is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

The Best Hard Pastels for 2024

hard pastels

Why do so many people switch to hard pastels rather than soft pastel pens? Well, for starters, firm pastels ensure they do not ruin their art pieces with messy lines and blends.

These hard pastels are a life-saver as they are formulated with the same ingredients as the soft ones, ensuring good quality. Yet, they come with a tad less pigment and more binder; thus, breaking or crumbing is not an issue.

Besides, these accessories are available in an extensive collection. They allow versatile types of application on different surfaces, especially paper.
This helpful article has included comprehensive reviews for each of the best hard pastels available on the market for your consideration. Moreover, do not miss out on the beneficial buying guide for new users!

Hard Pastel Reviews

1. Prismacolor NuPastel Artists Pastels

prismacolor nupastel artists pastels

The reason why the NuPastel Prismacolor hard pastels are suitable for fine illustrations and other creative art projects is that the vibrant colors are tougher and less messy than traditional powdery pastels. They do not break easily like soft pastels, yet remain creamy enough for you to do shading and blending.

Their durable, strong structure makes the pens ideal for classroom use but adults can still make use of them to create various artistic effects on paper. I believe that the hard pastels’ non-toxicity would be another key factor for you to be aware of, consequently, allowing small children to freely use these safe items.

Even after a big art project, you needn’t worry about the amount of effort required to clean up the hard sticks. The rich texture is the same as soft pens but they enable more resistance to breakage, not to mention less dusting for simple cleaning. These pastels are quick to use and also quick to clean.

There are 2 different ways to apply the artist’s pastels, which are both wet and dry. If you are planning to use their pigmented shades, here are a few tips to follow: crush your desired color into powder and mix it with water for rich layers with shiny liquid effects. While using dry pens would match the brand’s palette.

In terms of tightly rendered drawings, it is up to you to choose whether to dull or sharpen this art supply package from 12 to 96 counts. Their original shape is dull enough to effectively cover a large surface, however, you can sharpen them to achieve a fine point that performs well for detail works.

Unfortunately, this pastel manufacturer has not been concentrating much on the proper protection for its package. When the package first arrived, I saw that a majority of its components were damaged and it was probably because of the shooking throughout its transit without any protection for the pastels.

What We Liked
  • Tougher than traditional powdery pastels
  • Non-toxic for both adults and small kids
  • Resist breakage for easier cleaning
  • Can be used in both wet and dry ways
  • Easily sharpened to reach a finer point
What We Didn't Like
  • No protection for the package in delivery

It is cool how you can use the Prismacolor NuPastel Artists Pastels in versatile methods for the best illustration experience ever. It does not matter whether their users is a grownup or a little kid, these vivid pastels will not do any harm to your health. You can pick between their diverse quantities as well.

2. Charvin Water Soluble Semi Hard Pastels

charvin water soluble semi hard pastels

The Charvin Water-Soluble Semi-Hard Pastels Sticks come with a high master quality and 48 vibrant colors, which is considered a great number of art supplies for a whole classroom to share. Many people appreciate the exceptional thickness of these lightfast square sticks with a high pigmentation level.

Because the hard-colored pens are water-soluble at ease, you can use them as themselves or combine them with water for more creative painting. The painterly effects that these pastels create are fantastic while still retaining linework. They work brilliantly for both spontaneous and detailed sketching.

From my perspective, this square shape design is convenient for users to draw sharp, detailed lines and shade large paper areas at the same time. I highly value the packaging box that is moderately sturdy to bring along your road trips and holiday, but my advice is to put it inside something else for warranty.

Here are some recommended methods to take full advantage of the hard, water-soluble pastels. You might want to sketch them on a pre-wetted surface for soft color lay down, dip the pens deep in water beforehand for smoothly saturated lines, or use them dry then wash over with water to create blending effects.

Although the pigment sticks deliver an impressive range of pastel colors, their semi-hard structure does not seem so neat when being wetted. I found out that these pastels easily become sloppy and dissolve soon on my fingers after mixing with water. This flaw should be fixed for the best performance on all occasions.

What We Liked
  • A great pen quantity for classrooms
  • Ideal for spontaneous & detailed drawing
  • Include a sturdy square storage box
  • Multiple creative ways for fun use
What We Didn't Like
  • Dissolve easily after wetted with water

The possibilities to use the Charvin Water-Soluble Semi-Hard Pastels Sticks are limitless. No matter the method you apply to handle the lightfast pigments, I can assure you that the outcome you get will be beyond your expectations. Even if it is spontaneous or intended drawing, these pens would be a magical option.

3. Faber Castell Polychromos Pastels

faber castell polychromos pastels

Being one of the most reputable art supply brands in the world adds more reliability for users to pick the Polychromos Faber-castell hard pastels to color their drawings. The pigmented pastel colors that they bring to artists are long-lasting on paper and usually require the least amount of later fixing.

The pastel stick formula does not contain any lubricant or wax-like low-quality products on the market. Nevertheless, you can still smudge them out for fine color transitions on the selected surface. Thanks to having a hard structure compared to traditional crayons, these items are ideal for your daily drawing.

You may notice the square cross-section on each colored pen and it will help you to draw excellent lines and details while making sure they can shade larger areas as well. Their beautiful packaging makes this product a wonderful present for you to give creative adults and children from age 5 and above.

Other than the stable consistency and economical long-term use that many users fancy of this pastel set, I am impressed with their fine adherence on a series of diverse surfaces. The most common surfaces to apply these sticks on are paper, wood, cardboard, and stone, which are quite flexible for hard pastels.

Some people might find these art supplies a little too hard for them to fully make use of. The hard pens do not lend themselves to reach the common loose, painterly approach that most artists strive for with pastels in general. As a result, they also encounter difficulties in blending with water to enable better effects.

What We Liked
  • Require the least amount of fixing
  • No wax or lubricant in the formula
  • Attractive packaging to be a present
  • Work smoothly on multiple surfaces
What We Didn't Like
  • A bit hard to be well water-blended

Whilst loads of hard crayons need to be adjusted after their applications, I love the Faber-castell Polychromos Pastels and their minimal fixing on different surfaces. If this manufacturer can improve its wax-free formula for better water blending in the art-making process, it will gain much more attraction.

4. Solabela Prague Artist Chalks Pastels

solabela prague artist chalks pastels

The Solabela Prague Artist Pastel Chalks display a wide diversity of colored pens for a reasonably low price. Their hue variation is prone to the brighter side rather than dark shades. However, that does not prevent this 48-count bulk to be recognized as a value for the money as you will not regret buying it.

These high-quality chalks are a serious must-have in your toolbox to support multiple art projects at their finest including sketching, coloring, drawing, craft, and detailed work. It is straightforward for brand new art beginners to work with and master because using decorative items is a breeze to handle.

I love how their even wash of pigment is applicable to saturate and smoothly shade large paper areas. In fact, many users fancy the pastels for polymer clay coloring since their stiff texture is suitable for adding colors to such a rough surface. You should not worry about their sudden breakage in use.

There is beautiful hard packaging available for later storage of your bundle of hard chalk pastels. Its 2 internal trays help protect the pens from breakage and arrange them in the right place based on your preference. Not many pastel packages are this well-organized, therefore, I highly value this detail.

Its measurement is probably a bit smaller than average since a few previous users have complained about the sizing of these pastels. In my opinion, the small dimension does not necessarily affect their ability to perform well for a series of art tasks. But you might use up the colored stick much sooner than anticipated.

What We Liked
  • Deliver a wide variety of pastel colors
  • A simple use for beginners to deal with
  • Produce a smooth, even pigment wash
  • Trays inside the package for more organization
What We Didn't Like
  • Slightly smaller dimension than average

The most important factor to contribute to an outstanding pastel performance is undoubtedly a smooth application, and I am glad Solabela Prague Artist Pastel Chalks managed to achieve it. It’s convenient packaging with smart trays is also a perfect idea to help you clarify, arrange, and store these pens in order.

5. Mungyo Gallery Semi-Hard Pastels

mungyo gallery semi-hard pastels

The Mungyo Gallery Cardboard Box Semi-Hard Pastels have gone through careful selections of premium ingredients such as lightfast pigments and kaolin clay at its finest. You can consider them as a brilliant medium at an artist-grade but the overall price is easily affordable even for creative students.

Once again like a majority of hard pastel packagings, their compact exterior wins the recognition of many people as a loveable detail. It ensures a highly secure closure for a safe travel carriage, as well as being a stunning present to give your friends and family. I am certain that they will be deeply impressed.

You can see that these sticks share the same easy water blending feature with soft pastels. Nonetheless, the semi-hard pens have got to enable a less powdery mess and better control than soft-structured tools. That way, they are more favored and relied on by both inexperienced and professional artists.

After blending the sticks with water, you should use a brush or a tortillion to apply this colored substance to your desired surface. On the contrary, these pastels can be used directly with bare hands in their original hard form. Both ways guarantee to bring you the best outcome on multiple art projects.

The common square shape of these drawing sticks allows you to pursue both detailed and large artworks. It is your choice to add more details to your project or begin to shade large areas that require a touch of pastel color. I have high hopes that their performance will blow your mind regardless of the application.

It is absolutely good news to know that these coloring items have not run into any types of defection up until now. There are a lot of compliments showing love and satisfaction in using this full box of colored pastels. I hope the positive feedback about the product is enough to convince you about its quality.

What We Liked
  • Manufactured from high-quality ingredients
  • Hard, secured packaging for safe storage
  • Enables more control after water blending
  • Best compatible with a brush or tortillion
  • Ideal for both detailed and shading works
What We Didn't Like
  • No defections have been discovered so far
  • Mungyo Gallery Cardboard Box Semi-Hard Pastels


6. PRO ART Square Artist Pastels

pro art square artist pastels

The PRO ART Square Artist Pastel Set varies from 12 up to 72 counts per purchase. The items include diverse vibrant color tones such as landscape, portrait, and earth tones to serve specific creative purposes. Try mixing them up and you will produce an infinite variety of new tones to apply on different surfaces.

These hard pastels are manufactured in Korea with high-quality and reliable performance. I am impressed by their ACMI AP certification for non-toxicity that has been tested and approved by a professional toxicologist in a lab condition. They are completely safe but not for small children under 14 to use.

Their packaging is a small, compact size for sliding straight into your pockets or backpacks on the go with ease. In case you make direct contact with the colors by accident during work, they will support an easy get-off of your skin simply by washing the pastels away with soap and water, then you can carry on.

I feel safe since their number of dust particles is still in the acceptable range and does not make a mess after an application. These art tools are built to be hard so there will certainly be less powdery mess than soft pastel materials. Obviously, this feature is what makes the hard items a favorite piece of most artists.

The square sticks are helpful in the work to produce broad strokes and crisp details at the same time with their sharp colored points. It is ideal for you to use them for drawing and picture painting because both of their disciplines can perform side by side to help you create a mind-blowing series of effects.

Nevertheless, I feel the need to express my disappointment with the lack of color labels on each of these pens. Not all users are capable of knowing the precise name of the pastel sticks, so labels are essential in this case. I expect the manufacturer to keep in mind this downside and adjust it quickly.

What We Liked
  • Mixable colors for versatile tones
  • ACMI AP certified for high safety
  • Simple skin washes off if made contact
  • Perfect for both drawing and painting
What We Didn't Like
  • Missing name labels on each pen

As a rare art product that receives a trustworthy non-toxicity certification on this review list, I believe that you will feel the urge to rely on the PRO ART Square Artist Pastel Set for drawing and painting. Although their main tones are more earthy, mixing them is a great idea to gain more diverse shades.

7. Lyra Brown Tones Fine Art Hard Pastels

lyra brown tones fine art hard pastels

If you are looking for a fresh, pigmented mixture between earth and brown tones for dark coloring, the Lyra Brown Tones Fine Art Hard Pastels are a good value made from Germany. I enjoy the number codes for easier identification of each stick because not all users can remember these hues.

Being flexible hard pastels means they can perform well for all types of art projects such as sketching, drafting, and drawing. Their strong lead on the applied surface is supported by a high coloring power to ensure a smooth manner. You will not experience any kind of interruption while using the pens.

Furthermore, you may notice that they tend to leave a soft stroke finish after the application, though the oil pastels deliver a hard and stable structure. Despite their normal appearance like most coloring pens on the market, they provide a strong UV resistance for your paintings to last longer under the sun.

There are organized slots equal with the stick number inside their package to help you arrange these pens in perfect order. This is why you should always preserve the pastel container from the beginning for convenient storage later on. No more fear of losing any color in the process of creating beautiful art.

My only concern is why a compact package full of stunning earth tone pastels like this one is not compliant with any specific non-toxicity qualifications to be safe for children’s use. I believe that meeting the basic standard for no harmful ingredients will help promote these functional hard pastels in a better way.

What We Liked
  • Offer clear number codes on colors
  • Enable a smooth, uninterrupted lead
  • Provide UV resistance post-applied
  • Individual slots inside the package
What We Didn't Like
  • No non-toxicity certification is included

The detail that I enjoy the most while using the Lyra Brown Tones Fine Art Hard Pastels is how each pen is number coded for users to recognize them quickly and do not feel interrupted in work. Their UV resistance is another key factor to fight potential damages and preserve your art paintings over time.

8. Cretacolor Hard Pastels

cretacolor hard pastels

The compact Cretacolor hard pastel box includes vibrant assorted shades that are not too close on the color board so you can identify each of them at a glance. Despite being traditional colors, I know that you will manage to make the most out of these hard sticks by adding them to a variety of art projects.

Because the pens are built to have a stiff structure, they provide you with far better control in use than softer pastels. Their formula does not contain oil yet remains a high pigment level to become stunning colors. Thanks to the useful Lightfast feature, there will be less worry related to unwanted smudges after applied.

According to my observation, the separate slots inside their compact tin package are incredibly neat and beneficial for storage. You can put each pen in its original position to avoid messing things up after use. The pen edges are ideal for creating details while their full head will produce broad strokes.

What I notice most about this Cretacolor Hard Pastel Tin Set is the lack of a protective film cover on the sticks inside their package. Having this extra layer will make sure that the pastel set will not be damaged from external impacts. As a consequence, you can receive fully preserved and unbroken hard pens.

What We Liked
  • Offer a wide range of assorted shades
  • No oil in the formula with high vibrance
  • Dries up quickly to prevent smudges
  • Individual slots inside their package
  • Suitable for detailed and broad works
What We Didn't Like
  • The lack of a protective package layer

By not including any oil ingredient in their formula, these square sticks have already pleased a majority of amateur and professional artists. The overall pen package is one of the most optimal models I have experienced on the market, but I know that an additional protective layer will secure them more in delivery.

9. Koh-i-noor Gioconda Hard Pastels

koh-i-noor gioconda hard pastels

The Koh-i-Noor Gioconda 8112 Square Hard Pastels is a fine art collection made in the UK, which is the origin country of many well-known brands. Their hard construction provides much control in the process to serve a series of purposes, such as drawing, sketching, coloring, illustration, and other media.

This whole hard pastel package only measures around 4 inches, therefore, it cannot be more perfect for convenient storage with high portability to bring along on road trips. Their bold, vivid color performance ensures all of your art projects are filled with the best coloring layer that lasts longer than expected.

You will probably notice the glistening effect on your selected surface after applying these colorful square sticks on. During your work, I can promise that their smooth manner creates an amazing impression. It does not matter if you are a beginner or a professional artist, get the hard pastels to complete your projects.

There is no wax in their ingredients but I often see these items leaving a rather waxy finish after the application on paper. In my opinion, it is not a serious flaw because several other models might occur the same problem sometimes. Still, the manufacturer should figure out a method to improve this issue in a better way.

What We Liked
  • Perform well for multiple art purposes
  • Compact package for high portability
  • Great color pigment and glistening
  • Enable a smooth, uninterrupted lead
What We Didn't Like
  • Tend to leave behind a waxy finish

As the Koh-i-Noor Gioconda 8112 Square Hard Pastels are compatible with versatile art tasks, you will never regret purchasing them to perfect your own. Their color vibrance is obvious to observe from a distance regardless of the applied surface. Furthermore, the smooth manner allows you to glide the pen easily.

10. Staedtler Hard Pastels

staedtler hard pastels

Last but not least is an art toolset coming from another reputable brand, the Staedtler Hard Pastel Sticks that are compact with neutral-toned colors. I love the water-soluble feature of these pastels because they can be mixed to create a smudging art effect or simply dissolved in water for pen softening.

Since the assorted pastel pencils are sold in a limited 6-count per package, they are undoubtedly suitable for budget-minded artists or users wishing to experience new art-making items. That way, you can still try a new set without worrying about wasting money on something you may not prefer afterward.

These high-quality hard pastels might be the finest option you can have if you are a student, an aspiring artist, or even a professional who is often concerned about art supply budgets. With these premium sticks in hand, I believe that you will take advantage of them for drawing, coloring, sketching, and mixed media.

The benefit of purchasing hard pastels from a famous manufacturer is that you will rarely encounter any difficulty or defection in the usage process. I appreciate the advantages these items bring to their users and help them complete multiple types of art projects. They are worth buying for once.

What We Liked
  • Can be mixed, smudged, or dissolved
  • Ideal for creative users with low budgets
  • Work out well for different user types
  • Guarantee fine use for diverse media
What We Didn't Like
  • No defections are discovered so far

Although offering the least counts in one package compared to other sets in this article, you can rest assured that the Staedtler Hard Pastel Sticks enable more application methods than their competitors. Also, I think that this limited pastel number is always a good deal for users to try them out at first.

How To Choose Hard Pastels

how to choose hard pastels

Apart from the particular hard pastel product recommendations and reviews above, I understand that you would want more specific research on the key factors to assess these highlighters. Here is a beneficial buying guide with my collected knowledge to provide you with as much information as possible.

Versatile Applications

The original form of a hard pastel art is often a solid square stick in different shades. However, there are many ways for you to take advantage of these coloring pens to gain the art effects you desire. Here are a few applicable tricks for all users to prove how versatile their application can be.

Most people would prefer using the items in their initial dry state for sketching, drawing, coloring, or illustration. To create even more stunning effects on the selected surface, you should try to blend them with water as well. This condition is obtainable by breaking the sticks and dip them into the water for a soft texture.

Apart from these wet and dry uses, you should sharpen the sticks if you wish to create fine lines in more detailed work since they are removable at ease. Or else, these hard pastels can be left dull to provide full coverage for large area shading. Either way is promising for enhanced art effects on the piece.

Applicable Purposes

With a box of hard pastels, it is possible to use them for illustration, drawing, sketching, coloring, painting, shading and saturating, etc. The wide diversity of these art supplies is seriously limitless, and you can follow the tricks I have mentioned above to apply them to a suitable purpose.

All of these purposes are applicable on different types of surfaces, which are mainly paper but I assure you that they still work smoothly on wood, stone, and cardboard. In art projects in the future, I advise you to defy the purpose first, then select your desired surface to guarantee the effectiveness of these supplies.

Color Selection

A majority of hard pastel packages include traditional, basic assorted shades for a limited number of sticks such as 12 counts. You will likely discover much more diverse vivid colors in a larger box since complex hues such as dark indigo are unnecessary in a small package.

In most cases, a pastel bundle for classroom use does not have to involve these complicated colors. However, an individual who invests much time in drawing might need them to complete their work of art. Knowing your personal preference from the beginning will help save much time in deciding the unit.

Also, I think you should always prefer clear labels or at least number codes carved right on the pastel stick to identify the colors easier. Check out the color variation list on their packaging in advance to make sure you will obtain all the relevant colors to serve your art purposes in the best way possible.

Packaging Preservation

Though most people do not pay much attention to the hard pastel container, it plays an important role in the neat and convenient storage of your large pen bulk. Without this original packaging from the brand, you may have to spend extra money to get another storage method for the pastels.

Some packages include internal trays to help you with better organization of the tools and place them in your preferred order. Therefore, you must preserve this container box for useful later use. Do not tear the package apart when you first open it to reach out for the color sticks.

The good news is the pastel packaging is not only for simple household use, but it also supports you to carry the set along on road trips and holidays. Its convenience is a major bonus to release your creativity anywhere you set foot on with no limitation. I hope you would concentrate better on protecting the packaging.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

hard pastels reviews

Who is This for?

Hard pastels are ideal for professional artists and any creative individual or group. In general, they should be best used by grownups and children from the age of 5 for safety reasons. Even if the hard pastels are described as being non-toxic, you should still be careful when letting small kids use them.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Pastel Highlighters?

When you use a package of hard pastels, it is obvious that there will be both benefits and downsides of these art supplies that require an objective address. That is why I would like to point out and compare these common differences in hard pastel highlighters for you to understand the items clearer.


  • Enables less powdery mess and dust-free in work
  • Mainly formulated with premium non-toxic ingredients
  • Suitable for creating detailed and large area shading
  • Usable in dry and wet conditions with convenience
  • A travel-friendly packaging, also for present giving


  • Sometimes too stiff for normal blending with water.
  • Not perfectly applicable to all types of surfaces.
  • The absence of certain relevant colors in the box.
  • Does not provide a permanent coloring layer.

What are the Different Types of Pastel Highlighters?

For your information, there are 2 basic types of pastels including soft pastels and another oil version. The soft pastels can be considered pure pigment. In constitution, they are closer to the “chalk” definition than “crayons” because of their dryness and powderiness. You could break them down easily by hand.

While if you compare them in terms of consistency, oil pastels would be closer to “crayons”. However, crayons are prone to include wax in their formula and oil pastels do not. In general, these standard pastel highlighter types are not too different from each other aside from their ingredients and constructions.

What are the Most Popular Pastel Highlighter Brands?

In case you are wondering which pastel highlighter brands are the most trustworthy to rely on among thousands of worldwide manufacturers. These popular names will bring you a wide range of high-quality products at a reasonably low price range, along with other brilliant features for multiple projects.

Based on my experience, I would always opt for hard pastels manufactured by PRO ART, Charvin, Cretacolor, Faber-castell, Prismacolor, Solabela, Mungyo, Staedtler, Lyra, and Koh-i-Noor Gioconda. Many users around the world have chosen art supplies from these brands for their art pieces and the results are amazing.

The pastel highlighters from these brands promise to bring you a pleasant experience through their hard but easy-to-control structure. Not to mention the versatile applications these sticks can offer including both wet and dry uses. Plus, their portability rate even with large bundles is still high to make use of.

What is the Difference Between Hard and Soft Pastels?

Hard and soft pastels are manufactured from similar ingredients. However, the colors by hard ones are not as vibrant as soft pastels due to the extra binder and less pigment in their formula. In the end, hard pastels still offer higher durability to not crumble at ease, with less powdery mess and more control in use.

How to Use Hard Pastels?

Most people assume that it is easy for users of all ages to learn how to use hard pastels. It is not only about taking the color sticks out and applying them on any kind of surface you desire. I bet you would love the tips I am going to present below to level up your game in using pastels for your art projects.

The original dry state of square hard pastel sticks is suitable for multiple tasks such as illustration, sketching, coloring, drawing, and painting. Blending them with water is an effective softening method to produce even more impressive art effects. All you need to do is break the pens and dip them deep in water.

In addition to the common wet and dry applications, you can sharpen them to create finer lines in detailed work. The pastels are not too stiff to be removed and make sharp edges. On the other hand, it is possible to leave them in a dull condition and proceed to your large area shading with their full coverage.


Have you figured out any suitable products among these best hard pastels? I hope that you can still take advantage of my well-made buying guide and useful personal tips to select another item outside this article. Do not miss out on these hard pastels to perfect your art projects. Thank you for reading this.

4.5/5 - (20 votes)

Leave a Comment