Attention all newbie and veteran artists! Are you looking to expand your expertise by trying your hand at working with soft pastels? Or do you already dabble in drawing with soft pastels and want to upgrade your equipment?
Soft pastels are usually sold as sticks or pencils and are chalkier compared to oil pastels. They are great if you want your artworks to have a smoother texture and a more polished appearance without having to sacrifice color vibrancy.
What to Look for When Buying Best Soft Pastels
Size and Color
Soft pastels may come in square or cylindrical forms, and you can get them in half or full size. Half sticks come are usually over one inch in length while the full-sized pastels are two and a half inches on average.
Some sets can contain up to 100 or more colors. Experienced soft pastel artists may benefit from the larger sets so they can have access to a wide range. However, beginners should consider getting a small set to save money and get the hang of using pastels first. They can then invest in a set with more than 100 colors later on. Students and beginners probably do not need to have an extremely wide selection to start practicing with.
Another thing worth noting is that some pastel sets may cater to certain color families depending on their intended use. You may see sets with more earthy tones and blues for landscape paintings. Others have a better variety of nudes, peaches, pinks, and yellows because they cater to portrait artists. Finding a set with a balanced selection of each color will be the best option for novices.
Soft pastels are known to be better for blending compared to oil pastels. You can easily use your fingers to create shadows and add dimension. As for oil pastels, it’s better to use a cloth, brush, or paint knife to blend colors together. You probably wouldn’t want to get oil pastel stains on your hands anyway since they’re a tad more difficult to wash off.
Sealing Your Drawings
Since the pigment from soft pastels may not dry completely, you will need a fixative to lock the colors in. This will prevent you drawing from wrinkling, smudging, or becoming discolored. Most artists use a finishing spray for this.
If you do not have access to a finishing spray after completing a project, there are several alternatives. You can mist your canvas with rubbing alcohol or mineral spirits. Framing your drawing in glass or folding deli paper over it will also protect your work.
Best Soft Pastels on the Market
We have compiled our five favorite brands for soft pastels available on the market today and we want to share this information with you. Each soft pastel product is broken down into five parts: our first impressions, their performance, packaging, pros and cons, and our final thoughts. This guide should help you determine which set will fit you best.
Best for Artists
|Colour Block Soft Pastel Art Set (100 Pack)||
Best for Beginners
|Faber-Castell Creative Studio Soft Pastel (72 Pack)||
Best for Portraits
|PRO ART Square Artist Pastel Set (Portrait Colors)||
1. Colour Block Soft Pastel Art Set (100 Pack) – Best Soft Pastels for Artists
The Colour Block pastels could be a good option for seasoned artists since the wide array of colors allows for different styles, moods, and techniques. With 100 colors included, there is a decent range of yellows and greens but the set is a bit lacking in purple and blue shades.
These pastels are square-shaped with straight edges which make them ideal for creating sharp and harsh lines. The colors are very bright and their intensity comes out nicely on most surfaces, especially on paper.
One downside may be that they have a bit of a chalky consistency. While soft pastels do have some chalk in them, you may be looking for a set that is creamier. If that’s the case, just keep this in mind before you decide to purchase this. Even so, the colors are not difficult to blend at all and the dust fall is very minimal.
These pastels are packaged in a rectangular, dark wooden box, giving off a rustic vibe. This attractive packaging may make a wonderful gift for the artsy people in your life. It’s pretty sturdy so the box will protect your pastels, and it’s a portable carrying case as well. The Colour Block pastels might best suit the needs of traveling, on-the-go artists. When the box is opened, the sticks are organized into 4 vertical rows and are sitting on a protective foam cushion underneath.
Pros and Cons
Overall, the Colour Block soft pastels seem to provide great value. The fact that you get a diverse set of 100 shades for their price is an excellent deal. The elegant wooden box alone makes the set well worth its price.
2. Faber-Castell Creative Studio Soft Pastel (72 Pack) – Best Soft Pastels for Beginners
Faber-Castell is an established stationery brand, so beginner artists can fall back on brand familiarity. The Faber-Castell pastels may also be a good option for art students or those who are just starting as this is one of the more affordable options. If you want to practice painting first, you might want to consider choosing this item before you move on to higher quality and pricier ones. There are 72 vivid color options in the pack which are mostly matte and there are no metallic colors included.
One thing you should consider is that these pastels are very short and this may make them slightly inconvenient for some people. However, the shorter sticks have their advantages when you need to make precise strokes as they’re easier to control. They blend extremely nicely if you use your fingers. The pastels feel pretty soft and have a hint of grittiness behind them. Compared to other pastels, these can be quite dusty but it shouldn’t make too much of a mess on your workstation.
The box these pastels come in has a minimalist design with a pastel painting on it which beginner artists could draw inspiration from. It doesn’t exactly have any unique qualities as it’s a standard box.
Pros and Cons
The Faber-Castell pastels are not bad at all considering their relatively low price. The colors are very pigmented, easy to blend, and a good selection for a beginner’s kit. You must remember these are only half-sized and smaller than the average pastel sticks.
3.PRO ART Square Artist Pastel Set (Portrait Colors) – Best Soft Pastels for Portraits
This isn’t a soft pastel set, so the sticks are much harder than the others on this list. Beginners may have a more difficult time using these. The neutral tones such as white, black, and brown are sufficient to create multi-dimensional drawings. With the incredible range of shades included in this set, they can be used to create lifelike portraits.
Since these have a harder composition, they don’t crumble easily and will stay intact longer. That combined with the square shape of the sticks make them ideal for larger strokes. Artists who work with large canvases may want to consider these pastels. Pro Art pastels do shed dust particles but they probably won’t leave a huge mess on your canvas. Your hands may be stained after using them as well but the pigment will come off easily with soap and water.
This 72 piece set is presented in a light brown wooden box with a tray inside for added convenience. There’s enough space that you could probably store other art materials inside the box. Each stick sits on a plastic slot inside the tray but can be removed if that’s what you prefer.
Pros and Cons
The best asset of this kit is the assortment of gorgeous earth-toned colors. This makes them great for picturesque paintings of landscapes and projects that require a more subdued mood.
The fact that they’re a bit harder means they’re less likely to cause you frustration by suddenly breaking into pieces while you’re working.