pastel or compressed charcoal ?

What is the difference between soft pastel and soft compressed charcoal, maybe somebody here can enlighten me. I understand that pastel are made from pigments and binder put together and compressed into a stick, so are these two things the same thing or two different materials? If they are the same, why can we find some called compressed charcoal and other called pastels?

I'm asking because I'm following a charcoal course (N. Fowkes) and the teacher recommanded compressed charcoal. I however cannot find anything named like this here in France, I could only find pastels in art stores. Is this the american name and pastels more european name for the same thing?

thanks if anyone can help me clarify this.


  • dencaldencal -
    edited August 2

    My Google translator suggests charbon de bois comprimé

    from Wikipedia:

    Compressed charcoal (also referred as charcoal sticks) is shaped into a block or a stick. Intensity of the shade is determined by hardness. The amount of gum or wax binders used during the production process affects the hardness, softer producing intensely black markings while firmer leaves light markings.
    pastel (US/pæˈstɛl/) is an art medium in the form of a stick, consisting of powdered pigment and a binder. The pigments used in pastels are similar to those used to produce some other colored visual arts media, such as oil paints; the binder is of a neutral hue and low saturation
    Charcoal is formed from selected types of wood burned in a sealed vessel without an air supply.
    Later compressed using a powdered form with a binder. More difficult to erase than willow or vine charcoal. Charcoal is available in a range of earth tones.
    Pastel is formed using mineral, organic or synthetic pigments in a binder. Eg umber, titanium, cadmium.
    Pastel is available in the complete spectrum of colours.

  • @adridri
    Adrian, there is nothing to add to what @dencal Denis wrote. If only to conclude that the pastel and compressed charcoal are different materials, although similar in properties. If the teacher asks to purchase a certain material, then most likely its characteristics are important to him. He will probably use them to show a certain technique. But you can ask him if the pastel is suitable for educational purposes? And then everything will fall into place. With best wishes🙏🏼
  • @dencal @Kit
    Thanks, and sorry for a silly question :) it's a self taught class so no access to the teacher. 
  • KitKit -
    edited August 2
     Oh, that's great. I didn 't think the teacher might be unavailable ) So , then you can try a pastel of the right color and see what happens. Good luck !
  • Both are considered ok for light sketching in an oil painting (cf. George O'Hanlon).
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