Pastel Types

Pastel Types

Pastel Types: Which Are you Best Suited For?

Before we get into the different pastel types, the first question to ask would be – what are pastels?


Pastelsan art medium made up of pure pigment rolled into sticks and held together with some sort of binder.


That’s it! They allow you to paint and draw with color in a quick manner. That’s why they are so Awesome!!sennelier pastels drawing chalk art tools


How the pastels are produced can effect the makeup and characteristics of how the pastel will act on the paper.


Some have a creamy rich texture while others are very chalk-like. It depends on which brand you use.


This is mostly contributed to which type of binder and how much is mixed with the pigment. There are many different brands and I will give some examples of the ones I use but first let’s see what the different pastel types are.

The Three Major Types


This includes soft and hard pastel types as well as pastel pencils. The only difference between these is the amount of binder used when producing them.



Soft Pastels

Hard Pastels

Pastel Pencils



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Soft Pastels

Produce brighter more saturated colors since they have more pigment than binder. They are great for filling in large areas of color and are usually larger than hard pastels. They're quite fragile as well.

Advantages: Very bright color range:take easily to supports(paper,wood etc.)

Disadvantages: Can be messy to use and can crumble easily

Cost:Relatively inexpensive, but cost vary from brand to brand

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Hard Pastels

Have a higher percentage of binder and less pigment resulting in a slightly duller color on paper. They are more often used for detail work or for preliminary sketching. They are more dense than soft pastel types giving them a firmer texture, hence how they get there name!

Advantages: Easier to control than soft pastels as they are less prone to crumbling and shed less pigment

Disadvantages: The color range is less than of soft pastels

Cost:Relatively inexpensive, but cost vary from brand to brand

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Pastel Pencils

Simply hard pastels rolled into rods and enclosed into a wooden casing. They are used just like hard pastels and can be sharpened into fine points just like a regular pencil. The casing also makes them clean to work with unlike soft or even hard pastel types.

Advantages: Easier to control than soft pastels as they are less prone to crumbling and shed less pigment

Disadvantages: The color range is less than of soft pastels

Cost:Relatively inexpensive, but cost vary from brand to brand

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rembrandt pastel soft art tools color

Oil Pastels


Oil pastels are relatively new considering how long soft pastels have been around. They are made by cooking the same pigments used in soft pastels with an oil-souluable wax binder until it forms a a buttery paste. They are then molded into crayons. These pastel types are oil soluble while the soft counterparts are water soluble. They also create a more painterly effect and dry hard like paint(may take a few years but it will happen!!) They are quite a bit harder to blend than traditional pastels but they are cleaner since they don’t crumble and break like chalk. They have a smooth buttery consistency.

Oil Sticks


These are in the same stick shape as the other two type of pastels, but they contain ingredients a lot like the ones used in oil paint. They can be used just like larger oil pastels. They will also dry quite quickly (within 24 hrs unlike oil pastels.) It’s like having the freedom to draw with oil paints and virtually no cleanup!

What to Buy

So now that you know what a pastel is and the different pastel types available it’s time to go get some! But which brands are the best you ask? Well it really depends on your personal preference since most brands can be distinguished by the textures their pastels produce. I will give you a little breakdown of each brand to let you choose which one you are interested in.

Tip:You may find that whatever brand you choose first will be the one you stick with.

schminke pastels color media drawing chalk art tools

Brand Differences


Sennelier – (525 tones/colors) Medium soft pastel, provides the widest range of tones(great if you don’t want to blend for intermediate areas)
Schmincke – (400 tones/colors) Buttery texture that glides on the paper,great darks(I have a few of these in my set)

Rembrandt – (203 tones/colors) Medium soft pastel, great for line work and are great for students and professionals(This was my first set of pastels)

Daler-Rowney – (190 color/tones) Soft pastel with creamy texture has a few colors you may not find in other brands. Good for controlled precise pastel drawing

Winsor & Newton – ( 200 colors/tones) Soft pastel with creamy texture

Conté a Paris – ( 48 colors/tones) That is the highest amount of tones I could find. Comes in a great travel size box and slightly on the harder side.


There are a few more pastel brands out there. Some are handmade and quite expensive and others are pretty reasonably priced. Ultimately you may find that you have a box of a few of these brands as they all have different uses and effects they can achieve. I have Rembrandt, Schmincke and some NuPastels(hard) which I use for detail. They are square in shape and are produced by Faber-Castell.

You will quickly develop an affinity for one or a few brands, it just depends on what you want to achieve.


So hopefully this gave you a good overview of the different pastel types out there. Just like any other supplies you tend to use what’s readily available to you. So go to your local art supply store and buy a small set or some singles if you are so blessed with a store that carries them in your area and try a few brands out.

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