Hard, or soft pastels

I figure there are enough artists here that someone will know the answer. I bought a generic set of pastels. Fine Touch brand, no big deal. They are about 3 inches long and rectangle. How do I tell if they are soft, or hard pastels. I think they are the hard but I'm not sure. I want to purchase a set of soft pastels but do not want to end up with more than one set of the same type. How can I tell?


  • Soft Pastel break and crumble easily compared to hard pastels. From my experience, soft pastel usually has a raper. Hard Pastel do not always have a raper.
  • Oh and the "The Fine Touch" brand is made for Hobby Lobby.
  • Mine has it written right on the package. One set I have says Moderate Hardness. It is not in a wrapper and reminds me of blackboard chalk. The other I have says soft pastels and it is in a wrapper. It has the consistency of wet sidewalk chalk. I know that might not help you but, really, that is the way it feels to me. I think if you are in the market for soft ones, I'd get the best you can buy. Lots of pigment. The more intense the color, the better your paintings will be.
  • @walko yes, they are a Hobby Lobby purchase. Work pretty well though.
    @MeganS Thanks, that does help.
  • Megan is right to get the best pastels you can. The cheaper ones tend to be unevenly blended, hard and scratchy, and lack saturation. You will progress even faster with the help of good quality materials.

    I've got a set of rembrandt soft pastels that make working a joy.
  • Melissa

    Both hard and soft pastels can be square or round in cross section.
    Both can be wrapped or un-wrapped.

    Best guide is the label or description on the box.

    Even within the soft pastel range there are varying degrees of hardness. Ain't easy huh?

    Here is a useful link:


    ranking the top eight brands. Of course there will be as many opinions as there are artists' on the choice and position of any brand in a ranking but the idea is to grab some and try them out. Decide what suits your style and materials best.

    I use Rembrandt, Art Spectrum in softs, and Conte hard pastels.
    Hard pastel is useful for sketching and light lay in for shadow values. This can be erased easily with a putty rubber or a stiff brush or a piece of toweling. Soft pastel is for the heavy duty value work can be erased as before or new color applied over the top.

    Using Yupo with an Art Spectrum Colorfix Primer: You can take your pastel into the garden, hose it off and start again.


  • @charis I was thinking about buying Rembrant.
  • I like Rembrandt and Sennelier.
  • I went to the art store today. The Schmincke were $4.99 each. The Rembrandt were on sale for $3.19 each. I really wanted the more expensive pastels, of course, but bought the Rembrandt instead and two sheets of paper. I will slowly build up my collection and include them both.
  • They are certainly expensive! I just bought a very small basic set and head to the art store to purchase individual ones depending on what I need for a particular project. @dencal or @charis what fixative do you recommend for pastels that won't kill the light colors?
  • @Martin_J_Crane The fixative issue is vexing at the very least.

    I had personally never used one that could be applied over my highlights without killing them, so I would use the fixative on the darker colors and underlayers and apply my highlights and most intense areas on top -- leaving them unfixed. They were more fragile this way, of course.

    In the future, I will keep searching for the perfect fix (HA!).

    As for the pastels themselves, Sennelier is very nice as well. @Melissa Here is where buying online results in incredible savings: Utrecht.com has small sets of Rembrandts starting at $23 for 15, or $30 for 30 pastels.

  • Martin

    I decided that instead of a fixative I need a good surface texture to hold the pastel.
    Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer (heaps of tints) gives enough tooth to make a dentist smile. If I had any I wanted to keep I would spacer block it behind glass.

    I have never had a good result using fixative except for graphite and charcoal.

  • And if you ever want pastel pencils -- for all your detail work, etc.. I highly recommend the stabilo carbothello .
  • I recommend oil pastel. Unlike crayons, you can blend the colors of oil pastels easily. Sakura craypas is by far the best oil pastels I have worked with
  •  I prefer soft pastels, soft pastels have the most intense colour and are easy to use. This is the reason why most visual artists choose soft pastels to execute their colourful ideas on paper.
  • @mimirichman and @noahenholm. You both seem to regularly resurrect ancient threads. This one dates back over seven years. And quite often you spruik products. But you never post your own work or comment on work by others and so some of us are  starting to think that you guys are surreptitious spammers. Or even bots.

    Please participate properly and stop resurrecting these old threads. It's really annoying. If you don't want to participate then I hope you'll go do the other thing and leave us alone.
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