Mixed Media Art Techniques with Acrylics, PanPastels and Ranger’s Distress Ink

A few weeks ago, I blogged about finding my arty sea legs. I mentioned my plan to focus on two particular techniques and a colour palette I’ve come to adore. In this tutorial, I’ll introduce you to both.

Tulip Fields Painting.jpg

The first technique I adopted after reading about it on the blog of Natasha Newton when she very generously shared her particular style of dry-brushing. The other, I developed in response to my problem of not owning any PanPastels in dark shades and having difficulty creating shadows. Previously, I would only use Rangers Walnut Distress Ink to create shadows when using PanPastels but this was very time-consuming so I added another step using a Burnt Umber wash.

Mixed Media Materials_PanPastel_Ranger Walnut Distress Ink.jpg

Materials for creating the background

  • 300 gsm (140 lb) watercolour paper
  • Zinc or Titanium White, Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna and Mars Black heavy-bodied acrylics
  • Stiff bristled filbert paintbrush
  • Watercolour mop paintbrush
  • Low tack or tacked-off masking tape
  • Sponge or spray bottle

Materials for creating the foreground

  • Pan Pastels
  • Walnut Distress Ink (Ranger)
  • Burnt Umber acrylic
  • Fixative for pastel
  • Kneadable eraser
  • Pencil
  • Round Watercolour brush
  • Liner brush

Step 1… Stretch the paper

Stretching Watercolor Paper.jpg

To prevent the paper warping too much while you are working you can stretch the paper. Tape the paper securely to a strong board. Spray or wipe the entire surface with water and let it dry.

Step 2… Paint black base layer

Black Layer.jpg

Paint the entire surface using a black acrylic wash with a watercolour mop brush. Let the first coat dry, then paint the entire background with a second coat. Continue applying coats until you have eliminated any streaking.

Step 3… Create sepia vignetted background

Dry Brush Technique.jpg

To create the vignetted background, we’re going to layer sepia tones of heavy-bodied acrylic paint from dark to light, allowing each successive layer to show through to create a blended surface. Start by blending Burnt Umber and a smidgeon of Mars black. Create several shades of this mixture by blending Zinc White if you have it, or Titanium White if you don’t, in ever increasing proportions. If you’re using Titanium White, you may find you need to add a little Raw Sienna the more white you add, in order to keep it relatively sepia-esque.

Apply a coat of the darkest shade using a dry brush technique with a stiff bristled filbert brush. Let it dry, or give it a quick blast with a heat gun. Apply the successively lighter shades in turn, allowing the layers beneath to show through.


Beware of the “tacky phase” when dry-brushing. I’ve noticed when using this technique that it can be difficulty to notice when the paint is in the danger zone between the wet stage and the “dry to the touch” stage. Be vigilant of the tacky phase and stop painting in that area until it’s dry.

Step 4… Sketch Subject

Mixed Media Tutorial_Sketch Subject .jpg

Use a pencil to sketch your subject on the painted surface of your work.

Step 5… Layer Burnt Umber wash in areas of shadow

Create Shadows with Burnt Umber Wash.jpg

Apply a Burnt Umber wash to areas where the shadows might rest with a round watercolour brush.

Step 6… Add white PanPastel to highlight areas of light

Highlights with PanPastel.jpg

Apply some white PanPastel thickly to areas where the light might rest.

Step 7… Colour subject with PanPastels

Colour with PanPastels.jpg

Colour subject with PanPastels. Apply the colour, beginning at the edge where the shadows might rest and work your way to the lighter areas. When using this technique, I always blend directly on the substrate, rather than mixing the colours first.

Step 8… Add finishing touches to subject

Shadows with Rangers Walnut Distress Ink.jpg

I added Ranger’s Walnut Distress Ink with a slightly damp liner brush to the shadows, used white PanPastel to re-define highlights and added the cloud to give the piece a bit more balance and contrast. Finally, slowly peel off the masking tape and seal your work with fixative.

Tulip Fields Painting Final_Detail.jpg

Tulip Fields Painting_Detail 2.jpg

14 Comments Mixed Media Art Techniques with Acrylics, PanPastels and Ranger’s Distress Ink

  1. liz

    Beautiful piece and thank you for the detailed instructions! I prefer not to seal pastels…. is there a reason you do? Is it necessary? Thanks again. Really enjoyed this.

    1. Katherine

      Thanks Liz! Hmmm, yes fixative does seem to have a bit of an adverse effect on the chroma doesn’t it? I seal my pastels because they don’t go straight behind a glass frame so I’m protecting them from smudging. How about you? Do you frame yours?

  2. liz

    Hi Katherine, Thanks for your reply. I don’t usually spray with a fixative because I use PanPastels and they don’t seem to need additional coverage. It is when I add other media… paper, paint, that I get concerned. So, I will try spraying a fixative and hope for the best! Thanks again, Liz

    1. Katherine

      Ah-ha, I’ve never actually used PanPastels on their own. I always use them in conjunction with a couple of other media, usually acrylics and inks. Each time, I have found that some pastel will rub off if I don’t use fixative.

    1. Katherine

      Thank you Indigene. I love it when other artists talk openly and generously about their techniques so I’m aiming to do the same myself :)

  3. Maria

    Dear Nellie. Thank you v. much for this tutorial. I’ve been struggling a little with Panpastels as I haven’t yet been able to achieve the boldness I require. However, you seem to have nailed it, so I am extremely grateful for this insight. Best wishes to you :D)

  4. Violeta

    Great technique! beautiful artwork! I love to use acrilics and distress inks but I dont know what kind of fixative is better to use with distress ink, is the same that is used with acrilics? I´ll really apreciate your tip, thanks!


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