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Old 03-07-2010, 04:48 AM
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Use to denote nudity/mature subject matter Investing in soft pastels

Now that I am more into soft pastels, I would like to buy some non-student grade pastels to draw my night scenes, cities, monsters, and portraits and naked figures.

I've been reading up on many threads in the Materials section and would like the latest advice, please.

I'm in general heavy handed since I haven't learnt how to just dab colors on with light touch. I use all kinds of paper from Canson Mi-Tientes to various bumpy surfaced Tiziano, Strathmore, Charcoal paper, to Colorfix paper. I just started exploring velour paper and might get some pastelmat to try out too.

At the moment, I have the Drawing set of pan pastels and the Painting set of pan pastels 10 each. I see pan pastels as only the first layer like watercolor and not for detailed work. I have Cretacolor Hard Pastel Carre sticks. The rest are all student quality stuff.

I like to draw with dark toned backgrounds. Cities are preferably night scenes. Would the following sets be the right choice for me?

I'm thinking of Mount Vision's set of 50 for portraits here.

http://www.dickblick.com/products/mo...t-pastel-sets/

And Terry's Ludwig's intense dark set of 60 here.
http://www.dickblick.com/products/te...t-pastel-sets/

Do I have enough colors to do an occasional landscape and monster or should I get a basic set of Blick's Pastel of 90 too in case I need to put the naked person in a forest ? Or is there a better and economical basic set out there that I should consider to fill in the holes between the two sets?

http://www.dickblick.com/products/bl...-pastels-sets/

My budget for the moment is around $500 more or less. I still need to buy a set of good quality pastel pencils to go along with these since there might be some eyelashes, telephone wires, light bulbs, small people that I have to add into the paintings.

Any suggestions would be welcome.
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Old 03-07-2010, 09:31 AM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

Sandra, while you could improvise with just the portrait set and the deep darks set, I think you'll like the Blicks. I tried one, they're soft and nice, almost like Sennelier. They also don't cost that much! You'd have a general assortment, a lot of wonderful portrait colors and enough deep darks to make deep dark forests and incredible nocturnes as well as your strong dark backgrounds with figures. You've come up with a good plan there. You're also still on budget with those three sets and have $100 left for the pastel pencils, which would let you get full range in any of the good artist brands.

While it can come out interesting to substitute and create something using a palette that isn't suited to it, it's a lot easier to have more colors and be able to grab what's a lot closer to the exact color you want. Of course people with 5,000 sticks still can't find that exact color you want, but a good balanced range will help you when you're doing those blue monsters in the forest or the bathers at the seaside.

Try a set of Cretacolor pastel pencils. I like the Derwent ones I just got, a lot, but they're the new formula and I'm not sure if Blick's actually gotten the new formula yet. I'd have to email them and ask them or place the order by phone to be sure they understood. Come to think of it, I might do that.

I am so excited for you! Can't wait to see what you create when you have very soft pastels in hand. They're great on velour.
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Last edited by robertsloan2 : 03-07-2010 at 09:37 AM.
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Old 03-07-2010, 09:41 AM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

I think your choices are good ones. If it were me, and I am not a portrait artist, but if it were me i would also get that blick set to round out the colors. Eventually you will want more colors and more variety, but i think this is a really nice start for professional grade pastels. I have both the Terry Ludwig dark sets and find them indispensable. But, they are soft to very soft. The mount visions are not as soft but go on nice. I haven't tried to Blick's but intend to get them for my medium soft brand. From what I have heard, they are softer than Rembrandts and also go on very nicely. You also might want to get one of the Art Spectrums super soft light 6 packs. They have a warm set and a cool set. This way you have some very soft very light ones for the last highlights. And you won't break the bank with such a small set. I have the Terry Ludwigs True lights set and use them all the time. At some point you may want to invest in a gray set like the Mount Vision Thunderstorm grays.

That is my two cents

Sara
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Old 03-07-2010, 02:44 PM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

Hi Sandra,

Heavy handed, still, eh? While the TLs are wonderful, they are very soft, and perfect for dancing like a butterfly over the paper! In other words, they'd train you to be light-handed very quickly.

I have a bit of a handicap advicing here, as I don't know the American brands so well.

I'd recommend a medium soft, possibly on the slightly harder side, brand. Work well with a heavy hand, but also allow you to grow lighter.

My workhorse is Rembrandts, and I find the ArtSpectrums to be rather similar but stronger in chroma and slightly grittier, while the Rembs are like packed powder. Rembrandts go on all the papers you mention, including velour, and they *stay* on the velour, while supersofties just fall off. (Some people don't have that problem, though, but I have.) Giraults would work well, too, Don (Dak723) uses them. Maybe someone can say if the Mount Visions are of this medium hardness? Looks to me that the Workshop set would be the more versatile one for you, though, as the portrait set have many muted earthy colours, and are weak on the greens (for your bare colourful monster in the woods).

I'd not choose anything softer than Unisons, for a workhorse brand. Being heavy-handed myself. (I've learned to be lighter, but it took some while.)

So, with a 'workhorse' brand, you're set to paint most things on most papers. Eventually, you'll discover the need for a softer brand, and for example Terry Ludwig would be perfect, as they go on top of anything, as do the Schminckes.

You know, Sandra, the best thing to do is to try different brands, so a sampler set from for example Dakota would tell you what kind of softness/hardness will work for your hand. Then you wouldn't invest in the wrong kind of sticks. Or if you're lucky enough to have a well stocked store near you, try them there.

Sara's advice re: the AS supersoft light 6 pack would be great bang for the buck, they'd be perfect for highlights, and you really don't need more than a few of those near white tints (colourwise, I mean, as it is hard to see the difference between a warm blue and a blue blue when they are almost white). And a few really dark darks, too.

Hope this was of at least some help.

Charlie
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Old 03-07-2010, 02:54 PM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

Actually, Sandra, the Art Spectrum six-packs are designed to not overlap and create a complete 72 color set bought separately. If you got six packs of Darkest Darks and Lightest Lights to supplement a 50 Workshop set of MV and a full range of Blicks, you'd have a low-budget start on all that. One advantage to the Workshop sets in Mount Vision is that they're designed to be cumulative and not overlapping.

Or if you really want to go with the Terry Ludwigs too for super softest, maybe the Maggie Price Values set -- that has everything, super lights and super darks and mid values and pure tones. That's the one I'll be getting before I start getting into large quantities of darks. The hues tend to look pretty similar at the extremes of the ranges, like Charlie said. Also the Maggie Price set has that deep eggplant purple all the Ludwig lovers are insane about.
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Old 03-07-2010, 04:04 PM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

This is always a tough question to answer because pastels vary a lot in terms of softness, and also in feel (some are grittier, some waxier). It is quite possible to spend a lot of money on a set and then almost never use it.

Both Dakota.com and Fineartstore.com have sampler sets that might be worth looking into - although spending $42 (the Dakota set) on 17 different pastels that are all near the same color might not be everybody's idea of money well spent!

If you have an art store nearby, it might be a good idea to buy 1 or 2 pastels of a few different brands so that you can actually use them before making a big investment. Different brands will work differently on different papers, too.

Generally speaking, I think one needs both medium hard and softer pastels to get the job done, but I would recommend that the bulk of the work - and therefore the majority of the pastels be middle softness to start out.

Rembrandts are a bit on the harder side, but soft enough to make a good workhorse. I find them to be a bit waxier which makes them work well on the non-sanded papers like Canson or Strathmore. On the other hand, they may be a bit too hard to get the effect you want on velour.

Giraults are thinner, a bit softer then Rembrandts, but grittier. These are my favorite for portrait work. For years, my hand picked portrait set had about 12 pastels, so I don't know if you need 50 for portraits! Maybe 24 or so would be enough. For landscapes, on the other hand, the more the merrier! I have over 60 greens (in various brands), for example. Giraults seem to work well on every surface I've tried, including velour.

Mount Visions are also a medium softness - also slightly on the gritty side, in my opinion, but work well on all surfaces, too. They are about twice the diameter of Giraults, so I find that I use them mainly for landscapes and not for portraits and figures. Again, it depends on how you work - and how large. Both Giraults and Mount Visions are hard enough to get a fairly fine line if you have a sharp edge on the pastel. Some of the really soft brands - Schminke, Ludwig, Sennelier - are too soft for really fine work, at least for me!

If you can pick up a few sticks of those really soft brands, I would. You might find that you prefer them. Many do. They go on easy and cover everything. For that reason, they work well for final highlights.

For really fine lines, I would recommend trying a few Polychromos. They are harder, so you can get fine lines, but since they are still soft pastels, they can be used on their sides to fill in larger areas. Personally, I have never liked pastel pencils and prefer just using a harder pastel.

I hope this helps! It is all rather vague and very much a matter of personal preference!

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Old 03-07-2010, 07:29 PM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

Thank you, Charlie, Sara, Robert, Don, for all the valuable tips.

I went to Dick Blick and bought one of each pastel sticks from every brand there is and I would be able to test the full range soon. (And it's still cheaper than Dakota's sampler.) I'll be busy experimenting soon. Thank you so much for all your tips. And Don, I'm getting the Girault set of 25 skin tones set at once. Coming from you for portraits, I won't go wrong with it.
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Old 03-07-2010, 07:50 PM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

Sandra, that completely makes sense to me. Unlike a sampler from Dakota, you're getting Blick prices (and I think they have regular in-store coupons even though the store prices are higher) and you're choosing the colors of your samples for what you find useful.

I got the Greens Sampler and do like it a lot. I didn't have a Blick store nearby, but if I did I might've picked all those out as samples anyway since I can never get enough greens -- none of them are the same as each other, not in value or hue, so I got a really nice collection of important greens even if one or two might eventually be duplicated when I get sets. I know I'll use them up.

Good choice on the 25 portrait Giraults. Don's right, it doesn't take 50 portrait colors usually even with the variety of skin tones there are.
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Old 03-08-2010, 01:37 AM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

If you are heavy handed, I would suggest something in the medium soft range. Mount Visions are a good bang for the buck, it is hard enough for details yet soft enough but not too soft that it fills in the texture on the first layer. I personally would recommend getting the Mount Vision Biolchini workshop set with the three additional supplement sets (Basic, Landscape, and Portrait). This will give you 125 different colors to paint practically any subject for around $300.00 plus S&H.

Also, a few tinted colors in the soft range (Schminke, Ludwig, Sennelier, Great American and my preference in that order) for highlights. All of this should still leave enough for the set of Giraults, I think.

If there is enough, I would get a set of Art Spectrums too These are my work horse brand though I have painted complete paintings using one brand before from start to finish .. even with Sennelier half sticks which is pretty thick like MVs. Though Dick Blicks Artist pastels may be a good alternative and priced lower too, I got a sample and to me, the consistency is similar to the Art Spectrums.

My, it is sooooo easy spending other people's money

Though of course, what you decide on buying depends on your painting style and preference. And as others have suggested and also what you have done already, sample a stick or two of each brand to see which one you think would suit your needs. What I or anyone else prefers may not be the best choice for your painting style.
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Old 03-08-2010, 11:12 PM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

Thank you, WC, for your recommendations. It's good to have good suggestions from all of you because then, I could prioritize in my purchases. I'm surprised that Blick's pastels is as consistent as Art Spectrums. Definitely worth looking at now too.
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Old 03-10-2010, 10:27 PM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

Mount Vision meets and exceeds my requirements for quality, price, variety of colors and consistancy.
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Old 03-13-2010, 04:11 PM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

Sandra, my current favorite is Girault, which is a versatile medium soft pastel. The faintly gritty consistency is uniform throughout the spectrum, and they lay on very dense and smooth. Not cheap, but you get a lot of bang for your buck.

I haven't used them on a non-sanded surface, but imagine they'd perform well on Canson too.
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Old 03-13-2010, 07:53 PM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

I don't want to confuse things here but Blick has two different hardness of pastels. The round sticks are a bit softer than the square sticks which are similar to prismacolor nupastel. I thought that I may be heavy handed and really didn't know what I was getting into when I started pastels so I bought a set of the square pastels and the price was very reasonable. They seem to work well with my application on sanded paper. Not sure how well they would work on a different surface. I also use rembrandt, sennelier and the round blick pastels. I've heard it is not a bad idea to have different hardess or brands to work with.
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Old 03-18-2010, 04:00 AM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

Thank you, chuas and mollerman for your input. I do like the Girault pastels a lot. Mollerman, I only saw the round pastels sticks of Blick's brand so far. I've tried it out tonight.

In fact, my package from Blick arrived with a huge assortment that I ordered and I couldn't believe I left out Mount Vision pastels. Have to buy some next time.

I should be sleeping by now but I couldn't wait to try out all my pastels - soft and hard.

I got the Burnt Sierra color of Schminck and smudged it all over the face and it is so soft!!! The colors are loaded with pigment. Now I could really tell the difference between a student quality stick and an artist quality stick.

Then I overlaid it with Great American Sierra color. Because it is quite soft, it just blotches all over the colourfix paper and for a moment, I didn't know how to blend it. I used finger and all the color dulled so I stopped.

I tried the Unison's Red which is like shocking pink red. Wow, the packaging that it came in is incredible. A little box of its own with soft foam around and on top. I worry that it would break but it didn't but it's also very soft. Not as soft as my next one. A Lime green Jack Richieson piece that promptly broke. No big deal, I could stil use it for his mustache area.

The colors on the face by now is really awkward as you could tell and so I tried the Blick white and vermillion. It's okay. I used the Art Spectrum yellow ochre and immediately noticed it is a bit more uniform. For big spread of colors, I'm sure Blick would be the cheaper way to go but for smaller areas that need consistency, I kept going back to Art Spectrum. I compared the white of Rembrant to that of Blick and though they are equally white, Rembrant felt creamier and I feel more in control. It almost feel like oil pastel.

Still, the face was blotchy in colors and I have to take out the Girault skin tone set of 25 that I got last week. No doubt, for portraits, Girault fits the purpose. It is easy to control and if I'm really careful, I could do the eyes too. But the eyelines, I had to use Cretacolor black pastel pencil which pales even compared to the deep blue of Girault. That blue is now my favorite piece from the Girault set.

Pastel pencil really is too hard for a soft pastel piece. Perhaps I don't need to invest in a huge set. Just buy a few enough for eyes, lips and a couple of purples and greens.

Then after I've unified the face, I attempted to do the eyebrows, hair and clothing.

Sennelier is really soft but when I thought that one was too soft, here comes the Terry Ludwig deep violet that I got and I was afraid it would crumble between my fingers. For a moment I thought Blick gave me the wrong color for the Ludwig. I was sure I didn't order black but it was deep violet. OMG, the color is so pretty. It's just perfect for hair in bold strokes, and this guy's vest that I used it on. The Sennelier deep green really pales compared to Ludwig.

So here is the experiment. Still very wobbly on eyes but I gave it a graphic design to add interest. And I don't know how to clean the coloufix paper totally with all my smudges. Do you guys keep throwing out a kneaded eraser after every painting? Mine is totally coated with dust now.

Oh, and I have to say I like coloufix paper more than Sennelier La Carte or even pastelmat because it's relatively easier to erase.

I'm going to frame this too because it's my first manganized piece with soft pastels. My bedroom is becoming like a gallery now.




Good thing that I'm not very much into landscapes yet. I'll try to get Mount Vision one day and do more comparisons but I think for now, I like Art Spectrum, Rembrandt and for the soft ones, Schminck and I'll get a bunch of Ludwig dark colors. I'll buy more Girault too because they are sturdy and thin enough for my details.

Thanks again for everyone for your suggestions.
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Last edited by gakinme : 03-18-2010 at 04:16 AM.
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Old 03-18-2010, 07:22 AM
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Re: Investing in soft pastels

Sandra, this is great! I love the skin tone. He's manganized but not too much, he still reads as a true portrait in pastels. Beautiful view from 3/4 view, that's very dramatic and you got good light on him.

Congratulations on finding your favorite pastels! I love the Unisons too, just waiting till I can get a larger set rather than just getting the 36 starter. I'd rather get the 72 starter but I'm going to have to wait for it. You will probably like the Mount Visions too.

I've considered getting more of those, some darks and lights as well as the chromatic set. What I'd love is to see him put together a set with ten chromatic darks, ten chromatic tints and five extra light tints also chromatic, so that I can go round the spectrum in different values and have a Colourist set of fifty.

Your textures on this portrait are great too. Nothing's overblended or muted. Blending is okay in its place, sometimes it can really help for underlayers and for muting something or pushing it into the background. But the play of color and shadow on his face is so lively in this one because you did all your blending with the sticks!

I love the Art Spectrums too. If I get a full set of anything it'll probably be Art Spectrum first, they are so great. A bit out of reach but so cool.
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