View Full Version : Holbein Soft Pastels to buy or not?

04-17-2008, 09:00 PM
I want to replace my Daler Rowney square Pastels (no longer manufactured), with a other
medium hard square pastel i have looking at full set of 144 holbein. are they any good.
really appreciate others' advice/experience. Thanks so much!

Mikael :wave:

04-17-2008, 11:14 PM
i like them, but be warned...they have no wrapper so ordering the exact stick again later when you run out might be tricky. unless you are more organized than me and manage to make a color/number chart when you get them.

Donna A
04-18-2008, 01:13 AM
Hi, Mikael! The Holbeins are one of the few brands of 26 that I do not have as generally full sets---and that is a conscious choice after having reviewed the lightfastness of so many of their colors. When I saw that a pale, grayish blue-green was very low in the rating, that did it for me. I only bought a few of the ones they claimed as fully light-fast. Do you have access to the Creata-Colors? Oh--I know I'm not spelling that right right now. Someone else will pitch in. I tend to pretty much never use the Holbeins I have, save for the testing I did with them. They are OK. But not something I would want to invest in if I were making careful, limited choices. Very best wishes in finding just the right solution! Donna ;-}

alaskan rose
04-18-2008, 02:41 AM
Donna, where did you get the lightfast ratings? Also would like to have them for other brands if possible. I have a couple of holbein blue grays that were recommended and I use regularly, but I now want to be sure they are lightfast.

04-18-2008, 04:21 AM
Thanks for the info Donna i don't think i gonna purchase any holbein if the colors is not lightfast.

Donna do you mean Cretacolor Carre Soft Pastel i have tested it very hard i wanted a medium hard pastel the only other square pastels is Prismacolor (GRUMBACHER) is it a better alternative.

Mikael :)

Donna A
04-18-2008, 10:35 PM
Donna, where did you get the lightfast ratings? Also would like to have them for other brands if possible. I have a couple of holbein blue grays that were recommended and I use regularly, but I now want to be sure they are lightfast.
Hi, alaskan rose. In this particular case, I was relying only on the Holbein lightfast ratings---and they noted that there were certain (quite a number) of colors that were lower lightfastness. I tend to more trust the LOW lightfastness ratings from a company than I do the high ratings, unless I've tested myself.

My pastels are spread out over two large 'complexes' of tables. I was very ill for a number of years and for 6 years+, my pastels set out untouched. My whole studio set untouched. argh! I had always had my then-studio assistant put my sticks back in "their" place with numbers up every now and then and so it turned out that in the bright but never direct-sunlight studio, the colors remained in the very same position. When I was finally able to get vertical again and then begin cleaning up my studio to begin working again, I began finding that some of my pastels had faded---but ONLY on the top where they were exposed to the room's light. The other half that was laying against the bottom of their container were fine. Ohhh goodness! I'd already learned that there were some colors whose pigment DID fade---and wrote an article for the no-longer-exisiting Kansas Pastel Society in 1987. Not many people wanted to pay attention. Then---the most notable was the NuPastels red-violets. Faded to a lovely pale grayish pink-y off-white. Red violets in pigments are the most tricky to find a really brilliant lightfast pigment. With the newer synthetics, we are being offered more possibilities, but many of these have been tested only in the labs---and 'test of time' will make final determinations of what truly LASTS!

I had to pull out quite a few faded colors out of my different sets of colors. I take this very seriously---but I have talked to a number of very fine pastel painters who have made comments to me that "as long as it outlives me, that's all I care" and "I ship out a painting within a couple of months after it's done, so I never pay any attention" and "I paint in a really gray studio, so I don't worry about it." (The later artist was using a brand whose particular color I KNEW faded and whispered it to him as he was beginning a demo---and a few minutes earlier he had told several of his friends that he had to get back to his studio right after the demo to ship some paintings off to his gallery in Miami.) Hmmmm He works in a gray studio (like his mentor) but---does he issue memos with his pastels that they should be kept in a darker gray closet so as to not fade? ARagh!

This is a picture of the pastels that set abandoned for a long time---and then taught me so much about lightfastness when I was up and around again! This was taken during a live TV broadcast from my studio.


You can do tests of your colors that will tell you a good bit---with patience! Scribble a really strong layer of pigment into rectangles on a good white paper then cover half the rect. with thick black paper---tight-fitting---and then hang this in a south-facing window where it gets as much full sunlight as your home/studio can offer---and then wait for several months. When you pull back the black that blocks the sunlight, you can see if there is ANY change at all. If there is even a tiny bit---well, I'd toss it! It is not your friend! It's going to fad on your painting, too---tho it will take longer in a normal room. You are trying to speed up the process so you get a good idea. Best if, once you check, you can put everything back in exact place and hang up in the window again. The longer, the better!!! Remember how long you expect works of art in museums to last. We often think of a year or 5 years being a long time! What if your favorite works of the Masters lasted a whole 5 or 10---or even only 50 years? Well---we'd all be missing a lot.

A lot of the manufacturers are going by what the pigment supplier says is lightfastness. Others---??? I think there is an increasing attention to this issue, but "caveat emptor!" We still need to take responsibility ourselves to pay some attention to our materials. Some very most popular brands have had colors that fade. I have saved my faded colors as a personal record---but far separated from all my other sticks of pastels. I often show people who can not believe---and they end up horrified! MOST most most colors/pigments are quite lightfast. But it only takes one or two sticks of pastel playing important parts in the painting to throw off the whole look of a piece!

Some manufacturers are replacing less lightfast pigments with better, more lightfast pigments with give a similar effect. I've had some very interesting conversations with some manufacturers. And at least three have used notes from me to either remove a pigment from use or help to validate their lightfastness. There are things that we as individual artists can effect for the better. Take yourself very seriously as a painter and what you can observe and what well-founded information you can share! You are likely more powerful that you might imagine!!! :) And then also have a wonderfully great amount of FUN while you paint!!! THAT is soo important! :D

With the observations and discoveries I made while preparing my studio to use again, I found that in several cases some of the colors that faded a little to a lot were rated as lightfast---and some that had lower ratings did not fade.

Earth colors are rock solid---in more ways than one! :) The Thalo Blue that is PB15 is extremely lightfast!!! But the PB 17, a lighter Thalo Blue that comes from a different chemical makeup, will fade quite a bit. It has been used a good bit in colors where a lighter blue-green to yellow-green was desired since it is lighter. I found it used in several very prominent brands in the late 90's. Hopefully, it is no longer used in any professional brand. Cadmiums, Cobalts, Ultramarines don't fade. Don't eat them. There are so many fine pigments that do not fade! Most of our pigments don't fade. Just pay attention to colors that you have---and ask your dealer or the company for brochures or web site information about the pigments in each color and what their lightfast rating is. It's good to know---and good to let them know you are paying attention and that you really care!

It's an extremely complex subject and goes incredibly far beyond anything I'm writing here. We need to keep it simple enough to 'manage' and to not overwhelm us. And not many will have had the long-term situation like I had to learn more about the lightfastness. At least I hope not! Argh! Do tests in the window, instead!!! :rolleyes: Lot easier in the long run!!! :) :)

Hope this gives you a bit of an idea of things to look for. I'm sooo glad you care! Very best wishes! Donna ;-}

04-18-2008, 10:53 PM
Well written information Donna - I especially like the caution not to eat cadmiums, cobalts, or ultramarines - :lol:

I too don't use Holbein pastels for the reasons Donna mentioned, and also because I'm not fond of their numberless packaging or "feel". As she said, there are so many pastels out there in all degrees of "hard/softness" that buying some that may not be lightfast just doesn't make sense to me.


PS - I've seen Donna's studio and she really does mean "tables full of pastels"!