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View Full Version : Unison or?? Unsure of brands and choices


kateo
06-06-2012, 01:03 AM
I posted a query on the pastels 4 sale thread. Deborah Secour suggested that I post a new thread for a wider opinion sample. There is a 78 full stick Unison portrait set for sale on the Swap Shop. I recently bought the 80 half stick set of Senneliers from a Swap Shop source and love them. I am primarily a portrait painter just now switching from oils to pastels. Until the Senneliers arrived about a week ago I was using some cheap off brands available locally, some Nupastels and a partial set of badly crumbling Rembrandts. I was basically pleased with the portraits but the difference between the previous portraits and the one done last Saturday is astonishing.
I was debating the next acquisition- possibly the luscious Terry Ludwig darks and/or a small set of his portrait colors. I have read the entire thread for starting out in pastels for newcomers and many more threads but I am still confused and unsure. Many did not care for the Senneliers and I worried about my choice until they arrived and I tried them and found them to be wonderful. Many do not care for Unisons either.
Funds are limited so the choice must be carefully made. I do not feel I have the luxury of following the advice offered to sample many brands. I need a broader range right now and am unlikely to be able to afford another set for some time. I do pastel commissions at the Saturday farmers'/artist's market- pets and people.
Thank you for any feedback and advice you give.
Kate

Jason1616
06-06-2012, 02:24 AM
Hi Kate...

I loved your story about experiencing good pastels for the first time! There is nothing like the good stuff. :)

You would probably be very pleased with the Unisons. They are a great brand of pastel and glide on beautifully. The main complaint I've heard people have with Senneliers is that they crumble easily. The Sennelier half-sticks are thicker than the full sticks and seem much less prone to the crumbling problem.

Another great brand that I love is Mount Vision pastels. They are less expensive than other brands but just as high quality. The Mount Vision sticks are larger too so you get a lot of bang for your buck with them. They are one of my favorites. I find the texture to be quite wonderful. It is very consistent. I have never had a hard or scratchy Mount Vision. They sell a 50 portrait set at Blick for around $142. Actually, right now Blick has a 15% off sale for orders over $125 so you would be able to get the Mount Vision set for $121. Hope this helps!

Jason :)

nvcricket
06-06-2012, 02:47 AM
Bang for Buck-Mt Visions.
Great workhorses for me. I'd suggest ordering them by the stick rather than the set, then you'd have a personalized selection needed for your portraits. You can do this directly on his web site Mt Vision.com. You could even email him asking for advise. There are other websites you can order them by the stick and may be able to get them cheaper.
I find when I order sets there are many that I just don't use in my western landscapes.
I highly recommend purchasing some quality paper like UART or Pastelmat, it will really make you more in love with pastels.

Carol

eutherpendragon
06-06-2012, 07:32 AM
Hi Kate...

I loved your story about experiencing good pastels for the first time! There is nothing like the good stuff. :)

You would probably be very pleased with the Unisons. They are a great brand of pastel and glide on beautifully. The main complaint I've heard people have with Senneliers is that they crumble easily. The Sennelier half-sticks are thicker than the full sticks and seem much less prone to the crumbling problem.

Another great brand that I love is Mount Vision pastels. They are less expensive than other brands but just as high quality. The Mount Vision sticks are larger too so you get a lot of bang for your buck with them. They are one of my favorites. I find the texture to be quite wonderful. It is very consistent. I have never had a hard or scratchy Mount Vision. They sell a 50 portrait set at Blick for around $142. Actually, right now Blick has a 15% off sale for orders over $125 so you would be able to get the Mount Vision set for $121. Hope this helps!

Jason :)


I thought I would mention that I just bought that same set of MV's on Amazon for $79. I'm not sure how many that have left at that price, however.

kateo
06-06-2012, 09:58 AM
Thank you for your feedback and for the sale tips from Dick Blick and Amazon. before I saw the Unisons I was looking hard at the Terry Ludwig Portrait II set of 60 for $162 at Dakota. I love the colors but have no experience with the different brands. How do the Ludwigs compare to my new Senneliers? to Unisons? I will check out the colors of the Mount Vision set online again but I was drawn to the luscious colors of the Ludwigs. The Unison colors are lovely, too. I will be ordering a stick of the Ludwig #100 deep purple regardless of set choice.
Kate

Jason1616
06-06-2012, 01:31 PM
The Ludwigs are very nice. They are really creamy and have a nice feel to them. My only two complaints with Terry's pastels are #1 You can only buy individual sticks from him directly so you can't ever get a discount on them and #2 His coloring number system is a bit confusing which is made worse by the fact that Ludwigs are the only brand of pastel that doesn't come with a paper wrapper that shows the name and color number. Drives me nuts.

In terms of quality and softness, I would say Ludwigs are equal to Unison.

Dakota has a "softness chart" on their website. If you haven't seen that, you might find it helpful. It might really be worth spending some money to get one of the pastels "samplers" available from FineArtStore.com. They offer a Portrait sampler that has one stick of each brand, so can see what you like best. Theirs is a little bit less expensive than Dakota. If you haven't seen their pastel shop, you're in for a treat.

Definitely get a few of the Ludwig V100 sticks. It's one of the best darks you can get!

Jason :)

DAK723
06-06-2012, 02:09 PM
I would say that the most important consideration at this stage is what will complement your Senneliers. They are considered a very soft brand, so perhaps you might want to consider a pastel that is a different degree of softness.

The questions I would ask myself are:

When I start the portrait, am I filling in the tooth of the paper with too much soft pastel and making it difficult to layer on top?

When I need a bit more detail, are the Senneliers too soft for me to add them the way I want?

If the answers to these two questions are yes, then you might want a harder. more medium softness pastel, such as Girault, Rembrandt, and perhaps the Unisons. I've never tried the Unisons, so I'm not sure how soft they are.

The Giraults are the choice of many portait artists because they are fairly thin. Plus, they are nice pastels with some good portrait sets, too.

I love the Mt. Visions - and they are a really good workhorse medium-soft pastel, but I would not consider them a good choice for portraits because of their large size. And just personally I don't like their colors for portraits. While I have about 200 Mt. Visions, I never use them for portraits. I use Girault and Sennelier most often for portraits and figures.

I know that you say your funds are limited. Still, I think it might be worthwhile to order from open stock online one pastel stick (each a different portrait color you can use) of the different brands you are interested in, perhaps one each of Girault, Unison, Ludwig, Mt. Vision. It is also possible that if you email them they might send you a few free samples (it's worth a try!). Until you actually try the sticks, you can't really know if you like the degree of softness and also the texture - which is different between brands.

One good thing - all the brands are excellent and should work well, no matter which you end up choosing.

Don

angie_v
06-06-2012, 03:45 PM
I've tried a sampling of unisons, and I did love them very much. I ended up getting Mount Visions though to start, becuase of their great value; but I was looking at getting a smaller set or so of the unisons once I know what I'm needing more.

allydoodle
06-06-2012, 05:14 PM
All the advice has been excellent, and different opinions are to be expected. I have all the brands that are being discussed, so I can offer my experience.

I find the half stick Sennelier pastels to be much nicer than the full stick Sennelier pastels. I have the 80 pc Plein Air half stick set and I love it. I'm so afraid of the crumbling tendencies of the full stick Sennelier that I pretty much avoid those. I may try their full stick dark set because it looks nice, but I wouldn't invest in much more than that.

I have 120 Mount Visions, and I love them in my landscapes, as well as backgrounds when I do portraits. They're a great value.

I have tons of Giraults, and I love them for portraits, or anything else for that matter (though I try to save them for portraits because they're smaller and are really nice to work with to get detail). Like Don said, they're a great size for portraits, not too big, not too small. The colors are great, as well as the quality.

I have tons of Unisons, they are a wonderful pastel. The colors are highly pigmented, great quality. They are a bit large, so getting detail is more difficult but I have been able to do it, they are wonderful. I highly recommend them.

On to the Ludwigs, my favorite pastel. I say this because I just love their shape, the colors, and the painterly look you can get with them. I haven't used them for portraits however. I would think they would be a bit difficult to handle, unless you work very loosely when doing a portrait. I plan on giving them a try eventually with a portrait, though I'm sure it will be in a much looser style than I currently work. My landscapes are much looser than my portraits. I would say that Ludwigs are softer than Unisons, at least that's my opinion. I'm sure others may disagree, everybody has their own assessments.

Here is how I would rank the softness of the above brands, the softest being at the top of the list (though I do think Sennelier half sticks and Ludwigs are probably very close in softness, Sennelier is just a tad softer I think). Also, the Mount Vision and Unison are similar in consistency, the Mount Visions I think are just a tad softer:

Sennelier (half stick set)
Ludwig
Unison
Mount Vision
Girault

The quality of all these pastels is excellent, it really is just a matter of preference. Also, like Don said, it is good to have pastels of different consistencies. The softies really fill up the tooth quickly, having some that are a bit less soft (but still soft) gives you more variety. Definitely consider ordering one stick of each brand to see what you prefer. You already have the Sennelier half stick set, so maybe just try one of each of the other brands and you will have a pretty good idea of what you like best.

SherryC
06-06-2012, 05:22 PM
I agree that since you already have the really soft pastels that you try Giraults. They are great for portraits I have heard. I love them for most everything.

kateo
06-07-2012, 12:21 AM
Thank you all for your advice. You were a great help. I need to expand my colors for portraits more than I need to contrast the hardness and softness of what I have. I went with the colors that excited me most of all the different brands. The Unisons are beautiful but the Terry Ludwig 60 piece portrait set has more of the colors that I would use the most and need right now. I went with the Ludwigs. The Maggie Price Values set (Ludwigs) may be the next set if the Ludwigs turn out to be as beautiful to use as the Senneliers.
I have the Stabilio Carb-Othello pastel pencils and the NuPastels to start the drawing and work out detail and some of the cheap off-brands to block in the undertones. I feel pretty confident about this choice now. allydoodle suggested that the Ludwigs were hard to use for detail. I do try to paint portraits loosely and perhaps this will continue the process.
If I ever figure out how to upload pictures and where to upload them, I will do so.
Thank you all for your input and help in making this decision.
Kate

allydoodle
06-07-2012, 12:55 AM
I'm sure you will be pleased with your decision, Ludwigs are georgous. I am sure you can get the necessary information painted with them, they have edges which work well for any needed detail. Between them and your pencils I would think it will work. You can't go wrong with Ludwigs!