Sharpening Pastel Pencils

Sharpening pastel pencils can be tricky. The pastel center breaks easily and before you know it, you’ve sharpened the pencil nearly to the nub in one sitting! Here’s a tip to prevent breakage.

While using a sharpener, applying pressure to shave the wood leads to breaking the pastel easily within it, so use an artist’s or utility knife to expose the pastel first. The wood should be whittled smooth to prevent snagging. Try to make the wood circumference slender so that it fits easily in a normal-sized pencil sharpener. This especially holds true for larger pencils like Conte’. If you like, you can use the knife to roughly sharpen the pastel tip prior to using the sharpener. Next, use the smaller hole of the pencil sharpener to shape the tip and then finish it off in the larger hole for a precise point.

Good luck and please let me know if you have your own tips on sharpening pastels so that we can share them with others!

Whittle pencil wood to expose pastel

Whittle pencil wood to expose pastel

Wood should be slender and smooth so that it can turn easily without snagging in a regular-sized pencil sharpener

Wood should be slender and smooth so that it can turn easily without snagging in a regular-sized pencil sharpener

With minimal pressure, gently sharpen first in the smaller-sized sharpening hole, then finish off in the larger-sized one

With minimal pressure, gently sharpen first in the smaller-sized sharpening hole, then finish off in the larger-sized one

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~ by Erika Rix on June 16, 2014.

2 Responses to “Sharpening Pastel Pencils”

  1. This is good advice, Erika.

    For me, pastel pencils + pencil sharpeners = endless rounds of frustration.

    In fact, I’ve gotten to where I don’t even migrate to the sharpener after whittling. It’s like an artist’s PTSD anytime I think of putting that pricey little pencil near a sharpener. So now, I just XActo-Knife it to a basic point and then hone it out on a sanding block for ideal shaping.

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