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Pastel or pastels is an artistic expression which involves the application of soft colors by painting with crayons wrapped in paper. Ideally, this results in a soft and delicate painting, although a modern school involves bolder applications. The procedure and materials sometimes make it difficult for the artist to fix mistakes, but the medium can be a forgiving one under most circumstances.

Pastel crayons or sticks, which resemble chalk, consist of pure pigment combined with an inert binder. They are available in varying degrees of hardness, the softer varieties being wrapped in paper. The colors are simply drawn onto the artwork surface, usually paper. Some artists protect their finished pieces by spraying them with a fixative. In all cases the pastel drawing or painting must be framed under glass to further protect it from smudging, environmental hazards, humidity, etc.

The 19th-Century French painter Edgar Degas was well-known for his works in pastel, among other media.

Contemporary American artists who use the medium of pastel include Larry Blovits, Wende Caporale, Ernie Centofanti, Tim Gaydos, Daniel Greene,Wolf Kahn and Madlyn-Ann C. Woolwich. In 1972 the Pastel Society of America was founded to further promote the medium and those artists who make use of it.