View Full Version : UK pastels - Jackson's, SAA, Daler Rowney?

08-17-2015, 02:27 PM
Both Jackson's and the SAA in the UK have their own line of pastels, and the prices seem reasonable. I'm interested in trying them but wondered if anyone here has used either of these brands, and/or the current Daler Rowney soft pastels. If so can you tell me how hard or soft they are in comparison to pastels such as Unison, Sennelier, or Rembrandt? Also, any idea whether Jackson's handmade and SAA pastels are rebranded pastels made by someone else? I'm new to pastels and am looking at investing in a set or two.

08-17-2015, 06:19 PM
I have heard Daler Rowney makes BLICK soft pastels .

I have maybe 75 of Blicks I like them Softer than Art Spectrum and harder than Schminke or Sennelier .

If you look at Daler Rowney color names and Blicks color names pretty much identical . Look at the names and see.

I would relay advice from many get a small set and singles from several companeys to get a feel and see if you like one brand or another .


This link has chart of the softness and has a variety assortment .

Opps forgot overseas shipping the chart is still good though.

08-18-2015, 01:05 AM
I'd suggest trying a few open stock to see which texture you like and whether they're that different. If the SAA are more like Rembrandts but Daler Rowney softer, you may want to get both. Soft over firm will let you get many more layers in on a painting, especially if it's on non sanded paper.

Or go by cost - pick up the SAA ones as an anchor set since their full range of 72 isn't too expensive, then add some Daler Rowney ones to fill any gaps in the set. I checked the SAA site and there's a solid price bump between SAA and Daler-Rowney. 72 is a good range, you have darks and lights, brights and muted colors, a good spectrum. Most of all you do have warm and cool versions of the spectrum colors.

Daler Rowney seems to have a larger range and won't have the same colors. Other brands may have other colors you don't have and you can try different ones visiting shops or ordering online to fill gaps.

Though some beginners can be overwhelmed with a large palette and too many choices, more wind up finding it easier with as many colors as possible. But I'm biased as I've been crazy about having all the colors since I was little. I love a huge palette and like switching brands to combine textures for different effects.

Unisons are expensive and worth it. They have a hand rolled texture, fluffy and airy, in a way they go down softer than they really are. I've painted a lot of times using my 120 Unisons half sticks start to finish, they are favorites. But very pricy.

My guess from the price and range is that SAA are probably compressed soft rounds, extruded, in the softness range with Rembrandt. There are several brands in that range. Try a stick of each, if the Daler Rowney are significantly softer using them together can be very effective.

I often save my more expensive pastels by working Hard to Soft. First layers blended in with hard pastels like Cretacolor Pastels Carre' or color Conte, which I also use for sketching. These are long thin square sticks, much less expensive than soft pastels, called semi-hard or hard. Color Conte crayons are in that texture category even if they're strange.

Next is Medium Soft Extruded Rounds like Rembrandt, Art Spectrum, Winsor Newton, etc. - the workhorse texture that can get all the effects reasonably well on sanded or unsanded paper. My guess from price an shape is that SAA ones are in this category. Very useful and you can do a lot with them, then work over with more expensive softer pastels at final layers.

Unisons, Mount Vision, Richeson Hand Rolled and other Hand Rolled ones may be medium to softer but are fluffy and go down easier, they're a joy to use and I sometimes used these as finishing layers.

Super Soft are Terry Ludwig, Schmnke, Sennelier. Of the super soft ones, barring a clearance sale or used stock or something, Sennelier half sticks are the best bargain. Used by themselves they take a light touch and wear out fast. But they will go over anything else after the paper's tooth is filled, so they're great for finishing. I'd recommend a set of 20 Sennelier half sticks (or larger half sticks if you can afford that) for finishers along with what you get, for those final changes and opaque accents that can really make a painting sing.

Also check eBay and eBid for used pastels, especially mixed brand collections that have been peeled, broken, packed into a pastels case. Sometimes you can get a lot of very valuable pastels for very little money in a setup someone expert already organized. Watch for Clearance sales on gift sets and discontinued assortments in artist grade brands. Those can be huge bargains and will come up in the early fall as shops get ready for this year's holiday sets. They can sometimes have a lot of extras thrown in.

I haven't heard any complaints about SAA quality and have seen the videos, they're a good workhorse. Having a large range in a workhorse brand is very useful, also the more pastels you have the less often you'll need to replace them. It's easier to use the color nearest what you want in a larger range than to go through all of the white and light blue in a couple of large landscapes.

Too bad I don't have the budget to just try them, but shipping from UK would run high and I'm way over budget as it is paying for last spring's pastel indulgences. I'm a terrible art supply addict and have about 1,250 unique sticks and pieces at my last count - after a decade of collecting. A bit over a decade now, since I started getting them around 2004 with a set of 60 Rembrandt that an oil painter gave me because he hated the medium.

My favorite set is 120 Unison half sticks but I'm growing very fond of 60 plein air Great Americans too and the conveniently small 60 Rembrandt half sticks. Watch for half sticks sets, twice the colors at half the cost.

Many painters wind up with about a hundred or 120 or so random pieces and sticks in multiple brands and just replace when an essential color's used up to a nub with something similar. That seems to be a comfort zone of itself. Usually with plenty of tints and some darks along with the spectrum in warm and cool version, plus a bin of near white very light tints that are more useful than pure white.

The last thing about semi-hard, medium, hand rolled and soft-soft is that your hand is something you'll discover. Which textures come easier to you on what surfaces. I found that I like to change it up, rarely met a pastel I didn't like (and then it was often the packaging) and still love having a giant range all at once sometimes. Logistics in a small living area means that I use medium size sets more often except that Unisons set.

So of what you mentioned, I'd say start with SAA and then add open stock or sale items or sets, plus 20 Sennelier half sticks finishers. That gives a good range at a low price but you can always eventually get both if their textures are different enough to matter and give extra layers.

08-18-2015, 10:25 AM
Just for your information, I just learned via Facebook that Mount Vision Pastels are now going to be available at Jacksons. I heartily recommend them, I would class them as top end of medium on the way to soft, and great value as they are huge and can easily be broken into three pieces.

08-18-2015, 05:48 PM
RickinNM, thanks for that info about Blicks/Daler Rowney. I have seen the chart from Dakota pastels and it is very helpful for the major brands.

Robert, thank you for the thoughtful and detailed response. I should have mentioned that I have a set of 90 half stick Rembrandts and a sampler set each of Unison and Sennelier half sticks. I like the Rembrandts but am looking for something softer. I love the Unisons and to be honest I am thinking I just may go with them for my main soft pastels. I love the shape and the way they feel going onto the paper. It's also nice that they are made in England so are readily available. The large number of sets, including half stick sets, also is a plus for them.

To be honest the limited range of the SAA doesn't sell them to me. I have looked at the range of greens and it doesn't seem that good. They are well priced though so I am sure I will try them at some point. The Jackson's appeal to me more but at the moment they are out of stock of most of their sets. :(

Devonlass, thanks for the tip about Mount Vision. The problem with many of the good American brands is that they tend to be very expensive over here compared with the European brands (Unison, Sennelier, Schmincke). Terry Ludwigs, for example, cost about just over 100.00 (that's $150.00) for a set of 30 pastels :eek:, and they cannot be purchased indiividually. I'll look out for the Mount Visions, though.

10-08-2015, 03:58 AM
Just wanted to provide an update for any other UK folk who are interested. I purchased a few Daler Rowneys, Jackson's handmade, Blue Earth and Mount Vision pastels from Jackson's this week.

My verdict so far: The Daler Rowneys do not appeal to me at all. They seem just a bit harder even than Rembrandts, and Rembrandts are much less expensive. If there are some colours that I can't get in the Rembrandts I might get a few more, but otherwise, no.

My first impression of the Blue Earth pastels: Tiny, and soooooft, even the very dark green I bought. The pigment just flows off of them. Lovely. I'm not sure that I see enough of an advantage to them over Schminckes considering the cost, however. It is nice to have the square edges, though, although they wear off pretty quickly.

Mount Visions: Quite nice, huge and heavy but good to break into thirds for a more manageable size. Similar in softness to the Unisons. May get some more reds/pinks/violets to plug that gap in the Unisons.

Jackson's handmade: Lovely. Very similar in softness and feel on the paper to the Unisons and Mount Visions but much less costly. They have a good amount of pigment. I kind of like the colour names too. :) I'm tempted by the full set, now, considering how inexpensive they are.

01-01-2016, 06:07 AM
Thanks for the information Sarah I splashed out on a half stick set of 120 sennelier that i got in a half price sale, I was looking at SAA or Daler Rowney will look into Jacksons might try a few small sets or open stock to see what i I am in Scotland so I can get these pastels ok :thumbsup:

01-01-2016, 07:32 AM
Rembrandts are a very good brand and excellent value for money. They have a nice big range of colours too. There are loads of online stores in the UK that offer them, including Jackson's and Pullinger's which are two of my favourites.

Happy New Year!