Using chalk pastels can seem intimidating and scary. Once you lay it down, it feels like there is no backing out. Plus, how do you blend them without ending up with mud? Patience and careful application is key.
I use chalk often for broad applications of color and quick drawings. They do smear, but they don’t try out or stain the way paint does. They are a very portable medium and great for studies and drawing practice. There is an immediacy and vibrancy to them.
Quality matters. Lower quality chalk has less pigment, so the colors will not be as rich. This may be an asset if you are timid about color. At some point however you will want a strong application of color.
I really like the Stabilo brand of chalk pastels. There are many brands, so the best way to find what you like is to experiment. Visit a local art supply store and try different ones, or buy the same single color from different brands.
You don’t need a lot of colors. I mostly use a blue, red, green, orange, and white. Below you can see a recent figure study I created using only three chalk pastel colors and three acrylic markers. This gave a more vibrant, expressive result. While you can rub a thin layer of charcoal or chalk pastel onto paper first as long as it is well absorbed, for best results use chalk pastel last. You can also use layers of mediums and fixatives to rework areas for special effects.