View Full Version : differences in pastels

10-01-2003, 05:25 AM
Can anyone tell me the differences between soft and oil pastels and when you should use oil pastels in preference to soft ones.

10-01-2003, 09:36 AM
hello Dave

There's no should or shouldn't about which you should use ... they're just different media. It's up to you!

When people use the general term 'pastels' they most often mean
traditional dry pastels, also referred to as 'chalk' pastels (which can be soft or hard).

Oil pastels, on the other hand, have a waxy, oily or creamy texture to them. They're becoming more and more popular, especially among those who are allergic to the dust created by dry pastels. There's LOADS of information about oil pastels in this thread:


Given the different natures of the two kinds of pastel, it's not that common to combine them in one piece of work, tho it's certainly been tried.

Why not buy a couple of oil pastels and a few dry pastels just to try out, and see how it feels to use them? :)

10-01-2003, 10:50 AM
E-J gave you a good link...I use oil pastels instead of soft because of allergies with the pastel dust. They are not as quick to apply as soft and hard pastels, but if you like something that comes out with a finish similar to an oil painting they are great. Each brand is different, my favs are Holbein, more like soft pastels in application...be wary of student grades, they aren't much like the good brands...

10-02-2003, 04:39 AM
And here I am, waving the flag for SOFT pastels. I for one have never got on with oil pastels, they are very, very different. It is important to try everything tho, and find out what suits you.

Soft pastels vary too. You can get HARD soft pastels (!!!yes really) and SOFTER soft pastels. The hard ones are mostly those which are square, while soft pastels are the round ones. This doesn't always apply tho and it is best to try them out in the shop and see what suits you. The softer the pastel, often the more crumbly and inclined to break, but the top quality brands are delightful to use.

Here is a very rough personal guide:

Schmincke are the softest and creamiest - and probably most expensive. They glide onto the paper like velvet. The sticks are substantial and not so inclined to break as some.

Unison are dryer, but still consistently soft, and fairly velvety. They hardly ever break, in fact, it is quite difficult to break a Unison unless you drop it on a tiled floor!

Sennelier are good pastels, lovely and soft, but often break and crumble when you take off the paper. I find this a huge waste of money and will not buy them, as a result.

Rembrandt and Winsor & Newton are a good middle-range pastel, price and quality-wise. As are Rowney, tho the sticks are thinner.

There are cheaper makes on the market, worth having for numbers and odd strong colours, but they are somewhat gritty.

I believe there are some good US manufacturers producing home-grown pastels. such as Terry Ludwig, whose pastels are lovely - look at the "Library" for more info.

Hard pastels - either sticks or pencils - are useful for sketching, and for the early stages of a painting, but they are less good for using on their sides for large areas of paper coverage, and less good for highlights.

Hope this helps, there is lots more info in the Library...or in books on How to Paint with Pastels.

Jackie (ps there are some pastel tips on my website:)

10-02-2003, 04:41 AM
many thanks e-j for info , will check thread.