View Full Version : Sennelier - Revival

10-25-2014, 01:31 AM
I'm new here and ran across an interesting archived thread about the crumbling of Senneliers when you try to take off the paper. This happened to me today for the first time, I thought maybe I did something wrong and only did one.

Most of the Sennies I have are the half sticks and I live their buttery texture. But this crumbling thing is annoying, and now I understand, when people were talking about their 'hardness' and age, why an iridescent white I just got was unusable it's so hard.

I had bought them because I have a couple of oil sets that I love, so I figured the soft would also be best. Since they don't sell the half sticks individually, can you guys tell me other brands I should look at for that really soft buttery feel of the Senni half sticks? Schmincke? Great America? Holbein? Unison? (Although we're starting to get pretty pricey there.) I've heard the Rembrant is much harder so I was a little reluctant for those.

Also, where do you get your individual pastels? Dick Blick just seems sooooo expensive in their shipping, (and perhaps, the pastels?) it's almost not worth it. Yet the one in my town doesn't seem to have the stock that they do online.

Any advice you can give would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance,

10-25-2014, 06:43 AM
I use the Sennelier half sticks constantly and haven't found that they crumble. Some of the colors are harder than others due to the nature of the pigment. The Terry Ludwigs are very soft yet give a good edge and layer well. I have the Holbein set of 144 and rarely use them. They are, in my opinion, harder than Nupastel, and I can't get saturated color with them except on a sanded surface.

10-25-2014, 08:09 AM
My half stick black Sennelier crumble when I paint with it. Especially great when I am carefully painting an eye or something. Some browns do it too, but that's all.
Someone said that they used a sharp knife to cut the paper wrappers to remove them.

10-25-2014, 09:51 AM
I have a few Sennelier half sticks that crumbled or broke especialy when I moved. I brought an 80 half sticks set in my Dakota Traveller and some sticks broke in weird ways, like split sideways. Or crumbled a bit. Then again jostled around in luggage on an airplane is not really that good for pastels. The ones that suffered worst were some Sennelier half sticks and a couple of the Art Spectrum Pure Tones and Darks.

Senneliers are one of the brands where texture isn't consistent because pigment texture isn't consistent, very pigment rich and their softness comes from minimum binder. They don't add more binder to get a consistent texture. This is something some brands do and some don't.

I found Terry Ludwigs to be nearly as soft and have the same effect - finishing pastels, thick impasto strokes, handle with very light pressure if I want any subtler effect, a lot like the Sennelier texture. Close, in the same category certainly,

The paper wrapper protected all my full stick Senneliers during the move. I'm glad I didn't peel and break them and kept them in their small set boxes. It made a difference in getting them across the country intact.

So if you don't like the hardness of specific colors, maybe a combination set where you replace the colors with bad texture with similar Ludwig colors would work. I'm thinking of rearranging my Dakota Traveller with a combination of "super soft" brands - Sennelier, Ludwig and maybe some Schminke if I get a half sticks set of those. I like half sticks, if I love a color I have the number and can get it from open stock and save the other half if it wears down. Super softs are most likely to wear down fastest but Sennelier and other half sticks tend toward a generous size, more like 5/8 stick or 2/3 stick than really half. Might just be the molding to a different proportion, shorter and fatter, but it seems generous.

Anyway, that's been my solution. Ludwigs and Senneliers together. I enjoy the Ludwigs just as much and they're definitely up with the soft-soft Senneliers. I sort mine by category but every pastel to some extent has an exact feel that isn't like the rest. When they come close and work the same way it's easy to use them together.

Schminke are soft like that too, it'd be easy to put together a mixed set of Schminke and Sennelier, I just haven't. Some people say Great Americans are in that league and I've had a sample but not really tested it thoroughly.

10-25-2014, 10:16 AM
Alas, some of the regular Sennelliers do have the reputation of crumbling. I would not recommend removing the wrappers - only peel them down as you need. The half-sticks seem thicker and are less prone to crumble.

Dakota pastels has a list that shows the pastel brands in order of softness. Of course, softness is hard to measure and not everyone would agree, but Schmincke and Great American lead the list as the softest available.


Another online store for pastels is fineartstore.com. And, of course, Blick.

I would check your local brick and mortar stores and see what they have in open stock. Usually the number of brands is limited, but if they have Schmincke, for example, you don't need any other softies.


10-25-2014, 10:45 AM
You are not alone. The wrapped ones are just the worst. I stopped buying them.

Sometimes you can wiggle one end and, if there's a break under the paper, you can wiggle out a portion of the pastel to get a nice piece.

Another option for a badly crumbling one is to wet it a bit and recreate a pastel by hand shaping it and letting it dry. I use old ice cube trays for this.

10-25-2014, 11:26 AM
Full sticks that break when the wrapper comes off might have broken within it, since soft colored pencils get that internal breakage too. I've had that even with some firm wrapped pastels like Rembrandt or Art Spectrum, a couple of my old Rembrandts broke when the wrapper came off when a bit of glue stuck to it or were broken inside. Might have been already cracked.

I've started using pill bottles to save crumbles too small to use and dust, including a gray one for mixed dust and grays. When there's enough in one to reconstitute pastels I'll get a mortar and pestle, grind it up and try the distilled water reconstituting thing.

10-25-2014, 01:21 PM
I may have misled. I *love* the half sticks. It's the full stick open stock pastels that I had trouble with when I removed the wrapper. If I could afford to buy every half stick set, I would happily do so. Alas, I don't have that kind of money. ;)

Thanks for all the input. I will look into the Schmincke, Ludwig and Great American in open stock.


10-25-2014, 01:29 PM
Thanks so much, Dak, for that 'softness' scale. That really helps. Has anyone tried the Blue Earth? Do you get them only at Dakota?

10-25-2014, 02:48 PM
I have shminkes and they are really crumbly, as are my darker sennelier.

10-25-2014, 08:42 PM
Using a full stick seems pointless to be honest...learned the stubborn way..lol Its the tiny cool shaped nubs that allow you to get different lines.

I have Rembrandts...I just spent about an hour or more sanding the shiny coating off them and while harder than most, they are quite usable pastels. I also have to second the TL and GAs for sure in softness and replacements for Senneliers. Schmincke for sure.

A true story...I bought a ton of Schmencke pastels for $100. There were at least 70 usable sticks and plenty of dust to make more. I mention this because I bought them completely broken as the entire display at my local store fell over. Lucky me, but I appreciated the unique pieces that broke every time I unwrapped a stick. They are usable to the very end.

SAS Designs
10-26-2014, 10:33 AM
I just got the Great American 60 1/2 stick from DB. I adore them. I had been using Mount Vision, and found many just felt too "powdery" - the GA's are very very creamy. Love them.
Agree about the full stick Sennelier - but the 1/2 stick collections are so much different, creamy and not crumbly at all.

10-26-2014, 02:44 PM
I just got the Great American 60 1/2 stick from DB. I adore them. I had been using Mount Vision, and found many just felt too "powdery" - the GA's are very very creamy. Love them.
Agree about the full stick Sennelier - but the 1/2 stick collections are so much different, creamy and not crumbly at all.

Thanks, Guys. It sounds as if the open stock GAs are the same creamy as the half sticks. Ie: there's no difference like between the half sticks and the open stock. Yes?

I'm going to try both the Schmenke and GA. I'm going to L.A. tomorrow and Dick Blick is just 5 minutes from where I will be. I'm hoping they have open stock of both. We have one down here, but I don't think they have open stock of even the Sennelier. They push their own brand. I'm hoping L.A. will be larger.

10-26-2014, 02:58 PM
Unfortunately, I do not believe they or any other store aside from The Fine Art Store carries GAs as open stock or otherwise. They may very well have Schmincke, but you'll end up paying a handsome price for them.

The Blick stores have no where near what they carry online, and best to give them a call, but if it's only 5 min away, may be worth the trip. Not even Blick in Manhattan carries GAs, and certainly not as open stock.

Most average stores carry Unison, Sennelier, Rembrandts, and Schmincke, and a few others like Nupastels, but seldom the "exotics", like TL, DT, Giraults, and GAs.

I agree that MVs are powdery, but from the few I have, I know that certain colors have pumice in them, which makes for a nice feel.