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How to Recycle Pastel Dust to Create New Pastels

by Cameron Hampton 2 months ago in crafts

This is how I recycle pastel dust to create new pastels.

Step by Step

How to Recycle Pastel Dust to Create New Pastels

If you are an artist that uses soft pastels as much as I do, you know the amount of dust that is created while drawing with the medium. Good quality pastels can be very expensive. Most good quality soft pastels cost between three to seven dollars per pastel stick. It is a shame to waste the dust they produce.

This is how I recycle pastel dust to create new pastels.

You will need:

Inexpensive one to two inch wide Bristol brush


Mortar and pestle

Flour sifter

Isopropyl alcohol

Aluminum foil


Mason jar

Latex gloves

A piece of paper with a crease down the middle

To begin with, I use an easel to work on my pastel drawings in a vertical position. Usually pastel drawings are created this way because you want the pastel dust to fall downwards. You should never blow on a pastel drawing to remove excess pastel. Pastel dust is harmful to your health and a few of the pigments cause cancer.

Most easels have a tray to set your drawing board into. Place a piece of aluminum or wax paper in this area. I don’t usually do this because there is no need with the type of easels I use. The tray is deep enough on my easels to collect the pastel dust.

After I’ve completed my pastel drawing, I sweep the pastel dust into a Mason jar. If you are using aluminum or wax paper, carefully pour the pastel dust into a Mason jar. Please wear a mask while pouring or sweeping the dust. As I mentioned, pastel dust is harmful to your health and a few of the pigments cause cancer. I wait until I’ve collected enough pastel dust in a Mason jar to create about six pastels. This is usually a full regular sized Mason jar.

Once I have a Mason jar full of pastel dust, I sift the dust with a flour sifter over a piece of paper that has been creased down the middle. Sifting the dust not only separates the finer dust from the larger pieces it screens out any lint or unwanted studio dust bunnies. Pour the sifted dust into a mixing bowl and set aside.

Take the pastel pieces and dust left in the sifter and pour into a mortar. I sometimes pull what lint and dust bunnies out if I can. Crush with a pestle the larger pieces in the mortar. Then pour the contents of the mortar into the sifter and sift again. Pour the sifted pastel dust into the mixing bowl with the other sifted pastel dust from earlier. Repeat until all pastel pieces are gone.

In the mixing bowl slowly add isopropyl alcohol. I prefer 50% isopropyl alcohol. I use isopropyl alcohol because it evaporates at a more consistent rate than water. The mixture should be like pizza dough consistency. Not sticky. I’d recommend setting aside some of the sifted pastel dust in case you pour too much isopropyl alcohol.

Once the mixture is mixed thoroughly, shape the mixture into whatever shapes you like. I shape mine is different sizes. Some pastel drawings need wide square pastels to create more gestural work. Other pastel drawings need thin, rounded pastels for more control and tightness. Place your new pastels on a sheet of aluminum foil in a warm, dry place, I prefer the kitchen, and leave them alone until they are completely dry.

This recycling process can also be used to recycle pastels that have gotten too hard to use or are too small to work with. Sometimes humidity can wreak havoc on pastels. Some of the blue colors and particularly the red colors tend to be susceptible. Always store your pastels in a cool dry place. These pastels can be crushed with a mortar and pestle, sifted and added to the other dust or with other pastels that are not too dry to work with. This can be a great way to create unique colors to work with.

Enjoy your new pastels! Have fun creating with your recycled medium!

To view my pastel drawings, go here,


Cameron Hampton

Cameron Hampton is a painter, photographer, illustrator, cinematographer, animator and writer.​

She now works in Georgia, London and NYC.

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