Adding to the first set – half sticks.
Once it was clear I loved pastels I wanted to expand the colour range. You will probably feel the same! I still stayed with a cheaper brand ( Munygo) and bought a box of 64 half sticks which gave me a good range of colours to further experiment with. The advantage of half sticks is you get twice as many colours for your money . Because you rely less on actual colour mixing with pastels it makes painting so much easier if you have as big a range as possible of colours to choose from. Half sticks also have the advantage that they don’t come with wrappers so I didn’t have to spend valuable painting time peeling off the papers! The cheaper brands all have a good colour range and work fine when first starting out – I still use them sometimes for underpainting. They do make more mess and dust than the more expensive brands.
Good choices at this price point are: Munygo, Faber Castel, Cretorcolor
Growing the collection – quality counts!
My first expensive, quality brand purchase was a box of Schmincke pastels I bought in Germany. We’d been travelling on holiday and I’d been thinking about buying a set as they’re a German made pastel and I thought it would be a great souvenir . On my last day I passed a small art shop and when I looked around there were no boxes of Schminckes! I was very disappointed as it was my last chance so I decided to ask the sales person who got a ladder and found a box on the top shelf. How could I not buy them? I still remember the first stroke with these soft, buttery sticks that just glide across the paper leaving thick swathes of brilliant colour in their wake. I was officially hooked on high quality pastels from that moment on.
Good quality pastels come in all sorts of sets as well as individual sticks. You can buy landscape, seascape, portrait, floral or general sets. Sets generally work out quite a lot cheaper than buying the same number of individual sticks.
My favourite brands.
My favourite brands are Unison, Great American Art Works, Schmincke, and Sennelier.
Unison is a hand rolled British pastel with a wonderful colour range. I think they have some of the best landscape colours around. The pastels are soft but not crumbly and the sticks last longer than some of the softer, more crumbly brands. I have a number of their sets- Landscape, Darks, Lights.
Great American Art Works are an American brand that is buttery and soft and just glide right onto the paper. Their Seascape selection is just fantastic with some beautiful acqua and turquoise colours. I also have a set of greys that is very useful for more subtle , moody paintings and general cloud work.
Sennelier are a French brand with a beautiful colour range and same very good value half sets. I do find them a bit crumbly but they are still a great choice.
Hard pastels, soft pastels and inbetweeners.
At the hard end of the pastel range are brands like Conte, Faber-Castel and Cretacolor. These are usually square sticks that can be used to lay in the initial blocks of colour and add some crisp details at the final stages.
I’ve covered the soft brands above – they’re great for adding the top layers and highlights. Because they’re soft it can be difficult to get crisp lines and details .
The inbetweeners are often classed as soft pastels but they just don’t have that buttery softness. They can be good for underpainting and details but I prefer soft pastels for the majority of my painting. Brands in this category are generally a bit bit less expensive than the really soft brands . Good brands in this category are Daley Rowney, Rembrandt and Art Spectrum.
Where can I buy pastels?
Most good art stores will stock both cheaper and more expensive brands. Depending on which country you live in you may find it hard to get some brands. I live in Tasmania and it’s difficult to buy Unison here without taking out a second mortgage. I’ve never seen Great American Art Works but I can buy Sennelier and Schmincke for a reasonable price. I do shop online for brands that are too expensive to buy locally or that I just can’t source and here are some of my favourite shops. When the exchange rate is good I can get some great buys from the US even with the postage costs.