View Full Version : choosing the right pastel

04-11-2008, 04:27 PM
I am currently doing work in black and white. What soft pastel do you recommend and why? Rembrandt offers a wide selection of greys. What's your opinion about these? I did one work in a set of pastels from Michael's. How much different do you think the results will be?

Deborah Secor
04-12-2008, 12:32 PM
I think your set from Michaels, depending on the brand, will most likely be a student-grade set of pastels. Expense is often determined by the proportion of actual pigment to binder and filler ratios, making less expensive pastels harder or 'emptier', if you will. When you see or touch the stick it looks good, but when you put it on the paper it hasn't got much color.

Rembrandts are about in the middle, proportionatley. They balance binder and pigment so that the stick will work nicely on the paper. Some of the other brands are much softer, meaning they have less binder and more pigment, making them very rich and buttery.

I'd suggest purchasing a few sticks of different brands to try them out so you can feel the difference. A lot depends on the paper you're using, too. Go to Dakota Pastels, www.dakotapastels.com, and look at the samplers. That's a great way to get introduced to different brands.

My favorites are Great American, Schmincke and Ludwig. VERY soft pastels...


Donna A
04-12-2008, 07:54 PM
Hi! Another reason to usually avoid the "very inexpensive" brands (cheap!) that are often available at Michaels and Hobby Lobby are that, in order to make a really "inexpensive" product, it is far cheaper to use some of the far less LIGHTFAST pigments---the most notable within the red-violets and violets, but often found in other colors, as well. While these may look OK going on, they can fade significantly within a few months to a year or more.

I've heard artists say that they'll "just using them while learning." Hah! Like learning to actually drive a car using a tricycle. The feel (and some other qualities) will be sooo different. Some folks save a few dollars and loose (eventually) a LOT of paintings. That's wayyyyy too expensive. And---many have ended up sooo embarrassed at what their work looked like with these in time. With some of the main colors shifted way off what the artist intended---the color relationships end up all 'wonky.' Not good for your reputation. And---it's just been soooo hard for folks to toss away those cheapies. Just something else to think about.

My very favorites are Art Spectrum pastels. They are extremely highly pigmented and very lightfast! I have pretty much everything of everything---about 4700 different sticks across 25 different brands and hand-mades. But---you DO want to try different brands and I agree with Deborah that the Dakota sampler can be a great way to get the feel different brands. And try different papers, as well.

By the way---you mentioned grays. I LOVE the Warm Greys and Cool Greys in Art Spectrum, which with the Raw Umbers, give me a wonderful range of grays/neutrals that can give a sense of "grays a bit to the red, a bit to the blue and a bit to the yellow." Has been marvelously useful over the years.

By the way---the Colourfix papers are my favorites! Love the great advantages they offer.

Very best wishes in finding the pastels that serve you and your creative expression the very best! Donna ;-}

04-12-2008, 08:03 PM

Some of the brands available at local stores like Hobby Lobby and Michaels are not very good, but one of the local Hobby Lobby's has Sennelier in sets, and at least one time had some Art Spectrum sets, and the Colorfix pastel support.

Dakota does have a great selection, and most of the brands there have good qualities, and are used by many artists. Nupastel offers a set of grays that ran about $11 at a local art supply store that may fit the bill for you if you're just trying to get some experience with pastels. This set is also available at Dakota. It seems like every pastel artist has their own preference for pastel manufacturers, and I like Nupastels, Mount Vision, Unisons and a few others about the best. Hope this helps, too.

WC Lee
04-12-2008, 08:10 PM
I agree with Donna about folks having a hard time letting go of those cheapies :D I still got mines :D

Choosing the right brand of pastel comes down to personal preference and as stated by the Deb and Donna, do try the different brands by getting the sampler pack from Dakota or the Fine Art Store. But Art Spectrum is a nice brand to start out with .. not soft and not hard .. and pretty inexpensive too ..