View Full Version : what to buy, where to start

11-07-2003, 12:35 AM
I never posted in this forum, but I am fascinated by everything that I read and see here. A short time ago I decided that I want to start painting ( never done it before) and I chose to start in oils. I love them and there is so much to learn, and I never want to quit them, but latelly I found myself lingering more and more around here. I've seen some awesome paintings done in pastel, both landscape and portraits ( funny, still lifes seem to be missing) and I want so badly to try pastels myself. After reading a few long threads ( like the one about organizing your pastels) I got even more confused, I never knew about the complexity of this medium.
So now, more confused than ever, I have to post a few dumb questions, maybe someone is kind enough to answer me:

1. What to buy? I read names, like Rembrandt and Unison and stuff ( by the way I am in Canada, and not all brands might be available here) So what brand would be a good quality yet affordable?
2. On what type of paper ( is there a special one out there ?) or can I just use pages teared from my sketch pad?
3. Do you have to mount it on something? How?
4. What else is needed? I read about kneaded errasers, putty, etc, thing that I really don't know what they are....
5. By the way, related to previous question, what colors to buy better? I am amazed at how many pastels some artists have, but that is not the type of investment that I can afford right now.
6. What is better: soft pastels, hard nupastels. oil pastels?

Gee, I actually need a whole introductory lesson, because I don't know where to start shopping
( please don't recomend the article from AboutPainting.com, I read it and I am still lost)

Thank you

Marc Sabatella
11-07-2003, 01:01 AM
I wrote up a introduction to the medium on my site: check it out at:


It answers many of your questions in some detail. To answer more specifically:

With pastels, often the question of which brand isn't so much a difference in quality as just your personal preference, mostly regarding texture, but also regaridng color selection. The latter is more of an issue in pastel than oil because you need so many more colors. So really, you just need to visit an art store, look at what's available, and try out some sticks from the open stock.

As for paper, it has to have enough "tooth" to take the pastel. Lots of different brands with different textures; no real answer but to try them out. I can say Canson Mi-Tientes (back / smooth side) is probably the most popular cheap option.

Mounting - that's a framing issue. There are lots of ways to frame, some of which involving mounting, some don't. Leave it to a framer; that's the easy answer. But for painting, just clip or tape the paper to a drawing board.

You don't need anything else to paint. The only tool I personally sometimes use is a bristle brush to use as something of an eraser. It takes off enough pastel that apply more layers is easier. Erasers generally don't do a great job of erasing pastel.

For colors, you'll find that's a pretty personal choice too, but I give some specific recommendations on my site. Basically, the standard advice is to have several values of each color (dark, middle, and light), and to have at least two of each of the primary and secondary colors - a greener blue and a more violet blue, a yellow green and a bluer green, etc. Plus a few earth colors.

As for soft versus hard versus oil, again, that's up to you. Soft pastels are the default, what most people mean when they refer to pastels. Although most pastellists do use some hard pastels in their work. Oil pastel is a much newer medium, not nearly as popular or well-respected in the art community for whatever reason, although I happen to like it a lot.

11-07-2003, 01:42 AM
Marc, thank you so much for taking the time to teach me.
I am so happy you answered, it's great to find out that I don't need that many supplies.
The link is not working,I will keep trying maybe it's my browser or maybe it's temporary. I can't wait to actually go into yor website, but the internet is not working for that thing either tonight.
Thank you again, you are my first step closer toward pastels

11-07-2003, 02:07 AM
me, again, the link worked!!!!! It paid off to keep trying.
and good God, you are an amaizing painter!!!! I love your work!!! I can't believe how much you can paint during one year! and you're into music too..... uh, what an artist! people here must be really happy to have you around

11-07-2003, 02:29 AM
Thanks for the link Mrac. I'm new to the medium too.


11-07-2003, 04:14 AM
Adiro, welcome to the pastel community! Pastels are very nice for still lifes too, especially flowers, but maybe work are posted in the Still Life forum (not sure).

Marc: great link and nice answer too.

Thank you both!


Kathryn Wilson
11-07-2003, 07:40 AM
Just a few added thoughts:

If you don't have a good art supply store, you can always order from companies on-line or from their catalogs:

www.dickblick.com (they also have a separate pastel catalog)



It's always a good idea to go through the catalogs (or online) so you can compare prices and see what each company has available.

When I first took a class in pastels, Rembrandts were recommended as a good, inexpensive choice (and I still use them somewhere in my paintings). We used a masonite drawing board with clips on an easel (or you can use tape). We started out with Canson Mi-Tientes paper but quickly graduated to a sanded pastel paper. You really need nothing else to get started.

Just have fun and experiment -

11-07-2003, 08:03 AM
Welcome to pastels! But I warn you, it's addicting.
Canadian art supply sites:
Loomis and Toles (www.loomisandtoles.com) is a chain wich also sells online. The Quebec version is called Omer de Serres.
Curry's Art Supplies ( www.currys.com) and Aboveground (www.abovegroundartsupplies.com) are Toronto stores where I have made online orders. I have to either order online or drive to Halifax or Quebec City. Depends on where you live.
I got a nice set of Rembrandt half-sticks through Curry's. I had mostly Nupastels before that and still like them but it's nice to have softer ones as well. IMO one could start with the Nupastels, the price is good, graduate to softer (& more expensive) later if desired.
For the most part I have switched to oil pastels because of allergies to dust, and am getting to like them a lot. o.p.s and softies are different in the way you handle them; I guess you just have to try to see which you prefer.
About still life: I think you'll find that when winter hits those of us in the northern hemisphere the number of still lifes increases, as we stay inside and need sketch ideas. :)
Hope this helps.

11-07-2003, 09:21 AM
Speaking as a newbie to pastels (like Adiro) I want to thank everyone for these suggestions and links... they will prove so helpful for me. Looks like this thread may make it to the Pastel "Questions and Answers" Library.
Thanks again...

11-07-2003, 09:39 AM
I forgot to say I am also a Schmincke fan. They have half sticks boxes which enable quite a large palette : http://www.jerrysartarama.com/ProductDetail.asp?Product_ID=0057066000000.

Just add that to your Xmas wishes list!


Kathryn Wilson
11-07-2003, 10:25 AM
Hi Marc: I just viewed your web site through the link you visited - excellent, excellent, excellent!! Good advice and well written.

And then I viewed your art - you have been a busy boy haven't you!! Wonderful work we need to see more of in this Forum, I hope, I hope.

Would you think about doing an O.P. WIP?? for us some time. Since it is still such a new medium, I think the more WIP's we have the better to learn the different techniques.

Thanks again for sharing!

11-07-2003, 10:27 AM
Thank You everybody!!!!
I'm so impressed how nice you are, I think I'll be heading to the store this afternoon. ( I have Curry's and Loomis around)
:) I figured it's addictive, just too many people seem to love pastels :)
the advice given is great, ok, the cheapest option seems NuPastel, and then Rembrandt for the soft ones, for the Canadian artists, my price comparison ended up with the conclusion that Curry's has the best prices.
I wasn't hoping for that many answers, but hey, the more, the merrier
Thank you
Ps: if anybody has more to say, please do, but I HAVE TO go shopping today, I just don't have any more patience :)

11-07-2003, 10:42 AM
Adiro Welcome to WC. Yep pastels are addictive. I ditched my oils about 11 months ago. *S*

Boy what a great bit of info you are getting from Marc. I copied his remarks on brand names. So next time I see any good buys I'll know what they are about

Thanks Marc

11-07-2003, 12:10 PM
Awesome site and great ideas Marc!!!

Adiro-good luck on your shopping expeditiion! I started with Nupastels...and then added Rembrandts. Many people just use Nupastels...but feel free to add others as your money allows. You will find once you get hooked....you will be buying a little bit of everything just to try them out. Terry Ludwigs are my favorite softies...but expensive. I also have Unisons, Dale Rowneys, Great American. I love them all....I just love getting pastels!!!

But, I do pick up my Uniosns, and Ludwigs for my final finishing touches to my paintings....they rock!!

Good luck!!