View Full Version : PASTEL Pencils vs Regular color pencils?

03-08-2010, 10:07 PM
i am new in Pastels-beginner ...and I am wondering what is the difference between regular color pencils and pastel pencils? I mean except of the price! because the difference in price is HUUUUge!

03-08-2010, 10:27 PM
They are completely different. Pastel pencils are like skinny little hard pastels -- comparable to the texture of Cretacolor Pastel Carre or color Conte or any of the medium-hard narrow square pastels, within a range. They're powdery, they handle like pastels, smudge like pastels and blend like pastels. They are very useful with other sorts of pastels for detailing, cleaning up hard edges, blending soft edges, undersketching or even doing entire passages without changing the matte, powdery pastel look of the piece.

Regular colored pencils are waxy and dense. They have a texture more like a pencil, ranging in hardness from about H to very super soft like an 8B pencil. Some are made with oil in the composition and work well with oil pastels in the same way pastel pencils work well with pastels, for detailing and edging.

Either type of pencils can be used alone of course. But pastel pencils even used alone will result in a pastel drawing. If you look at my art supply review site, recently posted, you'll see examples of drawings done with Prismacolor colored pencils in one of the first reviews and a couple of brands of pastel pencils including my latest review. You can see the difference in those.

Regular colored pencils don't even smudge as easily as graphite pencils either, while pastel pencils smudge like pastels.

So that's the difference -- and if you want to try pastel pencils, a small set can be very useful as an adjunct to your other pastels. Or choose a few useful colors out of open stock. Gakinme (Sandra) chose red, yellow, blue and white in several different brands before deciding which brand to purchase a set in, her drawings with that limited palette are great.

Dark blue and dark brown colors are very good for monochrome sketching to test a pencil's quality and texture.

Pastel pencils are priced comparable to artist's grade colored pencils, you get used to it after a while. There was a long time when I was shocked at paying over a dollar for a single pencil, though I loved Prismacolors it was hard going replacing them when worn out. Pastel pencils are a lot longer than the hard pastel sticks too, so they may last quite a while if handled carefully.

What you're paying for is artist grade pigments and high quality binders (the stuff mixed with pigments to turn it into a pencil core instead of a pile of colored dust). Prices vary. Carb-Othello are probably the least expensive artist grade per pencil, but the rest are all in about the same range and it's not that great a leap. I like the Cretacolor ones and the new formula Derwent ones.

03-08-2010, 11:01 PM
I have drawn for many years with colored pencils, but I was always dissappointed with the wax build-up and the fogging that takes place. The total coverage was also a problem. They are capable of some wonderful drawings, but they are not intended to work the same as pastels. Colored pencils are great for cartooning and smaller sizes of artwork, no larger than 18 by 24 inches is ideal. Colored pencils are relatively clean, dust free and very safe for transporting. They have their place.

Pastels are a colorist's medium, the colors in pastels are the most vibrant of any medium, especially on toned papers. The pigments used in pastels are also of a higher quality and more permanent. You can cover a large area with pastel much faster and easier than colored pencils and more opaquely. The obvious drawback to pastels is the learning curve and the dust. Many people avoid pastels and jump straight into oils, but I have heard that those that master pastel usually have an added advantage and are more comfortable when they work in oils. There is a similar link between the two mediums of pastel and oils that colored pencil doesn't share.

I would have to recommend Pastel pencils over colored pencils if you can afford it.

03-08-2010, 11:36 PM
Well I guess I just see them as two different things...sort of like oil and acrylics. The only thing in common is that you are using a wood casing to hold the lead just as you use a brush to deliver the oil or acrylic.

Actually there are two different kinds of colored pencils...there is wax based, which actually produces the wax build up and the hazing that happens so often. Then there are oil based pencils. The oil based pencils do not produce wax bloom-haze. As for pastels being the more expensive of the two...However the oil based colored pencils can and often are very expensive. The Caron d'Arche (sp?) pencils are very pricey.

I have and use both. I am inclined to use the pastels pencils more. Just wish there was a way to fix pastels so we didn't have to put them behind glass. With colored pencil if you use them on pastel board you can fix them then spray varnish and need no glass frame.

Let us know what it is that you decide. Looking forward to seeing some of your work. Just wondering have you given the "Pan Pastels" any consideration?


03-09-2010, 12:38 AM
Robert, thanks for mentioning my name.

Cuttineagle, I've been using colored pencils on and off for a year trying to put color into my work when I'm mostly a graphite/charcoal person. I noticed that compared to acrylic, oil pastel, soft pastels, colored pencils are so much slower. For detailed work, it is a good medium and because I wasn't confident with the brushes, I opted for colored pencils and invested in quite a few sets.

Now that I have discovered soft pastels, and more recently, hard pastels, and pastel pencils, I sold many of my colored pencils except Prismacolor and am investing in pastels of all hardness, including pastel pencil.

If you don't mind a bit of dust and smudginess, and its opaque quality, pastel pencils are very satisfying and fast to cover large areas relative to colored pencils. I've posted some of the trials of different types of pastel pencils I'm exploring before I invest in a full set like I did for Prismacolored pencils and I'll be adding a couple more reviews when some samples of Cretacolor pastel pencils and Faber Castell Polychromos Hard pastel sticks arrive in a week or two.

Just buy a few of each brand and test it out. If possible, buy the top quality pencils even if it's only a few.

If I knew what I know now a year ago, I would have not bought colored pencils and invested into pastel pencils from day one. But one never knows until one tries it out. Lesson learnt. So now I test the brands with one or three pieces each before I buy the full set just to be sure.


Good luck on your exploration. Let us know what you have decided.

03-27-2010, 05:12 PM
thank you for help.

10-29-2013, 04:20 PM
Hello fellow artists

i also have a dilema, between colour pencil and pastel pencil. I am a novice in art and i mainly do it just for fun. So after watching quite a few youtube videos i still can not decide.

I have eliminated the wax based colour pencils beacuse i do not want wax bloom(if i ever give some of my drawing to a friend or maybe one day to sell it) so the only option is FB polychromos. Cant find the Lyra oil based pencil in my country.

On the other side i bought 12 derwent pastel pencils, but they are too soft and wide for detail work(i do automotive drawings). I have read that Derwent pastel pencil are softer then other pastel pencils.

So my dilema now is between Polychromos and pastel pencils(Cretacolor).

So i am aking if any of you has any suggestion what to do.

Pros of polychromos
I can get much more details with them than with any pastel pencil, beacuse they are harder. No dust. I do have one question, since i have read that they can smudge is it ok if i do not use a fixative on them, if i just put them in a drawer. I mean are they as sensitive as wax based pencils, or are they more like pastel pencils and should be handled with care

Pros of pastel pencils
they can cover a large area a lot faster, theay are easy to blend(with pressure). As i have read the color intesitiy of pastel pencils is bigger than of colour pencil(is this true?)I have read that polychromos fade away on some papers(the thread was about canson mitientes).Pretty much the only thing that bothers me with pastel pencils is detail level(which with some patience can be taken care of) and the sensitivity of them, beacuse usually when i am done i just throw the drawing in the drawer and pastel drawings will eventually smudge.

Any advices? I am going to buy a set of 24 of either of them. Dont have the money for bigger sets

10-29-2013, 08:06 PM
TOMO, WC seems to have trouble, I've got a few double posts too over the last few days.

10-29-2013, 08:19 PM
Tomo, they're different. Pastel pencils will give you great control, however hard pastels like Cretacolor Pastels Carre or Nupastel or Polychromos sticks can give you fine lines and hard edges too. I commented on your auto drawing that there are ways of getting hard edges in pastels.

Ponting has some tutorials on getting fine detail and hard edges with pastel pencils in the Soft Pastel Learning Center. You may have to leaf through a few pages to find it but one of them is a candy dish with Humbugs in it that was entirely done with pastel pencils. It can be done. It's just the process of getting hard edges is a bit physically different between wax colored pencils and pastel pencils.

One way that we get hard edges even with pastel sticks is to break the stick or wear the piece down to an edge in a chisel shape. That sharp edge can run around a shape easily. Hard pastel sticks, the corners can be used to get into tight spots with a dot or turn corners, you just roll the stick to get a fresh corner when it wears down. Derwent has hard pastel sticks too in a range of 36 colors.

Pastels are very satisfying and have one thing wax pencils don't - they're fast and give instant gratification. Some medium-soft sticks and hard pastel sticks can also fill in and block in large areas faster where you don't need hard edges, such as background elements, keeping the detail work in your focal area with the car itself.

10-31-2013, 09:43 AM
Pastel pencils often based manufacturer tests have serious lightfastness problems and their colour ranges are waymore limited. totally different things and i prefer coloured pencils which is layer makers medium if pastel pencils is colorist medium.

10-31-2013, 03:02 PM
Pastel pencils often based manufacturer tests have serious lightfastness problems and their colour ranges are waymore limited. totally different things and i prefer coloured pencils which is layer makers medium if pastel pencils is colorist medium.
Do yoou have any more info on that?

10-31-2013, 08:53 PM
What i wanted to ask was, are pastel pencils in general less light ressistant than color pencils. Of course comparing artist grade colour pencil and pastel pencils.

11-01-2013, 11:44 AM
See link for colored pencil examples:


11-01-2013, 10:08 PM
I read some web sites about lighfastnes of colour pencils and pastel pencil. I've read on Caran D'Ache site that most of their pastel pencil are fade resistant for 50 years and since Caran D'Ache is a top brand we can assume that other brands do not surpass them. So patel pencils are good for 50 years(in museum, which means in my living room what...15 years). On the other hand Faber Castell claims that most of theirtheir polychromo colour pencils are light resistant for 100 years which means in average twice as much as pastel pencils. I then checked Derwent site for a comparison beetwen pastel pencils and coloursoft pencils and the coloursoft are a bit better in terms of lighfastness.

11-02-2013, 12:44 AM
Yeah, they vary. Both colored pencils and pastel pencils have lightfastness troubles especially in certain color ranges. I tend to trust the Polychromos, but they are also available as Polychromos hard pastels.

Seriously, it is sometimes easier to get fine detail with hard pastel sticks.

Cretacolor pastel pencils and Pastels Carre hard pastels have the same material, matching colors. It's just in the pencils they're in a wood case. They claim lightfastness and have a nice texture, they're not that pricy compared to some other brands. I miss my 72 color set but I have my Carb-Othellos here instead due to packing choices.

I have to laugh at an earlier post, Continental suggesting work small with colored pencils up to 18" x 24" - to me that's gigantic. I do colored pencils at up to 5" x 7" usually, not much more than that ever. 18" x 24" is gigantic and I wouldn't even want pastel pencils for it except in details in the focal area, would be using sticks to go that big and probably sanded paper with layering and textures. Maybe colored sanded Colourfix so some of it can be left to show through. Each their own on size ranges.

Yet there are CP artists who do full sheets of watercolor paper, spend weeks and weeks on them, do realism with layering and then get four figure prices for the result plus sell lots of prints. It can be done, it's just a very slooooow medium compared to any form of pastels.