View Full Version : Need help choosing pastel sets

06-28-2013, 08:57 PM
I am trying to figure out what I should buy for my first set(s) of pastels and need some input. Due to my budget and the research I've done, I've decided to go for a set of Blick soft pastels plus another for landscape work. I'd like to use Blicks as my main sticks for underpainting/blocking in. I can get general sets of either 45 or 90 sticks from Blick. Currently they have a coupon code for 30% off orders over $150. So far I've found my best deal would be the 45 set of Blicks plus a Mount Vision landscape set of 25. I've included an 8-pack of Wallis paper and it brings my total to $118.xx with the discount(free shipping too!).

So my questions are:
1. Is this enough sticks(70) for starting out?
2. Would I be better off with just the 90 stick Blick set?
3. Is the MV landscape set a good idea? Or should I look for a different
4. Should I dump the Wallis paper to allow for more pastels and keep using my Canson paper?

Any help is very much appreciated! Keep in mind I am trying to save money here and make sure I don't regret buying anything. The less $$ I spend, the happier my wife will be also!:wink2:

06-29-2013, 01:08 AM
Mount Visions are wonderful. I think you've got a good order planned there. Blick pastels are good soft pastels. Mount Vision are hand rolled and have a different texture, you'll enjoy those a lot. They're big and fluffy. A great value for the money. I have some Mount Visions and their texture is a bit like Unisons but they're enormous so you get so much bang for your buck!

Wallis paper is great with the softer pastels. Both of the sets you chose are softer pastels. You might want to get some Nupastels or other hard pastels for sketching, like Polychromos, but what you have is a good start.

45 sticks has a good color range. MV Landscape set has a good range too. On Wallis especially, you'll find the softer pastels layer and layer beautifully. And if you don't like what you did, brush it off and try again! Wallis is one of the sturdiest of sanded papers, easily reused.

Wallis Museum is on watercolor paper and can stand up to more rugged treatment in cleaning off a failed painting. It can even be rinsed off. With the regular Wallis you need to stick to brushing it off rather than using water or it'll damage the paper and cockle. So the premium Museum is worth it if you plan on reusing it. If not, go with the regular.

Belgian Mist is a beautiful background color if you don't like working on white and only comes in regular. So that's a personal cohice - if you prefer a tinted ground, get the Belgian Mist pad. If you're okay with white, get the Museum and maybe do dry tinting the way Deborah Secor demonstrated.

First scumble lightly with a stick that's a bit darker than your intended background. Then scrub it deep into the sanded paper with a cheap hobby foam brush. It'll come out in a smooth layer lighter than the stick and tone the paper so you can work lighter or darker on a surface with some tone.

You planned a good order. One other thing to do - ask Blick for samples of different brands of soft pastels and paper to try other brands. You'll usually get some useful colors in the samples and it's one of the best ways to try out different brands before buying.

I'd say go with what you have planned, it's a good start. 70 sticks is a good collection and if you want to expand, you have artist grade materials.

06-29-2013, 07:23 AM
Robert, you suggested in a thread elsewhere that we ask for samples. What's the best way to do that? I'd feel like I was being 'cheap' or imposing if I had to do that over the phone.

06-29-2013, 10:45 AM
AllPointsBulletin, I think that sounds like a wonderful selection! Go for it. And definitely try the sanded paper so you can start to figure out what you can achieve on that versus the Canson. Have fun learning and experimenting :)

thevalientx, Robert has the added advantage of being an art supply reviewer, so it may come across better from him to ask for samples than from the rest of us... I'm curious to know if anyone else has tried that!

06-29-2013, 11:18 AM
Thanks for the input Robert and Grinner. I guess I'll take the plunge and order the Blicks and MV's. I really appreciate the help!

06-29-2013, 04:58 PM
Valiant, the best way to ask Blick or Jerry's Artarama for samples is to email them. Describe the brands you're interested in buying and ask for samples. This goes for surfaces too. Most of the pastel companies have samples available, it'll be a single stick or occasionally more. Sennelier sent out a tiny box of three primary colors for their pastel sample, it was awesome! I could almost use that as a mini-palette as long as I bought a white stick to go with it.

They love doing that. So often I'd get a sample, like one of the products and order a medium or large set of something they sent, so they are very generous with samples of supplies.

Adam, you're going to have such a good time with them! MV's are so huge that they'll last and last. I think if I was to save up for a full range set of one of the artist brands I use, MV is one of my top choices - especially if I started working larger. Blick too because they have good quality at a modest price.

06-30-2013, 09:33 AM
I am actually going to give you a different perspective than Robert's, or at least add some new dimensions to it.

First, I applaud you for beginning your work with solid materials. You've obviously done some homework on this issue. All of the brands mentioned in this thread are high quality, so you won't be wasting $$$.

I would suggest beginning with half sticks, since you are experimenting with the medium. This generally allows you to save some $$$ while still using quality products. Rather than Nupastels, I suggest Rembrandt as a harder pastel for sketching, underpainting, and building first layers. Rembrandts are not as hard as Nupastels, and respond very well on Wallis or Spectrum papers. They are one of the foundations of my extensive palette and a real workhorse.

I began my work in pastels about 10 years ago with a landscape set of 90 sticks, which I used for nearly 2 years before I broke down and bought more expensive brands. I also didn't have the benefit of Wetcanvas or the Pastel Journal for that early part of my journey, so it was somewhat hit or miss. But, I found the 90 sticks offered me enough possibilities.

Mount Vision is a brand that is relatively new to me -- just in the past 18 months. I think they are marvelous. I don't own any of the Blick sorts, but have tried them at demos and liked the consistency. So, I think those are both good options for softer pastels to do the latter 1/2 of a painting.

Above all else, when deciding how many pastels you can afford, make certain the sets offer you a range of light-midtone-dark values, as well as a complete range of primary, secondary, and neutral hues to work with -- that's what will ultimately help you to be successful and encourage your work in pastels.

Wishing you success with your new journey!!

Sarah Rose
06-30-2013, 11:49 AM
When I started I got a half stick set of Senneliers and the Thunderstorm Gray set of Mount Visions, plus some NuPastels. I LOVE MV's! I keep getting more of them. I recently got a few Rembrandts and really like those as well, I need to buy some more of those, they are great for initial work and for blending. The NuPastels are great on sanded papers, though.

06-30-2013, 04:02 PM
Paul - thanks for your input! I chose the Blick/MV route simply because I believe it offers me the best value for my money. And from the research I've done, it seems like a good starting point. I haven't heard any negatives about either brand.

There is a Utrecht store near me(which is now owned by Blick) that carries individual Rembrandt sticks. I think I will follow your advice and build a good set of those for my "hard" pastels. I do have a few Rembrandts that I bought from there and really like them. I'm also hoping that store will eventually start carrying Blick products, especially the pastels, so I can just zip down there and pick up a few when needed.

06-30-2013, 04:50 PM
It's good to have some harder pastels too for sketching and for doing first layers. They cost quite a bit less than the softer brands too. Utrecht has a good variety of hard pastels. I like the Cretacolor ones, for cost and value their hard pastel sticks are excellent - except for the annoying packaging, which one day I'm going to get rid of and just store them in a box with foam or something.

06-30-2013, 10:46 PM
AllPointsBulletin, FYI, Rembrandts are *not* hard pastels. They are in the medium range. Nupastels and Cretacolor are in the hard range. There are reasons to have hard, medium, and soft as you expand your collection, so I second the suggestion to include a set of some of the hardest ones. That enables you to do more layering, from hard to medium to soft, or to have more options for which to use with which paper/support as you also expand your collection of surfaces to use. Just my two cents - feel free to do some searches on these brands so you can learn more.

Incidentally, everything I've read about the Blick brand says they are very, very close in hardness/softness to Rembrandt - just a bit softer, I believe, so adding Rembrandts may not expand your texture range as much as adding one of the officially "hard" sets would.

One tip for anyone who does use Rembrandts: Allydoodle passed on a great suggestion - sand off the coating on the sticks. I did this and was amazed at the difference it made in ease of use. They are not nearly as hard as they first seem. :) Happy painting.

Editing to add this rough list of pastel brands by softness (http://www.dakotapastels.com/pages/index-softpastels.aspx) - scroll all the way down. There are some brands that are not included on this list, and people have many differing opinions on where certain brands fall, but it should give you a good idea to start!

Triple B
07-01-2013, 07:30 AM
I can get general sets of either 45 or 90 sticks from Blick. Currently they have a coupon code for 30% off orders over $150. So far I've found my best deal would be the 45 set of Blicks plus a Mount Vision landscape set of 25.

A friend of my wife let me try a MV stick this weekend on Canson paper. Loved it! Not too hard yet soft enough to lay down some nice color. My heavy hands didn't crush the pastel like I did the Senneliers, either.

I'm considering going the Workshop route when it comes to Mount Vision, including the landscape/plein air 25 stick supplement, the basic supplement, and the original 50 piece Workshop set. There is no overlap when it comes to the assortment in the Workshop series among the different sets, and very little overlap between the 50 and 25 piece Workshop sets and the Chromatic, Tropical, and Thunderstorm sets...which I also like and may eventually get. I put the pastel number organized by set in MS Word and did a "find" function to point out the duplicates. I was pleased, overall.

07-01-2013, 11:15 AM
These Blick pastels looks like have nice hues for blending.