Monday, 12 July 2010

Which is your favourite make of hard pastel?

Conte à Paris and Cretacolour - in the Sennelier Shop in Paris

When we think of pastels we often tend to think of soft pastels.  However hard and semi-hard pastels have a place in the art supplies of any decent pastel artist.

The main characteristic of hard pastels is that they tend to have less pigment and more binder.  As a result colours tend to be less vivid and works completed only in hard pastels can seem subdued when compared to the intensity of some of the hues of 'proper' soft pastels with high pigment concentrations.  The higher proportion of binder can also make some brands seem very dry and scratchy and it's always worth trying different brands to find the one you get on with best.

The chalks used for classic drawing tend to be closest to hard pastels and a number of manufacturers provide a set of hard pastels in the classic drawing colours of sanguine, sepia, black and white. 

Using hard pastels

Pastels artists use hard pastels for a number of different purposes including:
  • preliminary sketches
  • sketching in under-drawings (as with the oil painting principle of "fat over lean")
  • creating outlines
  • getting a hard edge on top of soft pastel
  • flat surface used to rough in large areas
  • edge used for expressive lines or crisp lines
  • adding in intricate details (usually with sticks which have been sharpened to a point)
Different Brands of Hard Pastels

These sticks are typically rectagular with hard edges.   In French, the sticks are described as carré ('square' in French).
LEFRANC &; BOURGEOIS distribute the CONTE à PARIS fine art range of pencils, crayons and pastels. Conté crayons are most commonly found in black, white, and sanguine tones, as well as bistre, shades of grey, and other colors and are particularly suitable for fine hatching. They also produce 70 colours.
The website states: POLYCHROMOS pastel open up an almost inexhaustible variety of colour. They contain a high proportion of light-fast quality pigments. These pastels have impressively bright colours and a fascinatingly silky "feel".....The characteristic square-cross section allows you to draw fine details with an edge, or shade extended areas with one face. The crayons have a uniform consistency, are economical in use, and adhere excellently to paper, card, wood, and stone. They need only a minimum amount of fixing for permanence.
The website states: Artists' quality for every level of expertise.  Rich, creamy pigments for easy blending and shading.  Stronger than traditional soft pastels create less breakage and easier clean-up.  Ideal for illustration or tightly rendered drawings
From the website: The square (carré in French) CRETACOLOR hard pastels have been recognized by artists all over the world for their brilliant colors and high pigmentation. Their square shape lends itself well to painting both large surfaces and small details. The Pastell carré hard pastel full range is 72 colors, including the Brown and Gray Chalks.
Artists' Hard Pastels Daler-Rowney Artists' Hard Pastels are characterised by a velvet smooth mark, which stems from the carefully prepared blend of pure pigments. Firm in consistency, these pastels can be used to produce broad, flat areas of colour and detailed line work with equal success. 24 colours 
Van Gogh carré pastels fall into the category of dry pastels. They come in a square shape and are made of pigment, various types of clay. Only available in assortment sets.  
From the website: For authentic pastel drawings with quick, easy colour lay down, these chunky pastel blocks are perfect. Their square shape and smooth, semi-hard texture means you can use the ends, sides or edges to produce both broad and fine lines. Although not as dusty as soft pastels, the effect is equally beautiful and perhaps a little more manageable. Derwent Pastels are available in a range of 36 vibrant colours, plus the unique Derwent Blender which allows easy blending without affecting the colour density.  
From the website: Professional, semi-hard pastels, perfect for underpainting.  
General's® Classic Pastel Chalk Set contains 31 pieces
One of the factors to think about when buying hard pastels is how easy it is to replace singletons from open stock.  Some brands are only sold in sets.

Which hard pastel do people like the best?

I've had a opinion poll running for some time on my information site Pastels - Resources for Artists. It asks the question Which is your favourite make of hard pastel?

To date 270 people have responded to the poll and indicated their preference as to harder pastels and the percentage of their votes are shown in the chart below.  The current poll has a limited range of options and I'm thinking of setting up a new one including the complete range of hard pastels.
Opinion Poll (270 responses as at July 2010)

By far the most popular 'hard pastel' is Prismacolor Nupastel, although interestingly this is one of the softer hard pastels!  You can't find these in Europe so I'm assuming this is an overwhelming vote from American readers.  Similarly I guess many Americans may find it difficult to check out European makes of pastels.

Which is your favourite brand of hard pastel - and why?

I'd be very interested to hear your views about the different pastel brands - please do leave a comment.

Link: Pastels - Resources for Artists


Diane said...

I have used all the pastels listed and found the Nupastels to be by far the most user-friendly. They keep a nice edge and corner far longer than others and they also cover in a nice even fashion. I also like the Derwent pastels and use them a lot. However, Nupastls are just the best, you could actually paint with only those because they have the best colors for landscape anyway. They could definitely use more blues if they were your only pastels.

Anonymous said...

I have also tried all the brands listed and I agree with Diane's comments. I'd add that NuPastels work well at all stages of work and intermix well with other brands however soft they are. The color range is great in the full 96 piece set, although they should have one or two paler and cleaner blues- the only sky blue is a dirty greenish blue- too dark for most purposes. NuPastels are reasonably priced for most people. For those on an extremely tight budget who don't mind a lot more dust, I recommend the 72 (half-stick) piece Goldfaber student grade pastel set by Faber Castell. It has a good color range and an excellent price even compared to other student-grade sets.

s Fletcher said...

It is said that Nupastels are not permanent. They should at least carry the CI number. See my book, The Artsist's Studio Handbook' for CI numbers
S Fletcher

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Many pastels don't include the CI Number

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