Pastel for drawing — types, quality, description

Pastels are available in several versions: hard, soft, oil and pastel pencils, each with its own unique characteristics. In this article you will find a review of pastels so that you know what to consider when making a purchase.

Pastels are made by mixing dry pigment, chalk and binder to form a thick paste. The paste is formed into sticks and left to dry. Since they represent an almost pure pigment, pastels create saturated colors that other colors can not offer.

Solid pastels on paper

There are four main types of pastels that give a different effect. Soft and oil pastels have an oily or waxy texture, which is well suited for scenic effects. Harder pastels are suitable for drawing sketches and accurate detailed work. You can use pastels for all kinds of paintings and genres.

Pastels quality

You can buy pastels of two main classes: art and student .

Artistic pastel contains the best pigments and a higher ratio of pigment and binder. This means that the colors are brighter and more intense. It is very resistant and does not fade with time.

Student pastels are much cheaper, but usually contains cheaper pigments, more binding compound, which means that the colors will not be so intense, and the pastel itself easily breaks.

If you want to experiment with pastels, but are not yet ready to spend money on quality art pastels, I would recommend that you buy a cheap student kit. It is best to start with a material that you can afford, but if you are seriously engaged in pastel painting, you will eventually have to buy quality art pastels. You really will notice the difference!

Colors of pastels

Pastel colors can be mixed together, but they do not mix as well as paint. To compensate for this, pastel manufacturers offer a huge range of colors.

Pastels can be purchased in sets or separately. If you are a beginner artist, buy a pastel one by one, it's cheaper. Once you get acquainted with the colors, you can think about buying a set that contains a good color palette, or you can choose your own color palette.

Some colors are more expensive than others because of the rare expensive pigment. The student's pastel contains a dye that imitates an expensive pigment. If a cheaper pigment is used as a substitute, it will have the word "shade" after the name of the pigment.

Safety of pastel colors

When using soft pastels you need to remember that they proizvodyatmelkuyu dust in the air , you breathe. Now non-toxic pastels are available, but it is wiser to avoid inhaling pastel dust.

Some artists wear face masks, respirators, but they are very uncomfortable. When weather permits, it is better to work on the street. Otherwise, work in a well-ventilated area. There are special air purifiers that make pastel paint safer, and also remove allergies, who have it.

Types of pastels

There are four main types of pastels : soft, hard, pencils and oil. All of them are, in fact, pigmented in the form of a stick, but differ in the binding agent. Soft pastels, hard pastels and pastel pencils are tied with  rubber or resin, which means that they are compatible with each other and can be used in the same picture.

On the other hand, oil pastels are tied with oil and wax , which gives them a unique texture, similar to oil paints, but this means that they can not be mixed with other types of pastels.

Let's take a closer look at each of them: soft pastels, hard pastels, pastel pencils and oil pastels.

Soft pastels

Soft pastels are the traditional form of pastels, as well as the most commonly used. They have a very high concentration of pigment, which is compressed with the least amount of binder (rubber), as far as possible. As a result, they are very easily crumbled, but their colors are surprisingly bright.

This fragile consistency and powdery texture make them well suited for mixing, layering on a large number of colors, creating picturesque effects. You can also use the edge for fine lines, but most artists use hard pastels or pastel pencils for detailed work and preliminary sketches.

Soft pastels are available in a wide range of colors - more than other types of pastels, and some manufacturers offer up to 500 colors! Soft pastels have a shape of cylindrical rods of several sizes: whole sticks, half sticks and thick sticks. You can buy them separately, but if you buy pastel for the first time, it may be easier to buy a starter kit with a balanced color palette that you can expand over time.

Each manufacturer uses its pastel production technology, which can affect the texture and strength. You may have to experiment to find the brand that best suits your style. The best are the soft pastels Sennelier  and Rembrandt, they are constantly praised by artists.

PanPastel also sells quality pastels for artists who are supplied in jars. They can be applied with brushes, sponges and other tools.

Quality soft pastels per piece

Sennelier Soft Pastels

Soft pastels of Rembrandt

Soft pastels Schminke

Unison Handmade Pastels

PanPastel Painting Panels


Soft pastels

Sets of soft pastels for artists

Sennelier Soft pastel sets

Sennelier Half-Stick Soft pastel sets

Soft pastel sets of Rembrandt

Soft pastel pads Schmincke

Soft pastel sets Richeson Handmade

PanPastel Pastel Sets

Soft pastels for students

Soft pastels by Reeves

Blick Pastels

Soft Pastels Faber-Castell Goldfaber Studio

Solid pastels

Solid pastels are made from the same ingredients as soft pastels, except that they contain more binder and less pigment. This means that their colors are not as intense, but they do not crumble and do not break.

The solid pastel has the form of cylindrical or square sticks, which can be sharpened with a knife to create fine lines. Alternatively, the ends of the rods can be used to apply wide strips.

You can use hard pastels for the whole drawing, but among artists it is customary to use hard pastels in combination with soft pastels. They can be mixed like soft pastels, they are well suited for preliminary sketches, small details and strokes.

Solid pastels also share in quality for artists and students. If it is not indicated, it is probably a pastel. In the palette of hard pastels there are fewer colors than soft pastels, but this is more than enough. The choice between soft and hard pastels depends on the methods that you would like to use in your work. For beginners, I would recommend first to buy soft pastels. Buy a few colors to try them out in sketches and small details.

We recommend these sets of hard pastels

Colored sticks Prismacolor NuPastel

Half-axle square pastel Richeson

Pastel Polychrome Faber-Castell

Cretacolor Pastel Carré Hard Pastels

Van Gogh Solid pastels


Pastel pencils

Pastel pencils are  very convenient to use. They look like ordinary pencils, but inside is a thin pastel rod of medium stiffness (hard-soft pastel).

Pastel pencils are versatile enough to use, but many artists also use them in combination with other types of pastels (with the exception of oil pastels). They can be used dry or wet and can be mixed in the same way as other pastels. You can sharpen them to a certain sharpness to create accurate details or use them directly for soft, blurry lines. Many artists also use them for preliminary sketches, which is especially convenient, given that graphite pencils are not compatible with pastels.

I find them super comfortable, because they do not stain like soft pastels. You can easily create quick, spontaneous and clean drawings and enjoy the pleasant quality of pastels. For this reason they are well suited to work in the outdoors . Pastel pencils are negatively perceived by some artists who prefer to keep a dirty pastel directly in their hands.

Most manufacturers offer about 80 pastel tones, which you can buy piece by piece or in sets.

Quality varies between brands. Each pencil will cost less than two dollars, so you should experiment with which brand is best for your style. If you are a beginner, then Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencils is widely considered to be the best.

The best companies of pastel pencils

Faber-Castell Pitt Pastel Pencils

Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel pencils

Patented pencils Derwent

Oil pastel

Do you like the texture and versatility of oil paints, but hate the smelly chemicals and the abundance of necessary tools and accessories? If so, you will love oil pastels .

Oil pastels are basically cylindrical sticks of pigment, bound with wax and oil. This seemingly insignificant difference gives them a distinctive consistency and original properties that are not found in other types of pastels.

The first difference is that oil pastels will not crumble , grease or emit dust in the air, like other types of pastels. Nevertheless, they contain as much, if not more, pigment and give bright, intense colors.

They are also more stable than soft pastels and do not require fixation. This makes them an excellent option for outdoor use, but they never completely dry up, so public transport can become a problem.

Oil paints also have a waxy consistency , like pencils, which distinguishes them from soft pastels. They can be applied as an oil paint on the surface to create greasy, oily smears. The use of oil pastels is as simple as applying pigment on a sheet of paper with your bare hands. But their versatility allows much more. You can create color blending effects or dilute them with turpentine to give shine.

So, why soft pastels are more popular? Oil pastels are not so good at mixing and they are not compatible with other types of pastels. This means that fine drawing can be more difficult, which makes oil pastels more suitable for large works.

Oil pastel is also divided into quality for artistic and student. Like soft pastels, it is sold on a piece or in sets and has about 80 colors ..

If you decide to try oil pastels, I would recommend buying the very best that you can afford. Sets will offer you a good color palette, but it is better to start with a dozen pieces of art pastels from a reliable brand, such as Sennelier . They are not very expensive and you will have the opportunity to get acquainted with the colors before you begin to paint professionally with artistic pastels.