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What Are Pastel Shades?

By Angela Farrer
Updated May 23, 2024
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Pastel shades are types of colors known for their light appearance and muted tones. These colors are typically variations of pale pinks, greens, yellows, blues, and lavenders. Pastel colors of paint are often used in art and home decor. They are usually associated with a light mood and understated atmosphere, and these colors are created by applying color theory principles to paint mixing. The use of pastels can have varying levels of sophistication depending on the rest of the individual design decisions.

The colors in a pastel palette can sometimes be easy to confuse with the pastel art tools of the same name. Art pastels are actually oil- or water-based drawing sticks that can come in a wide variety of different colors that are not confined to the pastel shades. Pastels as an art medium are actually more commonly found in brighter jewel tones, and they can be used as an alternative to oil or acrylic paint for two dimensional works of art.

The pastel shades to be used in painted artwork are often created by mixing a certain amount of white with a brighter primary, secondary, or sometimes tertiary color on the artist's palette. The ability to properly mix various color hues and shades from the three primary colors along with black and white is often considered a fundamental skill in the artistic painter's education and training. The pastel shades are just one example of the colors that can result from applying these related concepts of color theory to fine art. Some experienced painters report that many pastel colors can take on subtly different tones depending on the tone of the white paint selected for the color mixture.

While the same basic principles are used for mixing pastel shades of paint to be used for home decor, some different design considerations can often apply. Bedrooms with pastel walls are often painted for younger children, and selecting the right understated pastel shade can more easily allow a room's decor to be updated as its occupant grows and matures. Pastel paint colors are also sometimes recommended to brighten up smaller rooms that do not have large amounts of natural lighting. Home decoration professionals often advise DIY home interior painters to apply a "less-is-more" rule when using pastel colors in large, bright rooms; pastel shades are often better applied to ceiling molding or other wall trim rather than to entire walls in these types of rooms.

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