View Full Version : Which portrait pastel set? Girault vs Terry Ludwig vs Sennelier...

dash of color
10-16-2015, 05:11 PM
Hi friends!

I'm new WC and to pastels and loving both so much so far! For the most part, I'm rapidly building up quite the collection of pastels, a mix of NuPastel, Rembrandts, and Senneliers so far with mostly basics for landscape or still life.

I'd like to get a set of pastels to get me started with some portraiture, and would love some advice on which of these 3 starter sets have the best mix of colors for portraiture:
- Terry Ludwig's 30 pc basic portrait set
- Girault 25 pc skintone set
- Sennelier's 40 pc 1/2 stick portrait set

(I would have posted the links to the images of sticks and swatches, but WC won't let me since I'm new--sorry for the additional Google image searching you may have to do!)

Any advice would be great. I'm mostly looking for additional and more experienced eyes to help me figure out which set would have the best foundational set of colors to build on!

Thank you!


10-16-2015, 05:29 PM
My guess is that any of the sets have plenty of colors that you will need. I think what is more important is how do you work. You currently have two of the harder to medium hard brands (Rembrandt and Nupastel) and a very soft brand Sennelier. If you feel comfortable working with the very soft sticks, the the Sennelier's might be your choice. If you want a bit more control, then the other brands may be better. Personally, I like Giraults for portraits as they are thinner sticks and a medium hardness, although I have also used the Senneliers which can be applied in a more painterly manner. I've never used Unisons, so I can't comment much on them.

Either way, you can't go wrong, although personally I would look into buying open stock. That way you could try all three and choose the colors specifically that you want. Plus, many artists like to use harder sticks for the initial layer or underpainting, then apply softer sticks on top. Each of us is different, of course, but even 25 pastels for portraits is far more than I would choose open stock. For other artists, even 40 would not be enough.


10-16-2015, 07:39 PM
I have the Sennelier set, I think it lacks warms. Too many terra cotta shades and not enough lavenders or greens. I do 90% of my portraits in layers with NuPastel and pastel pencils, a la my favorite instructor, Luanna Luconi Winner & only finish with touches of softies. Don's Girault portraits are beautiful.

dash of color
10-16-2015, 09:25 PM
Thanks so much Don for the helpful notes! I love the rich pigmentation and laydown of the Senneliers, but was worried about the control and detail. Sounds like Girault's size makes it better for detail while still being softer than Rembrandt & NuPastel. I guess I'm a bit nervous about buying open stock without being able to see the actual sticks -- no art stores near me seem to carry TL or Giraults, for example, so I'd be picking from online swatches? Makes me nervous! If you have some color recs or #s for your most useful colors, I'd be super appreciative since it's really hard to anticipate what I might find the most useful without much experience in portraiture myself. I had original figured with a set, even if I end up only using 50% for portraiture, I'll end up using the other colors for other works... and I'd have a better sense of the "gaps" to fill with open stock, but I'd also be super happy to have ~10 recommendations of really useful skin tone colors to just get open stock.

Thanks also @mudfish for the comments about the colors in the Sennelier set! I definitely would be looking for more neutral warms than that set sounds like it has. I have really enjoyed my NuPastels as well; I like sharpening them rather than using pencils (but really it's just my excuse not to buy more art supplies). Do you find the pencils are harder to layer since they are harder? Or since NuPastel is already pretty firm, it's not much of an issue?

Also, looking at the colors of the Girault vs the Terry Ludwig set, it looks like the TL set has a big more of a range of neutrals -- including some greens and muaves, while the Girault skintone set seems to have more darks. Any thoughts on which might be more valuable earlier on?

Equus Art
10-16-2015, 09:35 PM
I am a huge fan of both the Girault pastels in general and I also have the TL 30 basic portrait set and I don't even do portraits.....yet. I just loved the colors and I do use them often in the animal portraits that I paint.

As Don mentioned, the Girault size makes them a little more controllable, especially if you have smaller hands. They are not as soft as the TLs, but they do stick blend beautifully. They are pricey for their size, but defintely one of my favorites. Personally, I couldn't do without either of those brands in my collection.

I know I'm not much help!


10-16-2015, 10:53 PM
I actually recommend general sets more than portrait sets because in portraits cool colors are very useful. Go-to colors in portraits are absent. Though since you already have Senneliers, the Sennelier set may be a good choice.

Girault are very firm but handle like they're softer, they have a unique texture. Their skin tone set is definitely an "adjunct" set all earth tones, no cool tones or grayed violets or anything so without other Giraults that might be difficult. I have a 25 Landscape which had more of what I liked than the Assorted but if you got an Assorted with it you might be all right.

Ludwigs are quite soft too, almost as soft as Senneliers. If you like how the Senneliers handle you'll enjoy those. Try a sample though. The block shape gives a different look to the strokes.

10-17-2015, 09:39 PM
I have both the 25 pc Girault skin tone set and the 60 pc Ludwig portrait set. I recommend the Girault skin tone set for your first purchase, especially if you are new to pastels. They are easier to control and are an excellent pastel. They play very nicely with both Rembrandts and Nupastels, you can use any cool tones from these sets with the Giraults and get excellent results. The Ludwigs are great, but more difficult to control when doing portraits. I'd recommend them as your second purchase after buying the Giraults.

10-17-2015, 11:03 PM
I do not find pencils hard to layer; I find that they make perfect thin layers of color that I can build as I see fit. Plus, since they are harder, they blend the layer under them perfectly as well as allowing for control in tight places.

10-22-2015, 03:00 PM
This is just the thread with info I need! Thanks for posting this :)

DAK723, due to your advice, I just ordered a set of Giraults for portraits. I can't wait to get them!

Thanks to you both :)

10-28-2015, 03:49 PM
Learning portraiture is a wonderful, frustrating process that takes many trials, experiments and many many attempts to paint a satisfactory "likeness." Or perhaps you will eventually enjoy more stylized portraits that are not much about likeness at all.

One way or another, the more portraits you draw or paint, the more you will discover. By "more" I mean dozens, hundreds of portraits. No kidding. You will gradually learn your way around the human face. And don't worry too much about having what seems like exactly the right color pastel. Find a few warm pastels of light and dark values that you like, plus a few cool ones. Then don't fret about your colors and concentrate instead on the form you are painting.

And I advise you NOT to make your early portraits pictures of people you love. The likeness problem will probably frustrate you and lead you away from the pleasures of portraiture.

Good luck. You already have some fine pastels. The harder ones will be great for starting each portrait. Go slowly with them when you begin a portrait and try to get the major landmarks in just the right place. Then loosen up and enjoy the process of laying in the rest of the portrait. If you have an hour to work, try doing two or three portraits. Speed will teach your hand how to move.

I hope you love portraiture. It's the most amazing adventure.