine, a place where I have summered for most of my life. It was an unforgettable day, with an ever-changing, beautiful sky.

The strong composition and simple elements; sky, water, sand and grass, make for an ideal subject to paint and learn from.

I printed an 8-1/2 x 11 photo as inspiration and reference.

TIP: You can enhance the quality of your photo by brightening and defining it a bit in editing on your phone.


Choosing Colors

Looking carefully at my reference photo, I choose as many pastel colors
as possible, keeping in mind that more colors and layers will add more interest, depth and complexity to the painting.

Also pictured here are pieces of foam pipe insulation which is an ideal
material for blending pastel.

Choosing Colors


Begin with a Simple Sketch
Here I began by lightly drawing the horizon line of the scene, followed by
a very simple outline of the beach area and path leading through the grasses. I used a medium toned purple pastel, not too light or dark.


TIP: Paper—Instead of white paper, choose a toned, textured pastel paper for your art. This can speed up the drawing time and set you up for success. When choosing the paper, consider its tone or value rather then actual color. A good middle toned grey or warm beige is a good start.

The more “tooth” or texture to the paper, the better it will accept many layers of pastels, thus giving amazing results.

Blocking in the Darks

The next few steps are about building layers of color by creating light and dark shapes. Here I begin to create a loose foundation by blocking in the darkest value of the image with a purple pastel. This color in the grass area serves as the darkest layer, or “dirt,” under the grass. I apply the pastel by using the side of the stick loosely laying in the darkest areas.

Layering - Blocking in Darks

TIP: Experiment with different colors, strokes and pressure on a scrap sheet
throughout the painting process.

Blocking in the Lights

Next, I fill in the lightest areas in the same manner as the darks. I do not yet use white; rather, I use a mauve to tie in with the purple and act as the darkest underbelly of the clouds. Next, I add the lightest blue of the ocean.

Layering - Blocking in Lights


Third Layer of Color

Here, I lay down some of the lightest areas and local color (green) directly over first layer of color, some white in the clouds, and two tones of sand color.

Layering Color



Now that the entire paper is filled with pastel, it is time to blend. Using a torn-
off piece of the foam pipe insulation, I begin with the sky and rub over the pastel
covered paper. I blend going in the direction you would as if using a brush,
changing my direction for different areas; vertically for the horizon line land mass, horizontally for the water, diagonal for the swaying grasses. I’m trying to achieve
a soft, out of focus effect with this first round of blending. It will serve as a
foundation and allow me the chance to decide where to create focus in the
following steps.

Blending Color

TIP: The best blending tool for using with soft pastels is foam pipe insulation. It is readily available at any hardware store and very inexpensive. Cut into pieces, a package of this material lasts a very long time, and can even be washed and reused.



In this step, I begin to refine the painting. I come back in with more rich color, using the side of my pastels, reinforcing the grasses with more greens and a bit of yellow.

I add a darker blue to the water.

I lightly begin to play with the sky and anatomy of the clouds, shaping and
defining them by adding more blues, with mauve and light lavender to the
underbelly, a bit of grey, and a hint of warm pale yellow.

Refine Layers

TIP: Erasing—the best tool for removing unwanted pastel right down to the paper, is canned air. Be sure to use it outside and point and blast the area on your paper at an angle, away from you. You do not want to breath in the pastel dust.


Balance and Blend

Here, I continue to refine the painting: I create the illusion of distance by lightly blending and fading out the horizon line land mass. I use the pipe insulation blending tool in a light-handed, up and down motion, leaving it loosely done and painterly. I allow for bits of the paper to peek through here and there.

Directly above the horizon line, I create smaller clouds receding into the

I keep the water soft and simple, lightly blending the blues and adding some aqua to indicate shallow water as it nears the shore. I add short simple strokes of white to suggest a few waves.

I gently blend areas of the grasses, and add warm, light sand colors.

Balance and Blending Color


Grass Detail

Here are a few ways to paint natural looking, irregular blades of grass with pastel. Take the time to practice these methods before you attempt it on your painting:

• Using the long edge of a soft square pastel, angle your mark and press, then lift the pastel to create irregular lines; lines that break and are both thick and thin.

• Create fluid, meandering lines with a harder, round pastel, by rolling the top edge of it along the paper.

Practice combining these methods, creating uneven, criss-crossing marks, representing the natural growth and movement of grasses.

How to Draw Grass



In this final step, I bring some grass detail into focus. I choose some areas of grass, and paint in a few blades. A few well placed blades in the foreground will make the whole area read as grass, without covering it all with detail.

Finally, I add a few highlights with fresh white pastel to the clouds, and I consider the painting finished. It is important to know when to stop and not overwork the art. The longer you work on the painting does not mean the better it will be. In practice, fewer strokes placed with more and more confidence is the goal.

Lesson Plan by Janis Doukakis

Layering Colors & Adding Depth

I truly never thought I would love coloring with markers, but I do!! Pitt Artist Pens are perfect for this! The colors are rich and the markers/pens give you a lot of control.


Using the first 3 tips you can learn how to draw these simple flowers.

Then comes the fun part - coloring! Starting with the lightest color, fill in the space for a base. Then choose a slightly darker color to add in details. Choose another color that is even darker, but part of the same color story, and add in the finishing touches!


Once your flowers are colored, you can outline your drawing to make it pop... add highlights and shadows to create depth... and add stippling in the shading to add interest!

You could choose to stop at any point. Some people will choose a simple drawing in step number 3, while some others might want to go through all 9 steps!


On the bottom I’ve shown the Pitt artist pens I used to create these florals. Interested in trying this out? Be sure to tag Faber-Castell USA and I so we can see!

I've also included a fun printable! You can download it here!

Enjoy! Keep Creating!

Let's Practice Shadows

Here are a few tips for practicing adding shadows to your lettering!

Materials used:

First you want to write our your word or words. I wrote out the word "shadows" here simply to show you the process. I also am showing you reverse shadows (darker letters with lighter shadows) when you would typically do grey or black shadows. I think the reverse shadows makes them stand out a bit better so it is easier to practice adding shadows to your work.

Shadow Practice

One of the most important things to keep in mind when adding shadows is to pick a "light source" direction and keep the shadows consistent. All of the shadows I show you have the "light source" coming from the upper left. So all of the shadows will fall on the right side of the letters, as well as some shadow on the bottom of the  letters.

Dark Shadows

You can switch it up. Your shadows don't have to be all the same color, or even black or grey! Just keep in mind the "light source" rule and get those creative juices flowing!

Rainbow Shadows

In this last photo I just used a lighter color for my base letters and then had fun with the shadows! Hopefully this helps :) 

Fun Shadows



Erin+AdamEngagements-14 copy

Erin is a teacher by day and a creator by night. She loves to try and inspire creativity in her students everyday! Because she’s busy during the day, the night is when her creativity gets to explode into the world through lettering and messing around with watercolors. Her biggest advice would be to not compare your art to other people’s art! Be uniquely you!

The Lettering Fern

Good Vibes Only Pitt Artist Pens

I just love the beautiful blues of the Good Vibes Only Pitt Artist Pen Lettering Set

Inspiration is everywhere... and sometimes right in front of you! After seeing the packaging design of this pack,  I couldn't resist sketching out my own banner lettering.



My best advice for beginners, and even intermediate letterers and sketchers.... pencil sketch first! I'm able to freely design a layout without worrying about wasting paper! If you can find a reference photo, like I did on the product packaging, it will help immensely. 
After sketching this, I laid out my lettering and colored in the banner. A little detail work with the included small tip Pitt Artist Pen, and my piece was complete!


I can't wait to display this on my desk as a little bit of positivity and inspiration!




Leah Kelly is a modern calligrapher and hand lettering artist. She is a military wife who took up the hobby to create decor and invitations for her own wedding. When she’s not addressing invitation envelopes or writing place cards, she loves to use calligraphy and painting as a creative form of meditation. Leah is currently working to get her professional certificate in graphic design.

Landscape with Goldfaber Pencils


Hi everyone, Mou Saha here with a landscape using Faber-Castell Creative Studio Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor and Color pencils. I really enjoy sketching outdoors whenever I get a chance. Where I live in New Jersey it’s pretty cold for a large part of the year but the landscapes here are breathtaking. There are old stone buildings, horse farms that stretch for acres as well as meadows with silo clusters with mountains in the horizon. What strikes me most about these landscapes are that they are ever-changing – I have driven by on misty autumn mornings, stopped by for fresh produce in summer afternoons – and every time I’m amazed by a different kind of beauty. Even if I can’t complete a painting on the spot, I try to at least begin the sketch. I take photos for reference so I can continue to work when I get back to my studio. I carry a sketch pad or a pack of watercolor papers, my Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor and Color pencils and a couple of filled water brushes with me in a tiny backpack. Today’s drawing was a result of one such adventure when I had to stop and capture the play of light around this old stone building. I finished the drawing later filling the landscape with elements from my own imagination.

Here's my supply list -

Now let me walk you through the stages of my drawing.


I began with a light pencil sketch of the building and the big tree right behind it with my GRIP 2001 Graphite pencil on a 9x6 inches watercolor paper.


Next, I filled in colors using the Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor pencils.


I added details with CASTELL 9000 Graphite pencil Jumbo 8B and filled in the landscape with the watercolor pencils.


Using the Deluxe Waterbrush, I created a quick wash blending the watercolor layer.


After laying the initial color layer down, I worked on adding details, texture, depth, highlights and shadows with the Goldfaber Color pencils.

I hope you enjoyed today's tutorial and give landscapes a try with Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor and Color pencils.


Celebrate Handwriting Day 2019

Is writing a dying art?

In an era in which technology forms part of our daily routine, we ask if writing is a dying art. However, simple tasks such as making a shopping list or writing a thank you note will never go out of fashion. Far from dying out, penmanship is attracting more and more devotees who are keen to extol its virtues. Every January 23rd, we celebrate International Handwriting Day. Sponsored by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA), this initiative has been working since 1977 to preserve and recognize the impact of handwriting on our lives.

Several studies have shown that there is a connection between handwriting and neural activity, which has had a positive influence on various aspects related to creativity, fine motor skills and cognitive ability. With respect to cognitive abilities, this practice could increase brain activity, thus providing a basis for enhanced performance and has an impact on reading, writing and critical thinking abilities. A study by Doctor George Early which was published by the American Association of Psychology showed that first grade students who knew how to write in cursive script achieved better grades than those who wrote in print.

According to Edouard Gentaz, Professor of Developmental Psychology at the University of Geneva, the act of constructing and joining letters helps us to strengthen our understanding of language due to our motor memory. This means that we can easily recognize letters afterwards, since our brain is directing each movement as we write.

Benefits for all ages

The benefits of writing by hand extend well beyond learning. For example, after a long day full of thoughts, taking a few minutes to write down ideas, phrases or just some words on paper can relieve stress. This simple action restores calm to our brain and can help our body relax. It can also stimulate our capacity to retain information, which helps improve our memory. It is a mental exercise that will help us to maintain a young mind as we grow older.

It also helps foster creativity, as we put ideas down on paper in a clear manner allowing us to focus on the project. It is with good reason that great writers prefer to write their drafts by hand, since it allows them to return to the piece again and again to reflect and make corrections.

Today, we wish you a very creative Handwriting Day and we hope that you take a few moments to write, relax and be creative.

Grip Fountain Pen_Faber-Castell

Taking a few minutes to capture ideas helps to relieve stress and stimulate creativity.

Product: Grip Fountain Pen. Credits: Faber-Castell


Tutorial: How To Create Art Deco Header Boxes!

Hi there, old sport! I’ve shown you a few ways to make header boxes before, that's nothing new - BUT since you are all so kind and supportive of my Art Deco posts, I figured I’d show you some simple ways to make your header boxes with a little 1920s flare! ✨


A lot of Art Deco is built upon symmetry, angles, and line work, which makes them easy to create step by step, and easy to apply to any dot grid journal. The dots create the perfect canvas for this style!


Using the simple steps above, and some fantastic Faber-Castell pens, you are able to bring a little glam to your days! Did you know they make metallic pens as well? In MORE than just silver and gold? You heard me correctly! I'm such a fan!



Want to give these tutorials a try and share it? Be sure to tag @fabercastellusa and @plansthatblossom so we can take a peek! If you’re interested in this style, but can’t master the technique, we've created a fun printable with many different art deco styles to use in your own journal! I've left them blank so you can use them for months, days, lists - whatever you choose! Jazz them up with some fabulous pitt artist pens as well! Download the printable HERE.

Thanks so much! Keep creating!

Winter Wishes

Are you the type of person who loves winter? The snow, the hot drinks, the cozy fire? Or are you more of a "Will summer just get here, already?!" kind?

I, for one, LOVE winter, and all that it brings. So, I made a fun little heart filled with some of my favorite wintery things using Pitt pens in the "shades of blue" pack, plus grey, a 1.5 fineliner, and a big black brush pen.


Try it out with some of your favorite seasonal things!



Photo Feb 28  9 52 26 AMChelsea has a not-so-slight obsession with all things lettering. Watching lettering videos is what got her started, and you an usually find her posting videos using every art supply she can get her hands on. From brush pens to watercolor, and everything in between!

Grip Color Marker Swatch Page & Doodles!

Hi there! Faber-Castell USA was kind enough to send me a set of Grip Color Markers, and I LOVE them! The colors are so vibrant, and the markers themselves are created to be easy to hold while using. Plus, they are non-toxic and washable, which is perfect for kids! (...and me!)


So, what’s a girl to do with a fresh set of supplies? Make a swatch page, of course!

Swatch pages are one of my favorite pages to make - I use them as a reference constantly, and they are just so pleasing to look at.


Another great part of playing with new markers, is seeing them in action! Here I’ve shown you how to create 3 writing utensils from a rectangle. It’s amazing how much you can do with a simple shape!


When you’ve finished creating your doodle, be sure to make it pop with vibrant colors like the ones shown here!

If you’re not sure how to create a swatch page, I’ve created a free printable template for your journal or sketchbook! You can download it *here*

Thanks for stopping by - Keep creating!

Duck Pond Project

Lucky duck pond

Pond name

Duck pond 1

Creative Studio

Welcome to the studio, a place to relax, to be inspired and to develop your
own creative potential. Here, we will explore ideas and create art with mediums
and techniques that will have you achieving rewarding results with your own art.

In this lesson plan, we explore the art of nature journaling, translating our
outdoor adventures and observations in nature with watercolor pencils.

Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor Pencils are an impressive medium. They offer
the unique combination of pencil sketching and painting, making them ideal for
casual, spontaneous artwork in or out of the studio. Their vibrant colors and ease
of use make them fun to use and they are easily mastered with a little practice.


Faber-Castell Goldfaber Aqua Watercolor Pencils
Graphite Pencil
Hand-held Sharpener
Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser
Variety of Flat and Round Brushes
Paper Towels
Faber-Castell Watercolor Pad 9 x 12 or a journal made up of watercolor paper

Why Nature Journaling?

Experts say that the benefits of getting outside and connecting with nature
through creating art is not only good for your health, it could get you hooked. To
describe the basic experience in a few words, nature journaling can be seen as
a form of meditation, filling you with a sense of calm and well being. Unlike silent
meditation, the act of observing and recording the beauty around you through
sketching and painting keeps the brain focused, making it difficult to drift off to all
of life’s stresses.

“Part of the lure of keeping a nature journal is
the world you enter when you open it. Working
in it sets up an island of quiet and deliberateness
to which you will long to return. ”
- Hannah Hinchman, Artist/Naturalist

Gather a few art materials and go take a walk, a hike, or a trip; just get outside
and explore; discover all the beauty and peace that nature has to offer!

Let the following steps serve as inspiration and guidance in getting started
on your own artistic journey. Take your time and enjoy your new practice, it will
change your life.



The Pond

When I came across this
lovely duck pond, I knew that Pond2
I wanted to paint it. I sat down
on the grassy bank and made
a sketch in my journal while
some noisy ducks hid quacking
in the tall grasses nearby. As
it was nearing dusk, I realized
that the best way to continue
would be to work from a photo
back at the studio.

I took this picture on my
phone for later reference.



TIP:You can enhance the quality of your photo
by brightening and defining it a bit in editing
on your phone. You can then transfer the
photo to your desk or laptop for reference

Choose Colors and Experiment:

It is important to plan your colors before getting started, giving thought to
the mixes and placement of them in the painting. Back at the studio, I began to
experiment with the watercolor pencils, and finally settled on these colors and
mixes of them to produce other colors I saw in my photo.

One of the great advantages to watercolor pencils are their versatility. The
most basic way to use them is to sketch directly onto the paper, and then brush
water over them. The more pigment you apply to the paper, the darker the
color will be when water is added.

Another painting technique that I combine with the basic method, is
to create a palette of colors on a separate piece of watercolor paper by
scribbling the pencil, as shown below. From there, I can pick up the paint with
a wet brush and transfer to the artwork.

Look carefully at your reference photo and choose as many colors as
possible; more colors will help add more depth and interest to the artwork.

Here, I’ve layered the following numbered colors on my paper palette to use.

#170 #167 #173          #151 #233                  #107 #187                   #199


Begin With A Sketch:

Here is the quick graphite pencil sketch that I made at the pond. I began
by determining the horizon line of the water in the distance at the upper left.
I then sketched the curvy shoreline and then the duck house as the focal point.
I continued to compose my sketch with careful placement of fewer lily pads,
beginning with larger and more detailed ones in the foreground and smaller,
more loosely sketched ones as they fade into the distance.

Although a well thought out sketch is very important to begin with, it is only a
loose guide to position the basic elements. The look of the pond and number of
lily pads will ultimately be determined during the painting process.




Apply Watercolor Pencils:

In this step, I apply the watercolor pencils directly to the sketch. Referring to
the photo, I loosely color in shapes and areas of lights and darks. My plan is to
keep the foliage along the shoreline simple and fading out at the edge.

I layer some areas of the image with two to three different colors of pencil. By
applying varying pressure, I can darken and lighten the pigment. Note the dark
shadow that the duck house is casting in the water; this detail will help anchor the
structure and help to give the water a realistic look.

The following steps demonstrate how to add water, creating a series of washes
that will make up the finished art.

TIP:Set yourself up with a scrap piece of watercolor paper at hand to confirm the
colors you will be using and to experiment with blending methods and amount of
pressure you color with.



Paint With Water:

Here is where the surprising magic of watercolor pencils really impress!
Beginning in the back along the water’s edge, I use a soft, round brush and wet
the area. The paint comes alive. I begin to suggest a variation of foliage by gently
pushing the paint around into shapes.

For the water, I use a flat, wet brush. I begin in the distance, painting the
water in long sweeping motions from left to right as I move to the foreground. The
colors come to life as the variety of greens and blues blend. I create a soft, muted
effect in the back at the horizon line to suggest distance. This first wash will dry in
about 15 minutes.

While there is a good amount of control with the dry pencils, when the water is
added, the paint itself has a mind of it’s own and will do unexpected and beautiful
things. You can work with it to some degree but also relax and let it do its thing.

TIP:Use appropriate brush sizes and types. Larger brushes for larger areas will give
a smoother, less detailed effect; forcing you to use fewer brush strokes, which is
desirable in watercolor. Smaller brushes will work best for smaller areas. Round
brushes are used for softer edges, while flat brushes offer a useful straight edge.



Now, after the first wash has dried, it is time to add a second wash of detail. I
use the combination of both watercolor painting methods.

I pick up my mixed palette colors with my wet brush and add a layer of shorter,
sweeping streaks of color in the water. I use the edge of the flat brush, holding it’s
edge horizontally. I add faint, watery lily pads in the distance along the shoreline
and around the duck house. As I come forward, I paint the lily pads with more
detail and add simple flowers. I then paint the duck house.

Next I use the pencils and sketch directly onto the painting. I add more color
and texture to the water and sketch grasses on the shore and detail to the lily
pads in the foreground. I add water to some of it and leave other areas the dry
pencil texture.

TIP:It is important to replace your water when it starts getting murky from paint. Using
dirty water will affect your colors and muddy up your artwork. Consider working
with a few cups of water to reduce time spent changing out the same one.



Final Details:

The final details in the painting include a third wash of paint: more lily pads and
water detail, more shadows and grass detail.

I add texture and interest to the foliage with a paint spattering technique of
dipping a stiff brush into a pool of color and carefully flicking it on with my finger. I
protect the surrounding area with paper towel.

I paint shadows from the lily pads reflecting in the water. For this effect, I wet a
large area with clean water directly under each pad and then paint a narrow band
of darkness just underneath the pad. I prop the artwork upright to let the dark color
softly bleed downward into the wet area.

Finally, I add a few accents of yellow here and there, a shadow under the eaves
of duck house, and some lightly drawn line definition to the duck house and front
lily pads with a well sharpened dark watercolor pencil.

TIP:Try to paint in a light-handed way, layering thin, transparent washes. Leaving
small areas of the white paper showing through here and there allows the
painting to breathe, and adds an airiness.




Designing and Writing Your Journal Page:

In my finished journal page, I chose to complement the color painting with a
smaller, simple black and white sketch of the ducks hiding in the grasses that I
mentioned earlier. I sketched this pair with a sharp, black watercolor pencil. I then
very sparingly brushed on a small amount of water to create a light gray tone here
and there giving the ducks a bit more dimension.

The final element to add to the journal page is anything you want to write about
your experience; it can be notes, descriptions, incidents, thoughts, or memorable
observations. Design a date/weather mark, and don’t forget to sign your name!

I decided to call this nameless and ordinary little pond, Lucky Duck Pond, because
it looked like a pretty happy place to be a duck.

To download the tutorial in .pdf format, click here