Are you ready to enter the exciting world of pastels? If so, then you’ll have choices to make.
Ultimately, you’ll likely use a combination of hard and soft pastels as well as pastel pencils. Many artists, especially those who are starting out with pastels, like to practice with pastel pencils.
Pastel pencils have less of a steep learning curve in relation to pastels because they look just like colored pencils, and they function in exactly the same way. This makes them seem familiar and comfortable even as you learn new techniques.
While pastel pencils are great for new artists, professionals use these as well when they want to draw attention to small or fine details. This means that it’s critical to identify the best pastel pencils.
After weeks of testing, here are our picks for the finest pastel pencils.
Best Pastel Pencils:
1. STABILO CarbOthello Pastel Pencil Set, 24-Color
This set of 24 colors represents our choice of the best pastel pencils for portraits because they are suitable for smudging or dry-blending. Using a blending stump or fingertips makes it possible to create a variety of artistic effects with these high-quality pencils.
A combination of high pigmentation and excellent light-fastness makes these pencils a good choice for works that need to stand the test of time. As these pigments are partially aquarelle, they can be used with water and a brush.
The 4.4 mm diameter lead is a perfect size, and fans say that the pencils possess just the right amount of chalkiness. While most people love the variety and distinctiveness of the colors, some say they wish the colors were more muted.
- Great color variety
- Can use it with water and a brush
- Colors may be too saturated for some
2. Derwent Pastel Pencils
These professional-quality pastel pencils have round, smooth barrels and 4.5 mm leads. Many artists regard this as the ideal core size as it allows for crisp, delicate lines as well as heavier strokes.
What places this set of 24 among the best pastels for artists is the selection of colors. It’s hard to imagine needing anything else for your casual drawing needs. Smudge and blend as much as you like, these pastel pencils are perfectly suited to layering. Plus, these pencils are well-adapted to mixing colors.
Use these Derwent Pastel Pencils wet or dry to achieve whatever effect you’re pursuing. These come in a hinged metal case.
Artists praise the excellent coverage offered by these pencils. However, a few critics feel that these pencils are scratchy on the page.
- Excellent color selection
- Ideal core size
- Use wet or dry
- May feel scratchy on the page
3. Prismacolor 27049 Premier NuPastel Firm Pastel Color Sticks
Sticks rather than pencils, this set of 24 colors are stronger than the average pastels. This makes for less breakage and easier cleanup because there is less dust. They can be used either wet or dry. Made with brilliant pigments, these sticks are perfect for blending, mixing, and layering.
While these sticks are quite sturdy, it is possible to sharpen them at one end for completing detailed work. The creamy, rich pigments are ideal for creating all sorts of drawings, and many people love to use them for adult coloring books.
These sticks are highly praised for their smoothness and for how well they blend. People also like that these Prismacolors don’t leave behind a ton of dust. Perhaps the most frequent complaint relates to breakage during shipping.
- Creamy, rich pigments
- Create minimal dust
- Can be sharpened for detailed work
- Shipping may break some of the sticks
4. Faber-Castel Pitt Pastel Pencils
Wax- and oil-free, these are the perfect pastels for drawing. Smudging is no problem, and the pencils pair perfectly with pastel crayons. With only a minimum of fixing, it’s possible to ensure that finished works retain their vividness year after year.
Many people praise the quality of these pencils, remarking that they are an excellent value for the price. Artists recommend using them for precision work. Nonetheless, some users say that they wish the colors were more varied.
- Excellent quality
- Vivid pigments
- Good light resistance
- Not particularly varied colors
5. General Pencil General’s Pastel Chalk Pencils
This inexpensive set of 12 pencils is a great option for novices who don’t want to invest a lot of money in pastels. Each pencil is acid- and oil-free, and the manufacturer claims that they are archival quality.
Because this set only contains 12 colors, it is not as varied as some other options, which is worth considering.
General’s Pastel Chalk Pencils are manufactured in the U.S. at a factory in Jersey City, New Jersey. With rich pigments and smooth application, these pencils definitely deserve a look from both new and experienced artists.
Fans say that they appreciate that each pencil is equipped with an eraser. Plus, there’s a sharpener included in the set. While many people recommend giving these pencils a try, others say that they wish the pastels came in a tin rather than a flimsy cardboard box.
- Rich pigments
- Smooth application
- Packaged in cardboard rather than metal
6. Cont Paris 2184 Pastel Pencils with 48 Colors
Containing 48 pencils with five mm diameter leads, this set is a popular choice for seasoned artists. These pencils are slightly harder than regular pastels, and they have less pigment, which makes them the perfect accompaniment for bringing out details.
These high-quality pastels are a little more expensive than other sets, but they generally are considered worth the extra cost. This is because of factors such as lightfastness, the ability to blend colors, and the quality of the pigmentation.
Artists love the larger diameter, saying that it is easy to use. Nonetheless, some were disappointed to receive their pencils in a cardboard box rather than the promised tin.
- An excellent selection of colors
- Great lightfastness
- High-quality pigment
- Arrives in a cardboard box
7. Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth Gioconda Soft Pastel Pencils
These high-quality pastels come in a set of 48 so that you’ll have plenty of colors from which to choose. Each pencil is made with 100 percent FSC wood, and each one is designed particularly well for capturing tiny details and fine lines.
Thanks to their vibrant pigments, these pastel pencils really make small details stand out on the page or canvas. They offer excellent coverage and possess a buttery feel that’s a joy to work with.
Artists frequently recommend these pastel pencils because of their vivid colors and their softness. Also mentioned is that these pencils offer the right amount of powder without making a huge mess. Critics say that they find these pencils a little too soft for line work.
- Vibrant pigments
- Buttery feel
- Not a huge amount of dust
- May be too soft for line work
8. Dainayw Skin Tone Pastel Pencils
This is one of the best soft pastel pencil sets if you’re a portrait artist. That’s because this collection includes one dozen skin-tone pencils. You’ll be able to reproduce skin tones in a more natural manner than ever before thanks to the variety that you’ll find in this set.
Each pastel is surrounded by natural linden wood. The five mm core is ideal for a wide range of projects, and these pastels are perfect for smudging and blending. Because of their dense pigmentation and excellent light-fastness, these pencils are a great choice for works of art that need to stand the test of time.
Praising the variety of skin tones, artists frequently swear by this set for creating portraits. Most say that these pencils are easy to use, but some artists say that these pencils are especially difficult to sharpen.
- Excellent variety of skin tones
- Smudge and blend with ease
- Easy to use
- May be difficult to sharpen
9. Cretacolor Fine Art Pastel Pencil Set
Containing 72 pastel pencils, this outstanding collection is manufactured by Cretacolor, which has been in operation for more than 200 years. These pencils arrive in a large, decorative metal tin, and each pencil is filled with a water-soluble pigment.
With so many pencils in the box, you can rest assured that you’ll have pretty nearly every imaginable hue at your fingertips. The pastels are pliable and easy to use. They are suitable for blending or smudging, and their rich pigmentation is fantastic. For producing finely detailed work, it would be hard to find a better option.
Because it contains so many different hues, many artists say that they would be lost without this set. Nonetheless, inexperienced users may have trouble with these pencils skipping.
- Richly pigmented colors
- Water-soluble pigments
- Easy to use
- Novices may have problems skipping
10. Caran D’ache Set of 84 Pastel Pencils in a Wood Box
When an expense isn’t too much of a concern, spring for this set of 84 pastel pencils from Caran D’ache. It comes packaged in an elegant wooden box, so if it’s a gift, it will definitely impress the recipient.
Of course, it’s a gift that you can also give yourself. These superior-quality pencils are a luxurious option that may only make sense for the dedicated, professional artist.
Made in Switzerland, these Caran D’ache pastel pencils offer you gorgeous colors that are incredibly blendable. These pastels are softer than others, which may not be the preference of some artists. Nonetheless, these are fantastic for layering.
Most artists who have tried these pencils say that they are the best. Nonetheless, some feel that the price is simply too much.
- A fantastic array of colors
- Extremely high-quality pigments
- Packaged in a lovely wooden box
Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Pastel Pencils
Many artists love to work with pastels because it’s pretty straightforward. All that you really need to get started are some pastels, paper, and your fingers. Pastels are a combination of chalk, a binder, and dry pigment. The pigment is by far the dominant ingredient, which means that pastels are capable of producing rich, vivid colors.
Why you might want to use pastel pencils?
Artists may use a combination of hard pastels, soft pastels, and pastel pencils in the same piece. Of course, it’s also possible to use just one of these. Before looking at some of the characteristics of the best pastel pencil brand, it’s necessary to understand why you might want to use pastel pencils.
Hard and soft pastels
Hard and soft pastels are available in sticks. Sticks can be relatively difficult to use because they are unfamiliar. On the other hand, pastel pencils look and function much like colored pencils. This makes it possible for even the least experienced artist to pick up a pencil and start creating.
Pencils vs sticks
It isn’t necessary to pit pastel pencils against sticks in a fight to the death. The reality is that you may want to use both of these options depending on the piece that you’re creating at the time. However, pastel pencils are a wonderful place to start for the new artist because they are easier to use.
In fact, artists of all skill levels quickly will discover that a pencil may give them enhanced control when it comes to creating fine lines and details. Some of these smaller accents may not be achievable with a pastel stick, which means that pastel pencils are indispensable for artists who work in this medium.
Level of hardness
One of the main reasons for choosing pastel pencils is that they typically have that “just-right” level of hardness. They are harder than soft pastels yet softer than hard pastels. Accordingly, pencils are easier to layer and blend than hard or soft pastels.
Pencils also may be preferable because they are encased in a wooden enclosure. This means that they are far less messy when in use.
As with other pastels, you may choose from artist-quality and student-quality pencils. You’ll definitely save when choosing student-quality pencils, but you’ll want to upgrade to artist-quality if you hope to sell or exhibit your work.
Pastel Pencils FAQs
Should I use pencils or traditional pastels?
Pastel pencils are a great choice for beginners and professional artists. It’s not unusual for artists to use both pastels and pencils in the same piece. However, art can be created with just pencils or vice versa. If you’re new to pastels, pencils are a great place to start because they function just like a colored pencil.
Are there advantages to using pastel pencils?
Because the pastel is surrounded by wood in a pencil, they make less of a mess when working with them. Moreover, pastel pencils are ideal for bringing out those fine lines and details. Many new artists also find them easier to work with while they are honing their skills with pastels.
Is it necessary to buy artist-quality pastel pencils?
Many student-quality pastel pencils rely on high-quality pigments and are manufactured by respected companies. If you’re new to pastels or are practicing, then student quality is really all you need. Most artists won’t need to upgrade to artist quality unless they plan to sell or exhibit their work in public.
Making the Decision
If you’re looking for the best pastel pencils for portraits, then you’ve come to the right place. Our personal pick is the Stabilo CarbOthello Chalk-Pastel Pencils. This set of 24 contains enough colors to give you variety but not overwhelm you. Also, these pencils work particularly well with water.
If you’re ready to make the leap to artist-quality pencils, then consider the Cretacolor set of 72 pencils. With fantastic pigments and great abilities for smudging and blending, it’s hard to go wrong here.