View Full Version : List of PASTELS ranked from softest to hardest.

aspiring artist
04-26-2006, 05:51 PM
Dakota Art Pastels (www.dakotapastels.com) posted on their Web site a list of their available (soft) pastels and pastel pencils in order of their softness.
#1 is the softest, down to #21 the hardest. This is a great reference for the pastel artist ~ worthy of printing out.
Here is the line-up for your own personal reference:

We are often asked to compare the different lines of pastels to help customers decide which pastels they should purchase. In the catalog copy we try to supply as much information as possible in an objective manner. Of course, a lot of what goes into deciding which is the right pastel is very subjective. Factors such as color range, physical characteristics (hard/soft, square/round, big/small) and economics all enter into which is the right pastel for you. The one area in which we can give a 'general' classification is softness. Keep in mind that this is a general classification - some pastels vary within the line and many of these are so close it's difficult to rate one softer than the other. #1 is the softest.





KA Obee
04-26-2006, 08:49 PM
This is really quite interesting. I've never tried Mount Visions or Terry Ludwigs, but I always assumed they were softer than Unisons. This is a great little ref.

04-26-2006, 10:37 PM
An interesting list but not hard and fast. Take Terry's for instance, He has some quite hard reds and some Schmincke feeling teals but most are some where in between. Some are gritty and some are silky. Quite uncomparable all the way around.

However it's good to see just where some of these brands I haven't had the benifit of trying fit in the scheme of things.

Thanks very much for the great information

Cheers, Dianna :cat:

aspiring artist
04-27-2006, 04:25 PM
It is amazing how much difference there is in feel (hard, soft) even within one particular brand of pastels. Some Sennelier sticks are surprisingly hard (the regular size sticks), whereas their 40 and 80 half-stick pieces are quite soft. I would imagine a lot has to do with the individual pigments used to make certain colors. My small portrait set of Terry Ludwig pastels arrived and they are quite soft and very dusty. For anyone who is interested in this brand, I found an exceptional deal on www.amazon.com, of all places. Arrived quickly and no broken pastels. To familiarize myself with some of these new brands (in the long list that starts this thread), I logged onto www.dakotapastels.com and ordered just one individual stick in the lines that I have none of so far, such as Girault, Mount Vision, and Blockx. Most were about $2.50 each and there was no "minimum number order required". Tempting, yes?!

04-27-2006, 05:43 PM
Dakota also sells sampler sets of hard and soft pastels, pencils and paper

Deborah Secor
04-27-2006, 07:24 PM
Somewhere we have a thread that discussed this list.... I have some real quibbles with it myself! If I can find that old thread I'll post a link to it here... Here it is: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=290629&highlight=Dakota+list


Donna A
04-28-2006, 07:31 PM
I have some real quibbles with this list, as well! LOL!!!! Having allllll the Senns, hundreds of Terry's, all the Great Americans and Unisons and Mt. Visions and W/N's and Art Spectrums and ---- huge numbers of both types of Townsends and all the Giraults and Rowneys and NuPastels and CreataColors and Grumbachers and Rembrandts and many others------And for years!!! I gotta say-----this list does not make any sense to me. Terry's and GA's have always seemed GENERALLY the softest. Then the Schmincke's. Depends on the Senns----cuz some are sooooo hard! And other Senns just med. soft like so many others.

Soooo much depends on the particular pigment. In any brand. Those that are the softest have additives that add to the softness----and dilute the pigment content. Those that are the hardest have the most gum tragacanth and/or other glue----and often other "stuff" that again dilutes the pigments (makes them cheaper!!!!!.) I love those that are the most highly pigmented----such as the Art Spectrums. Deliciously highly pigmented!!! They FUNCTION as a really soft pastel because of the high pigmentation, but also can be easily controlled and used on earlier layers as those pastels that are harder.

Each brand has something useful to offer-----including some "special" colors brand to brand!!! Always loved the "cedar greens in Girault" tho Terry has some great cedar greens, too! Yea!!! I'm thankful that I've been able to make my evaluations about which are softer and harder and middle, etc! from years of actual use of the full spectrum of the colors of 24 brands. I've had a lot of very, very fine pastel painters working with me who have decided that sometimes tooooo soft is just not their best friend.

I want lightfast first!!!! Brilliant pigment! Always!!! And then I go from there! Donna ;-}

04-30-2006, 12:22 PM
FWIW, Yarka is harder than Nupastel and Kohl-I-Noor pencils are harder than Cret A Color.

Even though I use sanded papers, I don't see myself going much softer than Unison, although I do have some Schminckes and Senneliers. I have too heavy a hand and fill up the tooth too easily.

Donna A
05-02-2006, 04:57 PM
FWIW, Yarka is harder than Nupastel and Kohl-I-Noor pencils are harder than Cret A Color.

Even though I use sanded papers, I don't see myself going much softer than Unison, although I do have some Schminckes and Senneliers. I have too heavy a hand and fill up the tooth too easily.

Yep, Potoma! I've had several people try some of the softer brands, thinking they were going to be THE BEST and then turn out to fill up the sanded paper sooo fast that they hated them. We really do have to choose what serves us best!!!

Yes!! The Yarkas are----well, don't seem just hard but waxy and generally unpleasant. Jack Richeson told me that Yarka (a company he bought in Russia) actually used Lapis Lazuli for the Ultramarine since they had so much of it that was not gem quality----sized to small, I think. But many of the colors fade terribly. Was in Artisans in Santa Fe one day and found that so many of the dusty rose colors on the top of the piles in the storage compartments were faded. Showed the staff. The just shook their heads and then pulled a lot out. Guess they discontinued carrying them, as so many others have.

I've had 34 from my set of 96 NuPastels fade. Some ultra terribly! The earth colors are fine. But too many pigments are not. The rich purple fades to battle-ship blue gray. The fuschia to pinkish-gray white. Oh, glory! Hmmmmmm. The yellow-green fades to deplorable old office-copy paper drab pale yellow, which I remember from my father's office when I was little.

It's always good to experiment and find what gives us the results that feel the best! Take good care! Donna ;-}

05-02-2006, 07:22 PM
i made that same mistake--bought a set of schminkes' and thought that i'd be in heaven. i wound up using just the white, and the almost-white lemony yellow, the palest blue, and one dab of an olivey green. that's it!! but i lucked out, a friend wanted them so i didn't loose on that deal, and she got a bargin. now, i agree, unison is about my softest, and i must say, i agree wtih donna, art spectrum is really a fine pastel. not too hard, not too soft, juuuust right! ;) and the strength of the colors is just a delight!!

i think the hardness list is relative--heavier hands would make them feel diff., and what paper did this test use? what techniques? blending or hatching? i too am heavy handed, probably another reason that i'm not fond of those almost greasy too soft brands. i do have a few, and use them, but only in certain areas, not workhorses. sampling them in your own hands is the only way!!

05-06-2006, 09:30 AM
I've been using pastels for about 3 years now. I'm fortunate that I've found a few art stores in my travels where I could purchase a few sticks of various brands to "test 'em out." When I started painting with pastel, I thought "I'd never spend that kind of money on a Unison." Well, I now have over 140 sticks of Unison and find they are among my favorites.

I came across this list about a year ago. I think the list is useful if you break it into groupings, rather than taking it at face value. I personally grouped Great American, Sennelier and Schmincke as the softest brands, used at the end of the painting. As mentioned above and in prior threads, Sennelier is sometimes a crap-shoot on softness. I used it to explore materials that I would want to use at various stages of the work, going from hardest to softest, so as to preserve the tooth of the paper as long as I could.

Shane Keene
05-07-2006, 02:10 AM
I agree that the list shouldn't be taken at face value, but in general it's really quite useful. If you're looking for soft-soft look to the top section of the list, medium, look to the middle, etc.

The one thing that I steadfastly agree with on the list is that the Schminkes are the softest. I saw it mentioned above that the Ludwigs are softer but this is definately not true for me (note the subtle disclaimer;)). I have almost full sets of both brands and the schminkes seem more than marginally softer across the spectrum of colors.