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Old 01-28-2018, 01:41 PM
kcwhitney kcwhitney is offline
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Strengths and weaknesses of full sets

I would be interested in hearing your feelings of the strengths and weaknesses of different Pastel brand's color offerings.

I know there are differences in texture, hardness, size, price and other qualities. I am asking what you may have noticed about the colors.
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Old 01-28-2018, 02:51 PM
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chuas2 chuas2 is offline
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Re: Strengths and weaknesses of full sets

Hi there!
You'll get a LOT of great answers here, probably too many (buying options).
The sets I've found invaluable are Terry Ludwig's 30 True Lights, and also his Intense Darks II.
The Girault 50 Grey is another set I've never regretted buying.
Unison's 36 Assorted is absolutely wonderful.
If you're just starting, the handmade color charts offered by Dakota Art Pastels might be helpful.
Have fun!
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Old 01-28-2018, 06:32 PM
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westcoast_Mike westcoast_Mike is offline
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Re: Strengths and weaknesses of full sets

As far as colors go, you will get a lot that you never or rarely use in a set.
Thick skinned and sometimes thick headed, C&C always welcome - Mike

Additional work can be viewed at Mike's site
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Old 01-28-2018, 06:39 PM
DBfarmgirl DBfarmgirl is offline
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Re: Strengths and weaknesses of full sets

I was going to say the most usable yellows for me have all been mount vision, then I realized that is true for their greens too. All the colors I have had to rebuy have been mount visions. Their whole palette seems well thought out. There are several green families that are matches to old grumbacher colors I dont ever want to be without. If I was to start again, I would have bought a full set of MV.

Rembrandt pastels seem to have mechanically picked their colors, sort of a formula, start with bright yellow, add white, or add black.. Not terrible, but I like the more realistic blended colors of mount vision or unison much better.

Girault has some nice colors but doesn't have many really light colors. They have a bunch of fleshtones and browns. Probably great for a portrait painter. Lots of great neutral greens, I want more blues though. I bought some of these for travel as they are small, but needed to add some other brands to cover the range I wanted.

I have a bunch of Ludwigs, the pure colors are nice, awesome purples, but I see red in all their neutrals. It is probably just me, but I see a little red beige in all of them, even the blue greys. Again it is probably just me.

Unison has about a million turquoise colors- blue green, blue green earth, turquoise and ocean colors, great if you do a lot of water. I sometimes find i need an `uncomplicated` color, and unison seems to blend everything - if that makes sense.

Not sure if I answered your question.
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Old 01-28-2018, 07:43 PM
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robertsloan2 robertsloan2 is offline
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Re: Strengths and weaknesses of full sets

I'm someone who likes having a wide variety of colors. I didn't realize this at first, but eventually and especially in pastels, I came to understand that I do use all the colors. Even the ones I think I don't like at first become important in their right context.

Full range sets give you lots of choices. More brands than not will go all the way around the color wheel and some do this very evenly. Others have gaps but if you don't like something that's in one of the gaps you can be happy. I love having bright saturated greens in a full range from yellow lime to turquoise, but many landscape painters don't. Some brands have a lot of browns and muted colors, others don't.

Big sets save money per cost of stick. Sets do in general, especially on sale. However, the point against that is usually "but you will be stuck with colors you don't like."

I learned to use and love colors I didn't like from the usefulness of a hideous brownish gray-violet that became a favorite stick in my first Rembrandt set and eventually every variation of it I found in any brand. It's just a really useful color in every subject. I hated beige and brown but my beloved late Ari cat was a Siamese with a black mask and every shade of brown and gray and beige represented in his lush silky fur somewhere including the lightest beiges and warm grays. I found out that every color has its own beauty in its right context - and that isn't always what I thought it was on looking at the color in a stick form.

I think it's actually a personal preference.

Some people like the really biggest box of crayons, find it inspirational and enjoy choosing colors. Others want to develop a small personal palette and never have to think about choosing color again, more work it out within a system that's part of their signature style. I can do limited palettes but it would drive me crazy to stick to just one of them over and over. I really enjoy the color choices and color planning process and the broader a range I have to choose from, the better.

I have a comfort level. I reached it at about a thousand sticks and slowed down on buying more pastels. That also related to texture and having the colors I rely on available in hard pastels, medium-soft, hand-rolled (Unison-Mount Vision-etc.) and Super Soft (Sennelier, Schminke, Ludwig etc.). So I have mine organized by texture groupings as well as hue.

I have full sets of more than one brand in hard pastels because those are cheaper and easy to handle and I could afford them easier. I have a full range 200 color wood box set of Winsor & Newton which are similar to Rembrandt in texture and I love those. I broke all the sticks so I've got all 200 in each layer of its two trays and just pull out that tray to paint.

In future I might someday get the 525 set of Sennelier or the half stick version of the Great Americans full Monty full range set. A single brand with double the choices I have with those 200 WNs - and logistics may set in or not in terms of how much space they take up. So I'm also adapting to physical limits there, what's the set going to be like in my living space and how much time will I be on my feet walking back and forth to choose pastels? I'll know better once I've got that space and won't be buying a set that big till I have space to spread it out.

But my comfort level ran at about that 120-200 level - much under that and I start running into gaps. Some 60 color ranges aren't bad or aren't bad after some substitutions tweak them closer to what I use most. If I don't have the full spectrum I get very frustrated. I like mixing colors optically and for that I like having the spectrum brights and another spectrum of muted colors. I also like having and using specialty colors like the Mount Vision ones that shade from yellow-gold to violet by mixing pigments, creating rich golds, browns and muted violets along the way.

That is the kind of thing you get in very large ranges - those experimental colors, more variety of pigments, in some brands a variety of textures too. Sennelier uses minimal binder and lets the texture of the pigment determine the softness of the pastel, so it's not always the same across the range. Other brands are consistent across the range. Eventually I come to know them all.

But a big range lets me wear down the sticks that get used in large areas slower. I am not buying replacements as often. When I had a set of 30 basic and 30 skin tones assortments to do street portraits, some colors wore down very fast through being used a lot - sky blue and white from the outdoor setting for a lot of those portraits, certain browns and highlight beiges in the skin tones because there weren't that many of them. With the current 200 color set I'd have found it much easier interpreting people's individual complexions, light or dark or ruddy or sallow, just for an example. Plus the reflected colors of their clothes.

It drove me nuts not having certain blues and magentas and so on for the bright clothes some people wore. Someone in a hot pink dress would have to have a different color because the only pink I had gave a much softer, less sporty and dramatic feel.

It really drove me nuts on landscapes when I wanted a warm brilliant tropical feel where the colors dazzled, but the muted more northern greens just did not give me that intensity. That gets into personal taste. My favorite greens go much better with a lot of blazing brilliant flowers juxtaposing too - and that was part of the scene.

So if you keep not having the colors you want, or really enjoy getting the large box, look at the texture you use most. Consider starting out with the hard pastels full sets, they're usually 120 colors and not that bad. Mungyo Gallery is very good about even distribution around the spectrum and is thus most flexible on subject, especially suited to florals and still lifes because of that. It's one thing to hate emerald green summer landscapes for monotony, another thing to have kelly green objects in a colorful still life and not have the right greens for that green glass object and have to make it blue to have its saturation right - and thus lose how it looks next to the gold and the turquoise.

If you feel overwhelmed by color, then study some color theory before investing in an expensive full set of softer pastels and start out with the less expensive set of 120 or so. Unison 120 half sticks is a very good range and well organized. The better organized your colors are, the easier it is to manage a big-big set. A full range will also have bumps in it, color ranges that are the specialty of the brand.

Girault has a dizzying variety of earth tones, so much so that I look at the full range and I think more than half of it is some variation on browns and grays. The spectrum colors occupy a much more limited area. If I did more portraits and animals I might be really into that - but I love doing landscapes and florals too. A big-big range gives flexibility of subject. I can match those orchids and arrange those irises so that I've got the color harmony I wanted and the forms I liked, from life.

"Lots of colors" starts with holding up a stick or a pencil and exactly matching the color of that part of the subject's cheek or hair, while looking at them or the photo, which also means with photo references exactly copying all of the camera's unfortunate gaps in color value and saturation and hue. Choosing is easy for photo realism. But realism from life is its own study and color theory helps with that.

"Still Life the Colourful Way" taught by Colorix is still in the Pastel Resource Center or Library or whatever it's called, and I took that class. It revolutionized how I handle color and let me function with small ranges and those small sets with gaps in them - though that's still not my choice. Best of all it let me organize my huge collection in a way that makes it fully useful. No color is useless. They all have a context where that is really the right stick.

But the more I had, the fewer times I used up the not quite right stick or the right value but really not even the right color stick, so I didn't distort my vision. I wouldn't have discovered that Terry Ludwig V100 is a violet darker than black and handles differently from black as a darkener - it enriches colors when it's used to darken them and being violet, doesn't cool them as much as a blue cast black.

If too many colors confuse and intimidate you, look at her color palette from that class and look for a smaller set that encompasses it. That will help clarify your needs better. If you have a personal palette or particular style that uses one, then don't bother with the full range and try to find a set that includes all of your palette - with plenty of tints and darks so you have the convenience of a good values range.

I use yellow ochre, golds, and golden browns as the continuation of yellow into the darkest hues visually, not the tints of yellows and oranges. I choose browns that match them in hue. This is a mental distinction she didn't go into but it works for me. Full sets usually have a full spectrum of browns and grays - muted versions of ROYGBV or even the 12 color wheel (warm and cool versions of each) so that I can find the nuanced browns that continue the harmony I set up with the saturated colors.

Texture is something else to find out for yourself. Generally the super soft pastels cost a bit more and are more pigment heavy. Hand Rolled like Unisons have a texture unique to them that's lighter, sort of feels fluffy, like comparing whipped cream to butter. They go on softer than they seem to be and will work well for finishing over medium soft ones like Rembrandt or Art Spectrum. Super Soft can go on over any others and give final marks a thick impasto look when used heavily.

Hard pastels are great for initial layers, sketching, hand blending and supporting the more expensive ones by establishing a base tone. I underpaint with them or will complete an entire piece with them, depending on the look I want.

So favorite textures and combinations come into it too.

So far 200 is the biggest range I have in one brand, but I would happily expand to something with 400 or 500+ colors eventually when I have the space to lay all of them out at the same time.

Robert A. Sloan, proud member of the Oil Pastel Society
Site owner, artist and writer of http://www.explore-oil-pastels-with-robert-sloan.com
blogs: Rob's Art Lessons and Rob's Daily Painting
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Old 01-28-2018, 09:10 PM
contumacious contumacious is online now
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Re: Strengths and weaknesses of full sets

Though I don't own every color they make, I find that I do use every color in every Blue Earth set that we own, plus I really like the selection groupings and the packaging. On other brands there seem to always be some I don't like or want. I do still buy sets because sometimes the price savings makes it worth buying the set despite having some colors I rarely use.

That being said, if the price was the same for individual sticks or sets, I would hand pick what I wanted from Great American, Mount Vision, Blue Earth and Sennelier as each brand has some colors and textures that I really like.

Last edited by contumacious : 01-28-2018 at 09:13 PM.

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