Pastel pencils give you a quick and easy way to create beautiful pastel drawings. A lot of artists are snobbish about pastels, but we say that anything that makes art more accessible is great! That’s why we’re reviewing 5 of the best pastel pencils sets in this post as well as answering your questions about the medium.
For creating quick and easy preliminary sketches or making a beautiful pastel look with none of the mess, you really can’t argue with these pencils.
What Are Pastel Pencils?
You probably know already that pastels are sticks of pigment that have been bound together. They come in loads of colors and are great for artists to make some incredible creations. They’re also messy!
So what are pastel pencils? Well, they’re effectively just a pencil, like a graphite pencil, but that incorporate the pastel pigment inside instead of graphite. The wooden pencils we all know and love make it easy to get started.
Pastel pencils give you all of the benefits of other types of pastels, as you can wet them or use them dry. You can also choose whether you want to sharpen them for detailing or just create softer blocks of color such as shading.
They aren’t messy at all. They are amazing if you want to make some quick professional drawings on the go. Even if you go back to traditional painting when you are back in your studio, or add pastels to the sketch you’ve made.
As you will see in our pastel pencil reviews, most come in sets with lots of colors. You can blend these, and enjoy artist-quality pastels in the most convenient form imaginable.
5 of the Best Pastel Pencils – Sets for Artists
On to the best reviews of pastel pencils, with packs ranging from 12 colors to 60. If you want a professional end result, consider what you need from your pencils.
STABILO Carbothello Pastel Pencil, 60-Color Set – Best Overall
A lot of the options on the market either feel really hard, or they smudge and crumble way too easily. Stabilo’s Carbothellos exist in that beautiful middle ground.
The Stabilo set is the choice of a lot of the pros. For detail, or larger blocks of shading, they work just as well.
If you sharpen them to a fine point you can create strong outlines not usually associated with pastels. You can dry-blend or smudge the colors for new hues or even blending effects.
These pencils on dark backgrounds will work magic. Not many pencils do anything of note on black paper, but the Carbothellos are an exception.
Since the pigments are aquarelle, so you can blend with water if needed.
Why you should choose STABILO Carbothello Pastel Pencil:
- Allows strong color gradations in application
- Suitable for artists due to the high quality
- Easily create new colors
- Intensely pigmented colors
- They work well with black, and specialist varieties of paper
- Break-resistant, light-proof, and blendable
- Non-toxic, partially soluble
KOH-I-NOOR Artist’s Soft Pastel Pencils (Set of 24) – Best Budget Option
The Koh-I-Noor pencils are softer than most, but that might be ideal for your needs, especially if you do a lot of blending and shading.
They’re good for artists, schools, and even for coloring. These pencils are often regarded as being of the highest quality. The unique, “pure micro-pulverized pastel pigment” doesn’t have the traditional powdery look, but it is good for those who love to work with big, bold colors.
If you love detail work, you will love these. If you want to explore both light and dark mediums, you should go with these. These soft pastel pencils are great for shading also.
Excellent pigmentation creates vibrance, and blend-ability is a great feature for those who don’t want to limit themselves to 24 colors. You can create your own interesting shades.
KOH-I-NOOR chalk pastel pencils are good value for money. They are affordable, considering this brand is pretty reputable.
Be warned that these are pretty soft. You can sharpen them and do a decent job of creating detailed areas, but they don’t quite compare to the other models on the list if you are looking for that firmness when using them. They’ll crumble. This is good for blending and coloring with pastel pencils but not as ideal for those who want vivid lines.
What we like about the Koh-I-Noor model:
- Excellent value for money.
- Pigment allows excellent shading on both dark and light mediums
- Gives a smooth, lush, vibrant color, even if they are a bit soft for some shading needs
- They work both as a standalone pencil or in combination with conventional pastels
- Lightfast and fade-resistant over time
- Not as messy as some traditional pastels.
Faber-Castel FC112160 Pitt Pastel Pencils in A Metal Tin (60 Pack)
If a 12 pack is good, a 60 pack must be better, right? Well, these pastel pencils have their fair share of admirers among professional artists. 60 colors can set you up for years, with all the choice you could wish for.
Just like the Stabilos, they manage not to be too soft or too hard for creating blending and smudging, and you can retain plenty of control with the Faber-Castell 60 pack.
60 assorted colors provide an amazing palette, and when you start to blend, you can create virtually limitless shades.
The metal tin package is a nice way to stay neatly organized. So many people like to use pastel pencils when they’re out and about, so having a container is a bonus.
Faber-Castell’s allow you to create quality and detail in your artwork. They’re hard enough to sharpen and draw fine lines. They’re also just soft enough so you can easily smudge them to create delicate color transitions and utilize some of the coloring techniques that make pastels so unique.
Why you should choose the Pitt Pastel Pencils:
- Excellent light resistance and color brilliance for a long-lasting pastel effect
- Grease, wax, and oil-free
- Ideal for elaborate details and shading
- Includes a wide range of beautiful colors
- Metal tin for storage and transport
Faber-Castell FC112112 Pitt Pastel Pencils in A Metal Tin (12 Pack) – Pastel Pencils for Beginners
Pitt Pastel Pencils from Faber-Castell are another of the very best options with a professional feel to them. This 12 pack is a great introduction, as the 60 pack above can be pretty expensive for hobbyists and beginners.
Many artists love to use these pencils because they contain plenty of rich pigment. Some pastels and pencils can end up looking pretty dull, but not the FC models. These are a perfect choice for fine details in color, without losing the appeal of pastel.
They are similar in feel to an oil pastel, so you can mix and smudge Fabel-Castel Pitt pastel pencils to make your vision come to life. You can also choose to use them wet or dry.
These pencils draw smoothly. If you take some time to learn different techniques, you can combine colors and get lighter or darker shades from one color itself.
The 12 pack is not necessarily big enough for everyone, so you might go for something bigger if you want to create professional art.
They feel the most similar to oil pastels, so if you want an alternative to using old-fashioned pastels then this is a good option.
Derwent Pastel Pencils, 4mm Core, Metal Tin, 12 Count
These round, smooth barrels with 4.5 mm core pencils suit best those who need to achieve the most line flexibility. These will allow you to get blendable colors while also creating crisp, fine lines.
If you mix and blend them, you can easily create new hues and tints. These pencils allow you to indulge in some detail work and you can use a fine point to fill in those awkward details.
The metal tin package contains 12 wood-cased color pencils. That may sound like not much, but the collection is actually pretty well-balanced.
12 pencils is enough for sketching something roughly while on your travels or painting on location, before adding more detail later. This is something a lot of people are looking for from their pastel pencils anyway.
These have an innovative feature about them. Derwent Pastel Pencils come with a metallic angled stripe. That allows you to quickly identify the pencil’s range. The angled dip makes it easier to see the pencil color before using.
These pastel pencils are good for the traditionalists. They seem to keep a traditional pastel’s unique powdery texture for the final image.
Why you should choose Derwent Pastel Pencils:
- Can create intense detail (if sharpened)
- Great for a traditional pastel look with powder texture in the images
- Not too expensive.
How to Use Pastel Pencils
So, how do you actually use pastel pencils to good effect and ensure beautiful artwork? We’ve got some top tips for those looking to get started.
How to Draw With Pastel Pencils
Drawing with pastel pencils means you can sketch with normal pencil first. We recommend some basic linework to get your outlines, before you start to fill in with pastel pencils.
One of the ideal methods of drawing with pastel pencils is to sharpen them for detailed areas, and then use unsharpened nubs for bigger blocks of color. More on this when we approach the coloring section of this guide.
Best Sharpener for Pastel Pencils
The Derwent pastel pencil sharpener is an amazing option. It creates a fine point that you can use for intricate detail. You should carry a good sharpener for pastel pencils in your toolkit, but you can actually use a knife of even sandpaper to file it down.
How to Color With Pastel Pencils
Coloring with pastel pencils is all about getting the blending right. You should decide whether you are working with the medium in wet or dry as this will help you to decide on blending techniques. Faber-Castell has created some pretty cool tutorials for using their own pencils.
Spend some time with a blank piece of paper working out how to create transition techniques, blend multiple colors, and use water to get the desired effect. You can even create more darkly colored sections by coloring more intensely in one area and then pressing more lightly in others. When you go over it with water, you will find that contrast between lighter areas and rich, dark colors.
A few amazing words of wisdom can be found at Colin Bradley’s art site. He recommends:
- Always working from light to dark, as dark and harsh colors can ruin the effect.
- Creating detailed areas with sharper pastel pencils.
- Don’t use too many colors. This can create a muddy look to your pictures.
Kirsty Rebecca also has an amazing image tutorial here, with a bird with incredibly vivid detail. This is a great way to follow through and learn the techniques and materials needed. Note that she uses the Faber-Castell and Stabilo models that are on our list.
If you’re a reader of Artypod on a regular basis, you’ll know we have no time for snobbery. Some people think that if you are going to use pastels, you should use pastels! Actually, we think this is a great way to get into a new medium. When it comes to cleaning up the mess, you’ll also be delighted that you went for pastel pencils instead of the traditional alternative.
Both Stabilo and Faber-Castell have created beautiful pencils to create professional artwork. If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, the Kohinoor pastel pencils are also a decent compromise. As usual, technique is more important than the equipment!