View Full Version : Hard, Medium & Soft Sets - Choosing From These

11-14-2016, 10:45 AM
I am new to the world of pastels and have read some of the wonderful information in your forums. I am buying my first supplies and would love to hear advice.
Based on the suggestions in this forum, Iím planning to get 3 non-toxic sets Ė 1 set each of soft, medium and hard.
After reviewing this forum, and checking out prices, Iíve narrowed it down to these:

HARD - I am deciding between sets of Prismacolor Nupastels and Mungyo Artist Semi Hard - which of these 2 is better quality and has better characteristics?

MEDIUM - I am deciding between Rembrandt Half and Mungyo Artists Soft Round.

SOFT - I am deciding between Sennelier Half and Mungyo Gallery Hand Rolled.

Also, do any of the above produce less dust than the others?
Thanks so much!

11-14-2016, 11:59 AM
I am certainly not an expert but I use and like the Nupastels, Rembrandt and Sennelier. I haven't been impressed by the Mungyo but they have been recommended by many here.

Alas, all pastels create dust but it is the sanded surfaces I find which create most dust.

What is great here is that there is such a variety of favourite brands and papers one way to narrow your choice would be to find an artist (style) you admire and follow their recommendations.
Cheers Leslie

11-14-2016, 06:00 PM
Before you buy any sets of pastel, I would strongly recommend either buying a sampler set from Dakota Pastel which has one pastel of most brands, or buy a few pastels open stock from the brands you are interested in. Unless, of course, you have tried these various brands already.


While pastels brands are similar, there are differences in texture and feel - which is why each artist has their own favorites. Also, there may be no reason to get 3 separate degrees of softness. You may find, for example, that Rembrandts are as hard as you want to go and you may not need anything harder. Or you may find the opposite, that a really soft brand is softer than you feel you can control.

If I were just starting out, I would start with a small set or a few sticks of Rembrandts. If you want to supplement them with something softer, then a small set of half-stick Senneliers would be my choice.

As far as the hard pastels go, I would look at Polychromos. Personally, I found that I only needed about a dozen hard sticks - mostly darks - as I found them useful for thin lines such as tree branches, eyelids, and other dark things.

The other thing to consider is what type of painting do you do most. If you are into portraits, then I would look into specific portrait sets. For landscapes, I found that Mt. Vision had the most natural and varied greens, but many other brands have nice landscape sets.

OK, now I have probably completely confused you! But I don't think you need 3 sets of hard, medium and soft unless your experience tells you so. Many beginners can not control the really soft brands. On the other hand, I know some pastel painters that ONLY use the really soft brands. So, I would get some experience first using a middle soft brand, and then determine how those work for you and if you want to supplement with more based on need. And certainly start with smaller sets or choose open stock. Personally, as I began to add to my pastel collection, it was based on what colors I needed, not on the softness. Down the line, there may be sets of colorful grays or sets of dark pastels that you will need. So I would start small and let your collection grow naturally based on your experience. That would be my recommendation.

Generally speaking, the harder the pastel, the less dust. Also, as mentioned, the amount of dust generated also depends on the paper and how heavy-handed one is.


11-18-2016, 09:43 AM
Leslie and Don - Thank you so much for your insightful, thoughtful replies.
I plan to buy some open stock pastels, and also different papers, as you suggest.
And that is great advice Ė to find an artist whose style I admire and follow his/her recommendations.
Iím so glad I found this forum!


11-27-2016, 01:58 PM
Mungyo Artist Semi-Hard are good quality and reasonably fade proof. Nupastels are frustrating because while the texture is a joy, some colors aren't lightfast. The best way to find out which ones is to chart the full set and stick a chart into a sunny window to see what fades. Then replace the fading hues with Polychromos in similar colors.

Rembrandt and Mungyo Artists Soft Round are comparable, intermix well, another good brand is Art Spectrum. These are workhorse pastels. Either brand is good to start with. Mungyo Soft Round has a price advantage.

Soft - yes, think about getting some Soft pastels like Ludwig, Great American, Sennelier or Schminke.

What I actually recommend is get all three textures, your biggest set in the Medium category. Hard pastels are the least expensive, depending on budget you can get full range sets of 120 pretty reasonably and that gives a lot of possibilities. Mungyo has a good wood box big set and the box is very sturdy, not as portable. A good functional size for hard pastels is a 24 color tin. One brand you didn't mention that I seriously recommend is Cretacolor Pastels Carre - lightfast, 24 color tin is in a good portable tin, good for sketching, good for painting if you like hard pastels texture, and generally very portable. I love the Cretacolors and use that small set often.

Then get as large a half sticks set of Rembrandt as you can or of Mungyo Soft Rounds, get a good big range. This is the workhorse texture, can be used alone, can be used instead of hard or soft, will get reasonable effects at the extremes and be good on all surfaces, good enough. This is where to do most of your layering too. A big range will give you the full spectrum plus tints and darks - and the more values you have in each spectrum color, the better you'll paint, the easier it is to control tone.

Last, get at least a small half stick set of Sennelier, on up to big half sticks sets. Sennelier's half sticks are fatter than their full sticks, crumble a bit less, do have a super soft texture and are great for laying on more color when the tooth of the paper is full. Using them from the beginning will make you learn to have a light hand. I've known artists who do. But when you have a naturally heavy hand, Senneliers can give gorgeous thick opaque strokes and impasto textures on top of everything else when you think the painting is already saturated. Even the smallest half stick set has some lights, some brights and some darks. The more colors the easier it is to choose the one you want.

But this may vary with the artist.

Using all three textures in the same painting will save money because the earlier layers are done with the less expensive hard and medium pastels. Hard pastels for blocking in, medium for building up and creating tone, soft for final marks and texture marks is a combination that comes out wonderful.

A comfortable Rembrandt palette is the 60 half sticks box I have, though I would have liked a darker violet in it and look forward to getting the 120 color half sticks set sometime. 60 is good for portable. Mungyo Gallery Soft Rounds are similar and have one advantage, the Mungyo lines are evenly distributed around the spectrum so you're not short of different violets but long on blues sort of thing.

Personally, I always liked having the biggest box of crayons. One of the cool things about pastels is the enormous range of colors and values available in some lines. Yet I found through practice that 120-200 is about ideal, you can do anything with that and it usually doesn't have spectrum gaps at that level. Bigger sets like 400 and 525 and so on will give more nuances of tints and some brands have spectrum gaps - Terry Ludwig seems to just lack saturated greens entirely, versus Blue Earth or Sennelier.

If you don't like dealing with a big box, that'll make your budget simpler. 24 color sets usually have earths in them and at least a couple of tints and darks. You can then stack and layer per texture.

Hope this helps!

11-30-2016, 09:02 PM
HARD - I am deciding between sets of Prismacolor Nupastels and Mungyo Artist Semi Hard - which of these 2 is better quality and has better characteristics?

MEDIUM - I am deciding between Rembrandt Half and Mungyo Artists Soft Round.

SOFT - I am deciding between Sennelier Half and Mungyo Gallery Hand Rolled.

I actually own large sets of EVERY one of those! Here's my opinion:

Hard - Id go with the Mungyo. A larger range, a slightly better price and easier to work with - although TBH these days I rarely use any hard sticks. If im going hard, id just as soon use pastel pencils.

Medium: The Rembrandt and Mungyo Rounds are nearly identical in feel and use. I honestly think its nearly a wash. They are both good value (although the Mungyo is cheaper). Ive dont lightfast tests & the perform quite similarly. I keep all of my Mungyo and Rembrandts in the same drawer (I separate pastels by texture, and then tone) because they are so similar.

Soft: Mungyo handmade vs sennelier. To me the Muyngo is softer - closer to schminke than sennelier but both are very soft. The Sennelier is much more expensive but id consider it a slightly more useful product. I do use both on the last 5 -10 percent of most paintings and i really like both brands so I dont know if id call a clear winner.

IMHO you wont go far wrong with either choice in each category so you may just want to look at the best value & get as big of a set of each as you can afford.

My 2Ę based on my experience with all six brands/lines.

12-04-2016, 06:31 PM
Hi, Robert Ė thanks so much for your comprehensive feedback. It was very kind of you to spend the time to write and share so much insight. Thatís a great suggestion about charting the Nupastels then filling in certain hues with Polychromos; I will do that. Also, itís great to know that the half stick Senneliers crumble less than the full stick. And I think Iíll take your advice about getting the 3 textures. For the mediums, Iím planning to go with the Rembrandts. I think I will also probably supplement with a few Terry Ludwigs, like the V100 Iíve been reading about in this forum!

12-04-2016, 06:39 PM
Hi, Justin - Thanks very much. I'm probably going with the Nupastels, but will also consider pencils, as you mention. I'll play around and see how they feel. I'm planning to go with the Rembrandts to start, for Medium. Someone offered to get me the Senneliers as a gift :) so I'll start with them for the Soft. Then I may fill in with some Mungyos and Terry Ludwigs, as budget permits. I really appreciate your advice - thanks.

12-05-2016, 12:26 AM
Oh yes! V100 is a staple, if you only get one Terry Ludwig, you'll love V100. It's violet that's blacker than black. Comes off like "black with zing" and goes over everything because Ludwigs are super soft - makes it perfect for final deep dark accents and oddly, also for initial sketching.

12-05-2016, 04:24 PM
I have acquired a few 'vintage' stick sets on e-bay.

I prefer 2 vintage brands, Sargents (wooden boxed) and Fred Weber. The Weber sticks are softer and larger. The Sargents colors sometimes have some faint tints that are very helpful when you need to create/change values within your work. They also have some colors that have a bronze or gold tone/matte to them almost metallic.

I do have an 18 half-stick set of Richeson, bright and landscape sets of Hobby Lobby Masters Touch brand, and the 24 stick set of Faber-Castell.

This week I acquired a few individual Sennelier tints which are very light/subtle. Hopefully these increase the value range in my work.

As for hard and softness, it seems that some sticks are harder or softer than other within a brand/set. I keep them sorted by brand because of this. For working with them, I am learning characteristics of each.

Also, there seems to be variability in the color blending capabilities. Sometimes, a blue and yellow might not blend into a green, but just stay blue or green. It's funny when that happens. Creating color wheel(s) is helpful in this regard. I worked for a paint and coatings company for 20 years and have stories on color, even though I was in purchasing and inventory for the most part.