View Full Version : Grumbacher, Difference round or square?

09-16-2019, 12:36 PM
Iím just starting my pastel journey and have been trying to buy some starter sets to get me going. From reading up all I can, Ive heard through post here that people love Grumbacher, though they have been discontinued and if you find a set to scoop it up. What is the difference from the round ones from the square ones? Is one better than the other? Is one softer or creamier? Is one more densely pigmented than the other?

I ask because I found some of the round and a square set I might buy, but not sure which one. I read on here rounds might be older version, before the squares, which leads me to believe the square ones, if true, or somehow a better quality, since most companies come out with newer versions because they have somehow improved on there product.

I know Grumbacher are an older pastel, but Iím hoping someone has some experience with these on here and might be able to help, I hope 🙂.
Thank you, Priscella

Richard Barrere
09-16-2019, 01:49 PM
I'm not an expert, believe me, but I bought a set of 90 old Grumbachers that had both the squares and the rounds in it. Each color was made both square and round. I honestly can't tell the difference between the two. I think maybe they offer both because some artists prefer one over the other. I like the squares, but that's just me. My opinion is that they are very nice quality, but they are not my favorite. They are similar in density and texture to Rembrandts, if you have used them before. Some colors seem to be a little softer than others. They rub down into the support well, but they also blend with each other and other pastels nicely when you use the sticks too. Honestly, I think the fact that they are discontinued makes them more rare and desirable for some people, not necessarily because they are so much better than other brands. They are good, but don't overpay for them either! There's my two cents worth. Good luck!

09-16-2019, 06:36 PM
Thanks Richard. I contacted Grumbacher also to see if they could clarify, unfortunately I wasnt able to get an answer to wether they were different formulas or just manufactured into different formats, like you stated so artists had an option, he said he could only speculate as to why there was a change. But did give me information on some dates of production, which was interesting.

Maybe Iíll hold off on them. One, seems like there will be a bidding war on the, through eBay, and donít want to overpay. Since Iím new perhaps itís better to stick with pastels I can get comfortable with, knowing when I run out of a stick I can purchase them again. But hey, I Hope whom ever gets them theyíll end up into beautiful pieces of art.

09-16-2019, 09:12 PM
In all honesty, there is no reason as a new artist, that you should buy Grumbacher pastels. There are so many brands today, there is no reason to buy old, used pastels. For old timers like me who used them 30 years ago, their might be one or two colors that we haven't found an equivalent over the years. That would not be the case with a new artist. For me personally, I loved the fact that they were rectangular. But, again, if you are not used to that feature, there is no reason to look for it.

Yes, you absolutely want to get pastels that you can replace when you run out of a stick. Another reason to choose something else.

Again, just my opinion, but their is absolutely nothing magical or special about Grumbacher's pastels. Their appeal is mostly nostalgic - and for those - as I mentioned - that are looking to replace an old favorite stick.

Grumbacher was sold quite a few years ago (maybe 25?) and they stopped making their full sets of pastels. (Actually they may have stopped making their pastels even longer ago...) They still sold smaller portrait (and perhaps other) sets under the Grumbacher name, but, in my opinion, the quality was no longer there. So, no, newer versions of Grumbacher may not be better.


09-17-2019, 10:31 AM
Thanks for the input Don. The rep told me Grumbachers Finest pastels were discontinued in the early 90ís. Itís good to hear both sides of the story as from what I read if you see a set scoop it up. But then in the back of my mind also wonders as to why they were discontinued.

The appeal for me is the square shape. Iíve been trying to acquire smaller starter sets of some different brands, which all have different qualities of hardness, and I would like to try some square shaped ones, as they look very useful. I have about a dozen blue earths which are square, but very small, and they are super soft, so I was looking for some that were harder. I havenít seen any makes of med soft pastels in a square format besides Grumbacher. Seems there might be a niche for that, seems like a lot of pastel artist prefer a square shape.

Ahyaya, seems my beginning steps into pastels and trying to acquire my first sets is proving difficult with all these decisions. But so glad there are you guys around to help, wetcanvas is such a wonderful community, with so many kindly and freely open to give their advice.

09-17-2019, 04:21 PM
Well, I can't argue with the desire for a square shaped pastel. Grumbachers were the first artist grade pastel that I used when I graduated from college - and they were one of the few brands available where I could buy individual sticks (this is around 1979). Once so many more brands became available, there was no special appeal for the Grumbachers except for the fact that they were square - and in cases like myself - where I was replacing specific colors.

Unfortunately, it appears that the vast majority of artists prefer round pastels - as that is what must sell, as pretty much all other companies have gone that route!

Good luck, regardless of which pastels you choose. And in the end, you will most likely have pastels of many different brands. Don't get hung up on brands - the important thing about pastels is choosing the colors that appeal to you most, and having the degree of softness that suits your style best.


09-26-2019, 06:52 PM
Unfortunately, it appears that the vast majority of artists prefer round pastels - as that is what must sell, as pretty much all other companies have gone that route!


Thatís an interesting observation Dan because if there is a brand that seems to generate the most devotion (observed as a newbie watching a lot of youtube instruction), it has to be Terry Ludwig pastels. And the rectangular shape is one of the much lauded features of the TLs.

I wonder if the fashion has changed or if it is just more cost effective on the labor front for the ďboutiqueĒ artisans to make hand ROLLED/shaped pastels versus creating the rectangular ones?

Richard Barrere
09-26-2019, 07:52 PM
If I can chime in here, the Terry Ludwigs are known and loved by pastellists partially because of their square shape, and that is sort of unique among top brands. The top big favorites in soft pastels, the Rembrandts, Senneliers, Schminckes, Unisons, Richesons, Art Spectrums, Mount Visions, and Giraults, are all round. Not only are TLs square, but each one is hand sanded on all six sides, believe it or not, so they are flat on the edge and have sharp corners. Amazing. So yeah, they are kind of unique! The only other square shape among top pastel brands I can think of are Great Americans and Blue Earths. Both of those are so soft they don't hold an edge the way the TL's do. One of the things I like about the Grumbachers are the square shape, and since they are a bit harder you can really press down and get some nice, sharp wide marks with them, same as the TL's. That's my take on it!