Saturday, 5 February 2011

Which dark soft pastels are the best?

Soft pastels in very dark colours present a challenge which some manufacturers have tried to address.  This post is about soft pastels in dark colours, shades and tints - and a new opinion poll.

Common problems are:
  • Some brands can feel abrasive and scratchy.  Dark shades and tints of soft pastels have a reputation for not being the softest of soft pastels.
  • Other brands are 'too hard' and fail to release their pigment load easily
  • It can also be very difficult to get hold of good rich colour in dark shades.  Dark should not mean that colour disappears.
Some manufacturers have addressed these problems by creating specific dark sets of soft pastels. These aim to balance the quality of pigment colour (ie colour not black!) with softness and the effective release of the pigment onto the support while also offering a good range of dark colours.

Many a pastel artist has developed a quest for set of pastels which are both soft and dark

I started out with a set of Rembrandt Pastels and found the dark shades to be a tad too hard for my liking.  I addedin Daler Rowney Soft Pastels and liked those - but they disappeared a bit too fast for my liking

I then got a set of Unison Darks and was smitten.  These are very dark and yet have good pigment colour - but are also not abrasive or "too hard".

My set of Unison Darks - photographed when still relatively pristine!

I've also tried out some dark Terry Ludwig pastels in a pastel workshop.  Some pastel artists comment that these work better on abrasive supports rather than paper where to some they feel a little too greasy.  There are two sets of dark Ludwig Pastels:
  • Intense Darks #1 set is red/sienna/ochre/brown oriented
  • Intense Darks #2 set is blue/grey/purple/mauve oriented
You can also get a set of 60 Intense Darks
Terry Ludwig - 60 Intense Darks
Diane Townsend has a set of 12 dark soft form pastels. she also lists the individual colours whcih means they could be bought singly.  These are Deborah Secor's favourite dark pastels and she says they cover Wallis paper really fast.  She recommends the dark green for those doing landscapes.

Diane Townsend - soft form.  Dark 12 piece set
Sennelier have a set of 24 dark tones.
Sennelier Pastels - Set of 24 dark tones
Pan Pastels have a set of extra dark colours available as 3 sets of 5 colours each - extra dark shades, shadows and earth colours


Daler Rowney now have a dark set - 8 Set Dark Selection Code 153 902 008 - you can see a picture of them here

Girault are said to have a dark set but I've never seen one and can't find one on their website.  Others may have developed specific dark sets and if so I'd love to hear about them.

Which dark pastels do you like best - and how do you buy them?  

Please vote in the NEW OPINION POLL Which is your favourite brand of dark soft pastels? in  Pastels - Resources for Artists

I'd also love to hear about your favourite brands of dark pastels either in connection with the poll or by commenting below.

ALSO How do you like to buy your dark pastels?
  • as a specific set of dark pastels (which can be quite expensive) 
  • or in singles from open stock
Do please let me know what you think by commenting below

More information

Links to dark sets
Links to reviews
Links to more information about pastels:




4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I use darks from all the brands, there are none that have them all the way I use them. I use Terry Ludwig's reds and greens, Sennelier has the best dark greens available. Unison has the best dark blues, Girault dark set is indispensable, I love their browns and dark greys. For black Rembrandt has the darkest, deepest black. For establishing dark areas I usually use Sennelier dark green, Terry Ludwig's Eggplant.

NEARBYTREE said...

I would like to buy some Girault pastels - but don't seem to be able to find out who stocks them in the UK - perhaps you can only buy them directly from the company in France?

Katherine Tyrrell said...

I always have a jolly good look at the pastels section any time I go into an art shop - and I only need to see one for an excuse to visit it. I've never seen Girault pastels in the UK. There again I've not seen other pastel brands here either.

I'd try buying online if I were you.

Anonymous said...

The fine art store. Jerrys artarama and dakota. Just a few good suppliers. Also use wallis paper and watercolor under.

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