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Pastel Pencil Brands
Derwent Pastel Pencils and Pastel sticks, come from the largest UK manufacturer of pencils. The range is constantly being improved and during 2010, a new formula version of the pastel pencils was launched, replacing the previous one.
There are some new colours and some renumbering and
I found the old design (top image) rather hard and also some colours were often ‘gritty’ and I therefore tended to use other brands like Faber Castell Pitt and Swan Stabilo Carbothello for artwork.
The new formula pencils are softer and certainly much smoother.
They are capable of a good point with a sharp craft blade and whilst the finer points are just as liable to break as before when working fine detail, this is a common problem with all pastel pencils, no matter what the brand.
You could say it is the nature of the ‘beast’!
There are 72 colours in the full set -
The 36 set is very usable and has a good cross section of colours, and the name of each colour is shown on the pencil.
Derwent advise that the pastel stick range previously listed and still shown on their site in sets of 24 colours, is now discontinued ( August 2016 ). However stock are still listed at Amazon and a number of internet suppliers
One advantage of the Derwent range ( and also the Faber-
These types of stick pastel are harder than the traditional soft pastels and are therefore less messy when handling the bare material in the stick, but they also enable larger pictures to be worked, with the sticks being used to lay down the foundation and the pencils then used to establish the detail later.
Derwent also used to supply a colourless blender pastel stick in the box of 36 sticks which I had not seen retailed before.
They also sold a holder to make the use of the sticks much cleaner
The Derwent pastel pencils blend well on the working surface and the relative hardness of the medium ensures that there is less dust than with soft pastels. The pencils accept most pastel techniques that I have tried, and the new formula pencils earn a high mark in the comparison stakes.
A great improvement on the old design.
Prices are around the £1.20 a pencil mark depending on where you get them from.
Stockists will be quite easy to find in the UK
The pastel pencils and sticks have the same formula (medium/hard), and the pencils are best sharpened with a hand held sharpener or a knife.
The performance is reliable and the pastel medium smooth to apply and blend.
As you would expect with products from a worldwide supplier, the quality is excellent, and the individual colours are available to refill boxes from several Internet sources as well as mail order companies.
The full colour set of pencils (60) is more than adequate for most subjects and anyone who finds the range constricting, can use the sticks first and then develop the detail later with the pencils. The pencils in my stock carry a reference number and lightfastness ratings but not a name.
An advantage for those familiar with Polychromos oil based Coloured Pencils is that the colours of the 120 set of sticks are the same.
The Lightfastness values are marked on the pencils in the Faber-
This gives an indication of the most and least stable colours. Most are graded 3 stars -
Both the pencils and the sticks are water soluble and good opaque colour can be lifted off the sticks and used with a brush. Solvents like Tim Fisher’s Soft Pastel Liquifier also work well with the stick medium, (see techniques)
Pencil cost is around £1.25 each
Stockists range from the SAA & Great Art to many Internet sites
Made in Austria, this double range of pencils and pastel sticks offers a selection of 72 colours, with the pencils and what they call ‘Pastel Carre’ sticks, matching. This made them one of the largest colour ranges available in the UK for Pastel Pencils prior to the arrival of the Caran d’Ache brand. Each Cretacolor pencil clearly carries the colour name and a reference number
The medium is firm like the other brands, and the pencils will take sharpening with a sharpener well, though any machine that applies too much vibration may well damage the pastel structure.
Cretacolor say ‘The Cretacolor Pastel Pencils are best sharpened using sandpaper. The pencils are made with a soft wood outer casing cutting out the need for machine sharpeners or craft knives’
The pencils are available from Bob Elcock (follow link below and see Techniques section) in singles and sets -
A reliable brand, they handle well and are a good option.
I would expect the pigments -
Bob Elcock also markets his own tutorial packs with pencils, working paper and DVDs. See Bob’s website for full details at http://elcockpastelpencils.com/
Sets and individual Pencils are also available from Truro Arts
and Carre Pastels individually and in sets, are available from Great Art.
and Jacksons Art Supplies
With a slightly thicker colour strip than some other brands, these pencils have a dry crunchy charcoal feel which is unique among the pastel pencil brands.
They sharpen and respond well to the usual techniques.
There is a colour range of 60 colours and the lightfastness rating is given on each pencil according to a star system which allocates 1 star to the lowest rated colours and three stars to the best level of lightfastness.
No colour name is given, but pencils carry a reference number.
Like most brands they are watersoluble.
Price is around £1 to £1.20 a pencil in sets and they are widely available on the Internet from the likes of Great Art and ArtDiscount.co.uk
The Carbothello sharpen to a fine reliable point and I have found them good for fine finishing detail
This Netherlands firm is part of the Japanese Sakura Group ( as is the Royal Dutch Talens art materials business ).
Bruynzeel were taken over by Sakura in 1997 and I understand the manufacture of Bruynzeel products is now sourced outside Holland. However the quality is fully up to modern artist’s requirements, and the Pastel Pencils are of high quality though reasonable cost.
The range extends to 48 colours which are marketed in very attractive foam lined drawer boxes ( as shown )
The full set of 48 offers a very useful choice of colours. The pencils are best sharpened with a knife, though can be sharpened with a power sharpener with care. Each pencil is numbered on the coloured end. No colour name is given and this can be a problem when looking at a choice between two or three dark brown /grey pencils
Suppliers in the UK are (2010 ) not widely found, but a search on the Internet under ‘Bruynzeel Pastel Pencils’ should bring up suppliers at about £50 for the 48 drawer set.
Sakura were the inventors of Oil pastel crayons in 1924 developing the CrayPas brand of pastel crayon to take advantage of the best points of the two media. CrayPas is an interesting product which is also still available, sold as an Oil Pastel for children’s use, it is priced around £15 for a set of 36 colours.
Pastels go back to the 14th Century as a manufactured artists material and Conté a Paris refined pastels to the type we know today around the late 1700s.
As a very old manufacturer in this field, the pastel pencils that are offered by Conté are unique in the hardness and thickness of the colour strip. The company offer a range of 48 pencils in the full set and suppliers include http://www.pencils4artists.co.uk/
I find the pencils a little too hard compared with other brands, but that is a personal feeling -
The tins of pencils are usually marketed at around £1 each per pencil
So a set of 48 would retail around £50
from Tim Fisher
From another part of the Sakura Group and also based in Holland is the Royal Talens company. They manufacture Van Gogh soft pastels which have a long history and the company still produce pastels and also pastel pencils. I have used the soft pastels (the ones I have are a very old formula and are slightly harder than many manufacturers)
I have not yet tried the pastel pencils which are available from the Royal Talens sources in the UK including iartsupplies.co.uk in Scotland.
There are 45 colours listed in the full range.
I see quoted prices are higher than other brands
at around £1.75 to £2 each pencil.
Van Gogh always prided themselves on the use of lightfast pigments but I have no information on the pastel pencil lightfastness. I would expect them to be very good, though without trying them I cannot say whether they are worth the premium price
If you are aware of other brands of Artists Quality Pastel Pencils on sale in the United Kingdom (or Europe) which you feel should be included in this list , please contact me with details and comments.
A Brand now more readily found in the UK, but easily found throughout mainland Europe, is included here.
Pencils have been manufactured by the Hardtmuth firm in the Czech Republic since the late 1800s and their ‘Gioconda’ pastel pencils are high quality at a reasonable price.
Martina, my correspondent from Germany tells me:
I find them wonderful to work with. They are very soft and smooth to apply on nearly every surface. They only have a small colour chart of 48 but these colours are good and you can mix and blend them easily.
The lightfastness ranges between very good and excellent and the colours are bright and clear.They are very easy to sharpen, even with battery operated sharpeners (Panasonic and Maped) and break very seldom.
You can buy them in sets of 12, 24, and 48 pencils in a tin and also in open stock and they are very cheap. I pay for 48 pencils about 36 Euros (for Germany www.adelja.de with very fair prices)
February 2014 Update
Latest revision December 2016
Caran d’Ache had not previously featured in this page as they had not marketed a competitor to the principal Pastel Pencil brands of Derwent, Faber-
In the early part of 2011, I was approached to try out a new Pastel Pencil line being developed in Geneva which would include a matching hard pastel stick made with the same material as the pencil core.
By the time my first tests were completed, 84 colours were in production and most were available in basic unlabled stock for testing.............
Since writing the above in January, the final launch of the product has taken place in Europe and now in the UK.
The new pencils are very good. They are smooth as well as being firm enough to take sharpening without a lot of breakages. Caran d’Ache recommend a knife or special pastel sharpener, but I sharpened 400 plus pastel pencils on test, in a manual spiral bladed Jakar desktop sharpener
(the model 5160) and had under 20 breakages. Pastels are a naturally fragile medium, and there will always be a few pencils that fracture in sharpening, but these are the best I have seen to date.
They are expensive -
I see Artifolk in the UK have them on sale at £2.75 each pencil with a buy 4 get one free offer which makes the individual price around £2.20.
Pullingers also stock them at around £2.30 each.
When I get more information on the remaining box prices I will post the details here.
For more information on UK supplies, see Ken Bromley Discount Art Supplies at :
Ken Bromley has the sets ( and the full boxed set of 84 )
Pullingers link is at :
Pullingers sell the individual pencils too You could also check out …….
I have prices for some of the boxed sets, and I see that the full sized box which contains 84 pastel pencils is being marketed (in a wooden box) by Granthams Art Discount in the UK for £215.00 ( list price £310) in December 2016. There are 84 matching pastel sticks (they call them ‘cubes’) which are available in 14 colour matched sets of 6 colours each( non duplicated ). These are sometimes available in the UK. Keep an eye on Ken Bromley, Jacksons and Granthams.
The Smaller sets, which are more generally available, contain 20 each of pencils and cubes -
There is also a starter set of 12 basic bright colours which sells for £50 I don’t have a price for the ‘Retouch’ set of 6 Earth colours but this could be around £30.
I think it could be worth looking out for a sample few colours and having a try to see how you find the feel of them.
They are expensive, but seem to be acknowledged to be the leader brand
Cretacolor Carre sticks full 72 colour set
As Derwent advise the pastel sticks are being discontinued, users who are keen on this product are advised to stock up while the tins are still available.
Tins of 24 and 36 sticks are currently listed as in stock at Amazon UK
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