Did you ever wonder why many artists consider pastel pencils among the best drawing and coloring tools?
It’s because they provide a vast range of opaque colors that deliver stunning quality and versatile performance. Pastel pencils also render excellent variable textures reliable for intricate detailing and vivid embellishments, making them highly blendable and workable.
With all these remarkable merits, your next step would be to find the best pastel pencils that will suit your techniques, skills, and artistic demands. That’s why I’ve listed the top-notch picks, their reviews, and highlighted features to narrow down your choices, including a detailed buying guide that will help you out. Keep reading!
- Best Pastel Pencil Reviews
- 1. Faber-Castel FC112160 Pitt Pastel Pencils
- 2. KOH-I-NOOR Artist’s Soft Pastel Pencils
- 3. Conté à Paris Pastel Pencils
- 4. Stabilo Carbothello Pastel Pencil
- 5. General 4400-12A Pastel Chalk Pencils
- 6. Derwent Pastel Pencils
- 7. Dainayw Skin Tone Pastel Pencils
- 8. MARCO Pastel Color Pencils
- 9. Caran D’Ache Pastel Pencils
- 10. Marco Raffine Artist Charcoal Pencils
- 11. Cielo Meraviglioso Marco Art Pencils
- 12. Stabilo CarbOthello Chalk-Pastel Pencils
- What to Look For When Buying Pastel Pencils
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Pastel Pencil Reviews
1. Faber-Castel FC112160 Pitt Pastel Pencils
This popular and trustworthy brand does not disappoint with its high-quality art supplies, including pastel pencils. Just like these Faber-Castell soft pastel pencils, they present an outstanding caliber in terms of color consistency and blendability.
The neat and sophisticated metal tin case looks pretty fancy, but beyond this durable container is a vast selection of 60 beautiful pastel pencils that are systematically arranged according to their shades.
The bottom presents the colors and I’d say that they’re true to their shades. I also like the partitions in the case, so the pencils won’t roll out.
Since it comes in 60 different colors, I think the color count is a great deal for its quality. I also recommend this for artists who work on large-scale projects and various art pieces.
If the appearance already makes it quite a treat, the pastel pencils’ quality and performance are even more. First of all, they are wax and oil-free, making them dependable for color layering and blending, especially if you want to achieve different depths of shades or color combinations.
If you also want to create dramatic effects on your artwork, it’s easy to smudge these pastel pencils without all the mess. And since they’re highly pigmented, these pencils maintain their vividness whether you’re producing color transitions or solid shades.
The lead diameter measures 4.3mm that ensures precision when you’re working on complex strokes and intricate details. I also love its ergonomic body design that lends a comfortable feeling when using it.
The only slight pitfall is the high pricing. But with its exceptional quality, it’s worth every penny.
2. KOH-I-NOOR Artist’s Soft Pastel Pencils
One of the best soft pastel pencils I’ve tried is from this Czech brand, which has been a pioneer in the art industry for decades. While that already makes it a worthy purchase, these Koh-I-Noor pastel pencils also stand out for their exceptional blendability.
There’s no trouble in using these pastel pencils as they just glide smoothly on the surface. And if you want to build the colors or layer them, they blend seamlessly.
Other than that, these pastel pencils render superb pigmentation that preserves color brilliance and accuracy.
Plus, they’re free of wax and oil, which is a significant factor for effortless applications and color transitions. You can also sharpen them easily and neatly without any residues or waxy buildups.
The soft pastels’ opacity is also one of the best things I love about this set. Whether you’re creating precise and delicate strokes or shading large areas, these pencils give off smooth and vivid colors. Even when you blend them out to build artistic effects, you’ll still see the colors’ stunning quality and vibrancy.
For the color count, I guess 24 assorted pastel pencils are just enough for frequent coloring and drawing. It has the essential colors, including some blacks and neutral tones that amateur artists would need for a basic color palette, not to mention its affordable price.
I’ve got no issues when it comes to its quality and performance. However, I think the color range is limited and might not be the perfect choice for professional artists who work on huge projects.
3. Conté à Paris Pastel Pencils
Conté à Paris is one of my favorite picks when it comes to neat and organized color classifications. The numeric codes easily identify the colors, particularly if you’re switching between shades with similar undertones like yellow, brown, orange, green, and blue.
While that makes it an attractive purchase, it still comes down to the performance, and these soft pastel pencils amazingly meet my expectations in terms of their opacity and blending abilities.
First of all, the pencils deliver a nice color payoff, which leaves a bright and vivid range of hues. I find that an imperative factor as it amplifies the details for lifelike features and embellishments.
Other than that, they are remarkably workable that results in effortless blending and layering. I also like how it provides smooth and seamless color transitions, especially if you want to achieve various intensities.
One more thing I noticed is the 5mm lead diameter, which is relatively thicker than the pastel pencils I’ve tried before. But if you need to build solid shades or create thick strokes, there’s no hassle using it.
Since these pencils are soft, they just glide seamlessly on the surface, and you can easily cover large spaces. However, if you aim to draw intricate details or superfine details, I don’t recommend using this.
Nevertheless, this 48-piece set comes at a reasonable price for its performance and quality. But here’s a caveat: they’re difficult to sharpen and the packaging is pretty flimsy.
4. Stabilo Carbothello Pastel Pencil
Stabilo might be popularly known for highlighters, but if you sift through a little more to their extensive art collection, you’ll be surprised to find affordable sets of pastel pencils such as this Carbothello pastel pencils.
Just so you know, these aren’t like your ordinary pastel pencils; they’re premium quality chalk pastel pencils. Their difference from the typical ones is that they render a charcoal-like feel that you can use to produce dramatic results and a vast range of artistic effects.
It’s easy to blend the colors or layer them to produce beautiful gradient applications. I like how seamless the shades are, and while they’re chalk pencils, they don’t leave any particles or residues. These non-toxic pencils are break-resistant.
It offers a quality where you can blend or smudge out the colors using a blending tool or your fingertips. Amazingly, they don’t leave messy smears or color streaks when you blend them out.
I also find it fascinating that they give off a vivid color range, proving that they’re lightfast and highly pigmented. And since they’re impeccably vibrant, they work great on specialty papers and dark surfaces although these pastels are also compatible with multiple paper types.
Moreover, these pencils’ versatility is not limited to dry techniques because they’re partially soluble. This means that you can also use this with a brush and water to produce watercolor effects.
I also like the 4.4 diameter lead, which I think is reliable for complex strokes and details. Therefore, if you’re all about precise contouring and intricate coloring, I recommend using this one.
Other than that, I think you’ll have wonderful color options with this 60-piece set. Plus, it comes in a durable metal tin for neat and organized storage.
The only thing I don’t like is the strong chemical smell.
5. General 4400-12A Pastel Chalk Pencils
If you’ve just embarked on your art journey with chalk pastel pencils, you’d probably agree that it’s practical to start with a few colors. That’s when I came across this General’s pastel chalk pencils review and found an impressive find with this set.
The richness of colors is on point, allowing you to produce brilliant and strong color applications. Since they are acid-free, these chalk pencils ensure stunning opacity, and their archival quality deters fading over time.
Therefore, you can expect vivid shades even when you blend them out or smudge them to elevate your artwork with artistic designs.
Although they’re chalk pencils, I’m surprised that they aren’t very chalky. It’s nice to see that these pencils don’t leave any clutter or messy residue. Plus, they’re oil-free, which is why they can provide gradient hues when you layer or mix them.
I’m not sure about the lead diameter, but it’s fine enough to enhance your art with intricate outlines or contours when lettering or chalking. I love using the white color pencil to refine details and highlights, especially when working against the dark paper.
Furthermore, 12 colors might seem limited, but I think it’s fairly sufficient for beginners. You’ll have the basic colors including black, gray, and white, to elevate your artwork. They’re also systematically arranged by number codes for easy identification.
Apart from that, the sharpener is a bonus! I find this a nice additional treat as some sharpener brands aren’t always compatible with chalk pencils.
It has indeed tons of impressive features except for its quantity. If you need an extensive color range, you should skip this.
6. Derwent Pastel Pencils
These Derwent pastel pencils have become a favorite among beginners and professional artists because of three reasons: remarkable color brilliance, smooth and messy-free applications, and excellent blendability.
While these are some of the primary features and advantages, there’s a lot more to love about this 72-piece set. As I mentioned, one of its main merits is the color quality that renders bright and vivid shades.
It’s amazing to see how these pencils can accentuate artwork details and bring out a stunning array of colors whether you’re using dark or light paper. This lets you showcase your work creatively regardless of the paper tone without compromising the color quality.
The opacity of colors also lets you produce vibrant details and embellishments as well as alter effects with subtle and soft tones for a sophisticated look. Plus, the colors are so much easier to identify because they’re systematically arranged by number codes and shade labels.
One more thing I noticed is that they don’t leave awful smears or residues when you smudge them or smoothen them out. It exhibits versatility that allows you to venture into different techniques, especially if you want to achieve dramatic effects.
Other than that, these pastel pencils blend nicely and you can see seamless combinations and balance between the colors. I like how they apply smoothly and extremely easily, saving a lot of hassle so you can get the job done in no time.
If your art requires fine lines or detailed strokes, the 4.5mm lead diameter will do the trick. This maximizes flexibility and hence, lets you cover large areas, deliver generous applications, fill in smaller areas, and create crisp lines and strokes.
While everything seems to be on point, sharpening these pastel pencils is a headache. Unfortunately, they disintegrate or break easily when you sharpen them. Hence, extra care is a must.
7. Dainayw Skin Tone Pastel Pencils
Perfecting a portrait’s skin tone can be pretty challenging. Aside from enhancing the details and highlights, it is imperative to balance the shades to achieve a realistic skin color. With that in mind, these Dainayw skin tone pastel pencils would be the best palette for you.
It comes in a set of 12, which I think is enough to mix and match the shades, and hence, you can pull off your desired skin tone shades. It’s also nice that it includes black, gray, and white colors as they can add shadows, contrasts, and other highlighting strokes.
Aside from that, there’s no trouble blending and smudging these pastels, allowing you to freely and seamlessly combine these neutral shades with either a blending stump or your fingertips.
One more thing I noticed is the excellent lightfastness. This retains the color quality, deters discoloration and fading, and hence, allows you to preserve your artwork for the longest time possible.
If you look closely at the core, you’ll find a 5mm soft lead that can produce effortless applications whether subtle or rigid lines. This also allows you to control it easily and comfortably.
Although the pencils feature flat or rounded tips, I find them convenient to use, especially when filling in large or creating various line widths. They also have edges that can be used for complex details or fine strokes.
However, take note that you can’t use a standard sharpener to refine their tips. Since the pencils are designed with soft cores, they can break or crumble. That’s why it is safe to use sandpaper to sharpen the lead.
8. MARCO Pastel Color Pencils
If you fancy the vibrant and playful pastel shades in colored pencils, you’ll find your best choice with this MARCO 24-piece pastel pencil set.
Aside from the trendy eye-candy pastel colors, the quality and performance make this colored pencil set an attractive option.
Among its finest features is the soft core that maximizes the pencil’s flexibility in terms of seamless coloring and blending. They have creamy textures similar to oil pastels pencils that lend a convenient and smooth feel every time I work on intricate details or filling in large spaces.
Since the core is soft, there’s no trouble layering the coloring and blending them to achieve different depths and line widths. This is also the reason why it’s suitable for beginners as these pencils are easy to use.
When it comes to their opacity, the pastel hues deliver a bright and beautiful spectrum of colors that will embellish your artwork with subtle and sophisticated effects.
If you’ll see the shades, they’re actually lighter than the conventional color selection for colored pencils, but they’re surprisingly highly pigmented. Every stroke renders artistic pops of colors without skipping or leaving pencil shavings.
Although I’m not quite sure about the exact diameter, I appreciate the pointed tips because they make highlighting, drawing, and coloring so much easier. Apart from that, refining details and getting through tight spaces are effortless.
If there’s one thing I don’t like about these pencils, it’s probably the struggle with sharpening. Since the core is soft, it requires extra care when sharpening them; otherwise, the lead will break easily.
9. Caran D’Ache Pastel Pencils
It seems like you can unlock all creative possibilities when you have exceptionally pigmented pastel pencils. And that sounds to be true with these professional quality Caran D’Ache pastel pencils.
I’ve always been fond of this brand, especially with their lineup of dry pastel pencils such as this set. It comes in 20 assorted colors, which I think is perfectly enough to elevate your artwork with vivid hues.
I like how you can choose between primary colors and neutral colors to come up with your desired artwork. It also includes white, black, and some gray tones for additional embellishments like producing highlights, contrasts, and shadows.
With its outstanding opacity and pigment concentration, you can effortlessly create life-like portraits, landscapes, illustrations, and other compositions of your choice.
Since these are dry pastels, you’ll expect maximum blendability without leaving any awful smears or residues. They’re oil-free and hence, allowing you to achieve a vast range of color combinations or produce artistic effects.
The rich texture is also a contributing factor to why they are easy to blend. Plus, it can deliver smooth and versatile applications whether you’re simply coloring or creatively smudging or blurring the colors for dramatic effects.
I find it pretty impressive that the shades look beautifully blended rather than messy chaos. Apart from that, they’re remarkably lightfast wherein the colors stay intact for the longest time possible; they don’t easily fade or discolor over time.
The variable consistencies and showcasing complex details all depend on the 4.7mm lead diameter, which is impressively resistant and long-lasting.
However, I think that the price is slightly expensive for its color count.
10. Marco Raffine Artist Charcoal Pencils
If you’re working painstakingly on complex illustrations and decorative details, you can accentuate them using white pastel pencils. One of the best brands you can try is this 12-piece pack from Marco Raffine.
What I like about these pencils is the variety of textures, which range from soft, medium, and hard. You can use the soft pastels for covering large spaces or creating shadows and highlights, while the medium or hard ones are great for rigid lines or refining intricate details.
The soft ones render smooth and effortless applications, which I find very comfortable to use because they just glide on the surface without skipping.
On the other hand, the advantage of harder pastels is that you won’t have to sharpen them very frequently. They’re durable and won’t break easily, allowing you to use them for long periods.
Aside from that, these whites are all highly pigmented, which makes them very workable whether you’re producing deeper white tones, highlights, or filling in vast areas.
Aside from that, these whites are all highly pigmented, which makes them very workable whether you’re producing deeper white tones, highlights, or filling in vast areas. They work great on black paper or dark surfaces because you’ll see their vividness and brightness very well.
Moreover, the pointed tips are fine enough to draw delicate details or define outlines and embellishments. And because they resemble regular pencils, these white pastel pencils are easy to hold and feel nice in hand.
My only issue is that you can’t identify which ones are soft pastels or hard pastels. Sometimes, you’ll have a mix of them, but sometimes you won’t and will only have a single kind included in the set. I hope this will be improved.
11. Cielo Meraviglioso Marco Art Pencils
Don’t you just love the bright and preppy hues of color pastel pencils? The colorful palette of these 24-piece Marco colored pencils will ramp up your work with delightful pastel shades. I think it’ll be a nice addition to your color pencil arsenal, especially if you want to decorate your artwork with soft tones.
These pastel pencils are not neon, but they’re bright and vivid enough to effortlessly showcase deep and solid colors. This also allows you to create strokes or fill in areas smoothly without repeatedly coloring or shading the same areas.
Although I usually thought of pastel hues as dull or washed-out colors, I’m impressed how these pencils render an array of vibrant shades, making them a lot easier to use for building color depths. That’s why I recommend them for various purposes whether you’re coloring, drawing, or enhancing sketches.
This brand also highlights the soft core leads for smooth and seamless applications. And since these are colored pencils, you’ll expect creamy textures, which slightly resemble Prismacolor pastel pencils.
I think it is suitable for producing dramatic effects or smudging out some lines or sketches for artistic embellishments. They glide on paper like butter, making these pencils enjoyable to use when coloring and drawing.
Another fascinating feature is that the leads are break-resistant despite them being soft. They don’t easily break or crumble. Apart from that, the lead measures 3mm, which lends a very fine tip that can easily get into narrow spaces or create intricate details.
Take note that these aren’t artist-grade colored pencils, but they would be ideal for beginners, children, and students.
On a different note, the only slight downside is the difficulty when sharpening them. You have to be extra careful when doing so, otherwise, they might break quickly.
12. Stabilo CarbOthello Chalk-Pastel Pencils
If you’re on a hunt for an extensive collection of chalk pastel pencils, you’ll probably find a treasure trove with this 60-piece set.
Just by looking at its storage and packaging, the wooden case gives off a sophisticated touch that will definitely look stunning with your color pencil stash. You can tell that the manufacturer doesn’t skimp on quality, not to mention its popular and reputable brand.
While that’s already pretty impressive, what stands out in this set is the adaptable characteristics of these Stabilo chalk pastel pencils. You can blend or dry them with a blending stump or fingertips to produce creative effects.
I’m also surprised that these pencils are partially soluble, meaning that you can use them with water and brush to create watercolor effects. Therefore, if you like working with various art media, I recommend using this set.
When it comes to color quality, this brand never disappoints with its rich pigment load and excellent lightfastness. This makes the colors long-lasting while preserving the vivid tones and preventing them from discoloration and fading.
The selection of colors is truly an amazing feast; I think you can have all the colors that you need right from the neutral tones, primary colors, blacks, grays, and many more. Each shade is also labeled with a number code.
They are all smooth, bright, and impeccably vibrant, which lends superior results even when you’re coloring or making sketches. I also find no hassle blending and layering them since the core leads are soft.
One more thing I noticed is that they aren’t chalky and don’t leave any messy residues, and hence, allow you to keep your artwork neat all the time.
However, make sure you have a budget for this because this set can be costly.
What to Look For When Buying Pastel Pencils
Color Selection & Opacity
Pastels pencils come in a wide range of colors that you may purchase in sets. Therefore, it is imperative to determine which hues you want to focus on. There are sets that are available in primary shades, warm tones, and neutrals while some offer an extensive collection that covers a vast spectrum of colors. Some brands also offer specialty color sets such as skin tones, whites, and blacks.
As you decide on your color choice, the next thing to do is settle for highly-pigmented and lightfast colors. These pencils’ remarkable opacity provides bright and vivid colors that can highlight your artwork’s decorative details and radiant colors. They don’t fade too quickly or discolor over time due to their excellent lightfastness. You may consider the brand or check the reviews to get an overview of their pigment quality.
Lead Diameter & Quality
When your target is to cover large areas, fill in small spaces, or create complex details, one of the primary factors to consider is the lead diameter. Every pencil is designed with a particular lead diameter that can either be thick or thin for your artwork detailing. Fortunately, manufacturers indicate this detail, so you’ll know which sizes or diameters to go for. But no matter what your option is, make sure that the leads are durable and won’t easily crumble, especially when you sharpen them.
Pastel Type & Textures
The textures and overall artwork quality greatly depend on the pastel type you’re using. Just like the ones in our list, you’ll find different pastel pencil variants such as soft pastels, hard pastels, and chalk pastel pencils. Each kind renders significant textures that can either be smooth or a little scratchy.
For example, pastel pencils with soft cores may provide creamy or buttery textures that can deliver effortless applications when coloring or using various blurring techniques. However, there might be a problem when sharpening them as they tend to break or crumble easily.
When picking out chalk pastel pencils or hard pastel pencils, you should make sure they have rigid and long-lasting leads that aren’t chalky or dusty, are break-resistant, and won’t leave messy residues.
Versatility & Blendability
Pastel pencils are all about mixing and blending colors, but there will always be room for experimenting and layering different shades to achieve a broader range of colors. That’s why you should go for pencils with maximum blendability, which will depend on the type of pastel pencil, lead quality, and textures. This will allow you to achieve seamless coloring and produce different blending techniques for artistic effects.
On the other hand, if you like working with various art media, some brands offer versatile pastel pencils that can be used as dry or wet media such as the Stabilo Carbothello pastel pencils.
When you’re quite unsure about your choices, one of the quickest routes is to consider the brand name and its reputation. If you’re buying your first set or looking for a replacement for your substandard pastel pencils, reputable and popular brands such as Faber-Castell, Stabilo, Derwent, and Caran D’Ache have been pioneers in the art industry that offer a stunning lineup of color pencils.
However, the best pastel pencils brand doesn’t always have to be expensive or popular. There are some affordable art brands to try that can provide great quality pencils that will suit your needs and preferences.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who is This for?
Many artists consider pastel pencils as staple art tools that can enhance their artwork’s beauty in terms of color presentation, precision, and pigment quality. But these pencils are also designed for beginners, students, art enthusiasts, colorists, and artists of all levels and ages who love to play with colors and create wonderful art pieces.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Pastel Pencils?
Among the primary advantages of using pastel pencils are convenience and an exceptional selection of opaque colors. With these wonderful merits, you’ll be able to elevate your artwork, define details, or demonstrate an array of brilliant colors that can last long. As they look like regular pencils, you can comfortably hold and use them when coloring, drawing or sketching.
However, the disadvantage of these pencils is that some brands have poor quality leads and pigment loads that may result in mediocre artwork. When these issues are present, pastel pencils might break or crumble easily, particularly when you sharpen them. Some colors won’t be as vivid as they should be.
What are the Different Types of Pastel Pencils?
They may vary from soft pastels, hard pastels, and chalk pastels. Soft pastel pencils or pencils with soft core leads work great on filling in larger areas and providing smooth color transitions. They usually have creamy textures that render hassle-free applications, making them very convenient to use.
On the other hand, hard pastels have rigid leads that are reliable for accurate detailing and intricate strokes. If you want to exhibit charcoal textures or achieve soft and sophisticated tones and effects, chalk pastel pencils will do the trick. Since they typically have dry textures, they’re impeccably blendable, versatile, and suitable for various techniques.
What are the Most Popular Pastel Pencil Brands?
There are a plethora of brands to try, but the following are some of the most popular and trustworthy brands that have provided high-quality pastel pencils throughout the years:
- Caran D’Ache
- Marco Raffine
- Conté à Paris
- General Pencil
What Paper do You Use for Pastels?
If you’re using pastel pencils, they are pretty much compatible with different paper types like drawing sketchbooks, art journals, or illustration boards.
However, surface texture and weight may vary from one paper to another. Some have smooth surfaces while some have a slight tooth on them.
Since pastel pencils aren’t like oil pastels that require heavyweight and slightly textured surfaces, you can try using them on ordinary sketchbooks or art paper, but make sure they aren’t overly thin or smooth for the best results. I also won’t advise using heavily textured or rough paper as this may damage the pencil tip.
For colored papers, you may choose which undertones you want, depending on the shades you’re using. You may opt for a dark or black paper if you want to emphasize white or any bright pastel pencil colors.
How to Use Pastel Pencils?
They resemble regular pencils, so you may hold and use these pastel pencils as you would with an ordinary pencil when drawing, sketching, or creating strokes. When coloring, you can use your forefinger and thumb or hold it according to your comfortable hand position.
To wrap up, the best pastel pencils can amplify your work and exhibit a perfect spectrum of colors and stunning presentation. You can always choose the textures, color selections, and versatile features that will suit your needs and preferences. Just make sure that you’re settling for long-lasting and reliable quality that will exhibit your artwork the best way possible.
If you’re still not sure which set to buy, the reviews, top picks, and an in-depth buying guide mentioned above will help you come up with a worthwhile purchase. Hope this helps!