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Pastel is pure pigment. It is the same pigment that is used in making all fine art paints. The pure, powdered pigment is ground into a paste with a small amount of gum binder, then rolled or formed into sticks. It is one of the most permanent of all media, and with proper care, will last indefinitely. Pastel paintings from the 16th century exist today as fresh as the day they were painted.
Because of their powdery fragility, pastels must be framed behind glass, and are usually placed behind a mat with space between the artwork and the mat, to allow for pastel particles to fall behind the mat.