View Full Version : Advice on Hard Pastels

04-23-2010, 04:39 PM
Hello everyone,

I recently purchased an instructional video and the woman on in the video was using a hard pastel for detailed work. She explained her logic when creating a painting which was to start a painting with harder pastels (light base) building up the color then end with soft as soft pastels I am curious what some of you prefer when using hard pastels? So far, I have been using pastel pencils which are wonderful but I think I may be sacrificing color with pencils compared to using harder pastels like Faber-Castell or Nupastel?

Thank you!

04-23-2010, 04:56 PM
I don't know what brand pencils you are using. But the color range for the Createacolor pencils and pastels are the same. It makes for an easy transition if that happens to be what you have.

04-23-2010, 06:53 PM
Starting out with hard pastels then migrating to softer ones during the painting process is indeed an effective approach, especially when working on paper like Canson MT. It has much less tooth than the sandpapers, and fills up quickly, so using the hard ones first definitely makes sense. I have Nupastels, and they work fine, but I have also heard that Faber-Castell pastels are quite nice. It might be worth investigating to see what you might like better.

The advantage to using hard pastels is that they cover much more area, and much more quickly, than the pencils. It also keeps you a little looser, if that is what you want. You can also work very tight with them, if that is what you want. For some reason, I find that the colors in the pastels are somewhat more intense than the pencils that I have, but I don't have any experience with Createacolor pencils, so I'm sure Mike's comment is accurate. It sounds like Creatacolor pencils has a nice range of colors.

The Nupastels are priced more attractively than the Faber-Castell, so I would definitely ask around before investing in the more expensive Faber-Castell (It's certainly worth paying more for them if the colors are better and the consistency is better - you'll just need to do your homework.)

One last thing, I've recently invested in a significant amount of Mount Vision Pastels, and they really are nice. You get quite a lot for the money, and they are harder than I expected (I like a softer pastel, but these are not too soft, not too hard.) I had read that they were the same softness as Unisons, but I find them to be somewhat harder. Maybe try a sample of a few brands, to see what you like. Dakota Art offers samplers (one of each of 17 brands that they sell) which might help you out.

Paula Ford
04-23-2010, 08:13 PM
I use Nupastels, Faber-Castell Polychromos, and the new Dick Blick Brand Artists Pastels. Art Spectrum pastels are also wonderful.

Donna T
04-23-2010, 09:10 PM
I'm a big fan of the Faber-Castell Polychromos and I have replaced nearly every NuPastel with them since they are more lightfast. Even if I use the hard pastel as a base layer I don't want any colors to change or fade if some areas are left exposed. Here's a fairly recent thread (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=570490&highlight=lightfast+Nupastel) about the lightfastness issue with NuPastels. I use the Polychromos for pushing the soft pastel around when needed, like creating the tops of grasses, and also for thin tree branches. I recently tried a portrait and hatched and cross- hatched the hard pastels to get the skin tones I wanted. I rely on them almost as much as the softer pastels!

04-23-2010, 10:35 PM
I like Cretacolor, Van Gogh, and Derwent.

The rationale is to not fill the tooth too quickly, so hard pastels cover without filling. Sometimes I will do an entire painting with a watercolor underpainting and hard pastels.

04-23-2010, 11:58 PM
The degree of hardness or softness of any pastel is one of personal preferance. Preference is often based upon what type of support (paper) you choose to work upon; I prefer textured supports.
The brand of pastel depends upon ones pocketbook, and whether or not you think having an archival product is important.
My personal preferences do not include any of the hardest pastels, and certainly not NuPastels for reasons already stated by others. If I need to "push around" or create thinner lines, I sometimes use Faber-Castell pencils. They also come in handy for signing my name.
The best way to know what your own preferences may be is to get a few sticks of various brands and use them. You will also benefit by getting some different supports to work on so you can see which of them you like best.


04-24-2010, 01:50 AM
Great stuff!! What do you all suggest with PastelMat? I currently have Faber-Castell and CarbOthello pencils with a set of Sennelier.

04-24-2010, 01:56 AM
Oh and I admit, one of my problems is using WAY too much soft pastel to start so going in later with pastel pencils is a bit difficult as the tooth is completely filled up. Something I need to learn ha.

04-24-2010, 11:06 AM
well, four major issues are in play here: material, support, underpainting, and method.
if you're transitioning from pencil/coloured pencil, pastel's distinctly different, especially the binders, so the two won't mix.
i use Nupastel and Rembrandt on paper - the Remb. 1/2 sticks are economical... a more subtle release/touch from the NuP.
good posts above.
hope that helps. Ed

04-24-2010, 11:36 AM
I use Nupastels and Polychromos too, but more as a drawing media than painting. Sometimes as an under color for oil pastel work as well.


04-29-2010, 12:48 PM
I haven't used hard pastels much, but have tried nu[pastels, faber-castell polychromos and creatacolor as well as mungyo gallery semi hard. the ones I like the best are polychromos, they are creamier. the nupastels are next. ceatacolor are very much like the mungyo which I have the used the most and are the most economical. not sure about their lightfast issues though. I tend to use softer pastels starting with mount visions and use ludwigs, great americans, sennilier, and schmincke. I just try to use a light touch with them.
I do have rembrandts and some art spectrums. Of the two i like art spectrum better. they are a bit softer with a little bit of grit in them. but they are more opaque than rembrandt.


04-30-2010, 03:27 PM
A lot of my work is done with Blick designer pastels to the finish but this seems to work best on UArt sanded paper or Wallis. I tried this on Artspectrum and the hard pastels work all right as a base but do not blend well...the softer pastels work best when layering or blending.
I seldom use pastel pencils. The set I have is cretacolor and they seem a little duller than I would like.

05-03-2010, 12:22 AM
No one's mentioned these yet, but so far my favorite hard pastels are Conte Color sticks. They are a bit small but they have a wonderful texture, blend beautifully and come in 48 color sets. I've had Nupastels and got rid of them because of the lightfastness issues, bought the Richeson semi-hard ones and like those but would really like a full set of Polychromos sometime. Still, I'll probably keep coming back to using my Color Conte more because they just handle so well -- and really take a while to wear down despite being so small.

Phil Coleman
05-04-2010, 02:15 PM
Robert, my favourite also! These forgotten little sticks out perform all the other hard pastels i have used. They blend so evenly on all surfaces and are a delight to use.

I have a full set of Polychromos and yes these work well with sanded pastel card but when used on paper they coat the the tooth with a waxy layer which is almost impossible to blend. One is left with a densely saturated tooth but the hollows within the paper remain unfilled. No amount of blending will give an even coverage when using these pastels on paper......Be warned!

05-05-2010, 12:05 PM
Thanks everyone for all the wonderful advice!!!! The reason I began this thread was because I recently bought a FANTASTIC DVD from Gwyneth Barth http://www.lilipubsorders.com/BARTH-Gwenneth/products/5/ and I really liked her technique. She uses hard pastels as a base then builds up the colors. I am not sure what kind of paper she is using (looks sandy) but she inspired me to try hard pastels (still haven't bought any yet ha). I am also intrigued about them because of their color vibrancy compared to pencils.

The only thing I am wondering is how hard pastels and softies would work on PastelMat? So far, I have only every used Sennelier softies and they are VERY creamy! I like them a lot but I literally have nothing to compare them to. I also like PastelMat because it does not blend as easily as other papers. I find when blending on say, ColorFix, the colors can move SOOOO much and for me, I don't really like that. With PastelMat, the color stays put and I feel I have a lot more control.

Tom Perry
05-05-2010, 01:15 PM

Check out my reply to this thread:


05-05-2010, 03:31 PM
Hard pastels and pastel pencils perform similarly. But you get to use a hard pastel on its side, so it covers more quickly. But they're very hard compared to Senns.

05-10-2010, 01:14 PM
I love hard pastels and use them a lot, sometimes even exclusively. My new favorites are the Jack Richesons.

05-12-2010, 12:33 AM
Robert, Phil, I also love my Conte's. Have you ever seen them sold open stock? I see the sanguines, white and black sold in a two-pack, but not the other colors. I think mine came from a portrait set, and I've used many of them down to nubs.


Tom Perry
05-12-2010, 01:59 AM

Other than the classic colors and the up to 48 colors available in sets I don't know of anyone selling the conte crayons open stock in the US. Here are a couple of links where they are sold in the UK:



Robert, Phil, I also love my Conte's. Have you ever seen them sold open stock? I see the sanguines, white and black sold in a two-pack, but not the other colors. I think mine came from a portrait set, and I've used many of them down to nubs.


05-14-2010, 10:16 PM
I use hard pastels, medium-soft pastels, soft pastels, and very soft pastels. I don't always use them all, but use what gets me to where I want to go. After using them all, you kind of get the feeling of which you need for a particular situation.

I'm replacing my Nupastels for fear of what I hear about their lightfastness (but I don't know that for certain). I think I'll continue to use their #298 (I think it is) bottle green, because it's a great color (thanks Albert Handell!).

I have recently come to love the Daler-Rowney pastels in the early phases of the painting.

I also love using pastel pencils. At points in the painting, I use them for detail work, and straightening out edges of masses or lines. There are a variety of these pencils, too, like in pastels; with some more soft than others.

Most of the time, after the layer of hard pastels has been put on, I blend all the colors within their shapes, with either turpentine or rubbing alcohol. This covers the entire paper, and gives a loose, painterly effect. It also doesn't fill-up the tooth on my Wallis paper. Then, the softer pastels work wonders on top of that.

When I need detail, I put my Best Halley Easel into its horizontal mode, and put down a lucite (heavy duty, clear plastic) bridge so I can rest my arm on it to do the details. It also gives me a kind of straight edge to get things straight when I need to.

With pastels, and pastel pencils...I truly feel the more the merrier!.

05-14-2010, 10:21 PM
I love hard pastels and use them a lot, sometimes even exclusively. My new favorites are the Jack Richesons.

I haven't tried the Richeson's (he seems to be marketing all the art supplies in the world these days!). Is there something you like in them better than other brands? Are they lightfast, or do they show which are?

I'd like to know what you think; thanks.