Soft Pastel Paints Review -How to Build Your Palette of Soft Pastels

Soft Pastel Paints Review -How to Build Your Palette of Soft Pastels

Soft Pastel Paints Are Pure Fun

Soft Pastel Paints that are available on the marketplace range from fairly hard to incredibly buttery soft.  Each has its own uses, and personal preference is all over the place.  They also range in cost from incredibly cheap to bank-breaking costly.  I am going to share some of my favorites with you, and tell you why so you have some ideas of how to build your palette of soft pastels.

The Student Set- Blick Pastels is my Fav

Blick Pastels are an excellent choice for a starter set

Blick Pastels are an excellent choice for a starter set

There a lot of really inexpensive sets of soft Pastel Paints, with most of them a complete waste of money.  They may have poor color, or be gritty to apply, or break easily or any number of other detriments and frustrations.  But Blick Pastels, with 48 for $10.29 at this writing, is actually a very good value.

You will get them in a box with foam separators.  Sometimes the pastels get jumbled together than in the pockets.  They may have dust from the other sticks on them.  Shipping pastel chalks from Korea is not perfected.  It is an inexpensive way to begin to build your palette.

BUT what you will have are 1 inch long squared chalks in 48 very vibrant colors.  They will all be medium soft pastels, except for one black and one white hard pastel sticks to use for drawing.  They go on your pastel surface smoothly and blend well.  The colors are vibrant and well-pigmented.

The Mungyo set is an excellent starter kit of semisoft pastels. I still use them for some of my underpainting and backgrounds.

Mungyo makes other soft pastels that are more costly, but I recommend skipping on those.  They are inferior to other soft pastels and not a good value, sometimes with hard bits in them, very crumbly and unreliable.

Rembrandt Pastel paintsAdding to Your Pastel Paint Set

I recommend adding smaller sets of other pastels as you work on how to build your palette of soft pastels.  A semi soft pastel made by Rembrandt is a good choice.  Rembrandt has been making pastels since 1899.

With more than a century behind them, they can be relied on for a consistently smooth composition for their 203 color choices.  As a semisoft pastel, they are good to use for line work and for the early layering in your painting.

Since I do a lot of landscapes, I like to have blues, greens and purples and grays for the early layering.  Rembrandt has selections of landscape colors like this 45-full stick set at Blick at a cost of under $200.

What I have done is to gradually replace my Blick starter set's with Rembrandts for about $4 each for the early layering, rather than buying the whole set.

You will be amazed as you start to work with the higher quality soft pastels, how smoothly they layer on your surface, how you can blend and work with them.  These are much fatter, longer and softer than starter type.  You will want to practice not bearing down with them, so you do not break them.

As the tooth of your surface gets filled, it is good to work with softer and softer pastels in layering your painting.

Sennelier landscape half-stick setThe next softer make I recommend is Sennelier which has the widest range of 525 color choices.  They come in either half or full sticks and I find half is just fine.  Half sticks cost less, so your budget can allow you to invest in more colors at a time.

Again, they are softer than the chalks I talked about earlier, and you will want to be careful with them, not to break them, or push with them, because you can cause them to crumble.

The Sennelier Half Stick Landscape set is one  I added to my studio.  I absolutely adore the way I can layer on buttery layers over the early painting, adding color and depth to my landscapes.

The colors are amazing and it is pure luxury to paint with them!

Schmincke 100 extra soft pastelsMy Big Lucky Find – Will You Have One as You Learn How to Build Your Palette of Soft Pastels?

Extra soft very buttery pastels in 400 colors are made by Schmincke, to glide over your painting for the upper layers, when the tooth of your surface is getting quite full.

I had my eye on the Strathmore pastels to give me the light and pale as well as some dark colors for final definition and highlighting, but I was lucky enough to find a partial set of Grumbachers- for $3! – at an estate sale that had mostly lights and pales and a few stronger colors.  I had plans to treat myself soon, and stumbled over these.  The soft buttery texture is great fun to use.

The Grumbachers were made a very long time ago, but are not any longer.  They are similar in softness to the Schminckes, and I love using them for my highlights.  Schminckes will come next, but not needed yet.  I was very lucky.

This is one of my paintings made with soft pastels.This is a pastel painting I did this summer.  I began with a photo I took.  The painting has many layers!

I began with a 400 grain sanded 9 x 12 pastel paper on which I sketched my major shapes.  Then I applied the Mungyo pastels by rubbing them over the shapes so that I could wash them for the underpainting.  I used a one inch brush dipped very lightly in rubbing alcohol to do the wash.

Then layered on the more Mungyo and some Rembrandt paints, blending lightly.  I added Sennelier pastels and finished up with highlighting with my Grumbachers.

I tend not to blend much as I get to the upper layers, especially in the foreground, since I like the definition and shape I can create by direct application of the chalk.  Color is important to me and I enjoy discovering the purples in the shadows, and the pale yellows as the sun hits the grass and trees, as well as the pale blues that reflect from the sky and the ocean just over the nearby dunes.

Let me know what you decide as you figure out how to build your palette of soft pastels, won't you?  And share what you make with them!  I am excited to see your results!

Developing and re-creating your creative thinking processes with art, helps you in design thinking for all aspects of your life!  Do something for yourself creatively today.  Pastels are a great way to begin!

how to build your palette of soft pastels


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Published by Annie Collyer

Annie is a mom of four, a business owner and blogger. She and her husband live in New Hampshire, where they are both active volunteers in their community school district. She writes about designing our lives with proven design thinking principles. Join her in creating the life we each want.

  • Jordan says:

    I used to do a lot of art work when I was younger and recently have been looking to get back into it. These tips are great and its good to get an idea on what else is out there. As we know art products can get expensive.

    • Hi Jordan, Thanks for visiting. I agree, pursuing art creation can get expensive. I try here to point out some ideas to pick and choose what really is needed and why. I hope it inspires you to get back into it. Let me know!

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