THREE PASTEL BRANDS

This page provides information on all three brands of pastel and their respective charts. The aim isn’t to make a direct comparison between the brands although comparisons might be made to emphasize a point. My purpose is simply to share personal insights into the three brands of pastel as objectively as possible. I talk about similarities and differences that have interested me as well as some recommendations for building a pastel collection.

Box of 72/380 Unison pastels
Box of 72/380 Unison pastels

To my knowledge the full range of 380 pastels cannot be purchased in a single presentation box set. My own personal collection is stored in black Unison brand cardboard boxes that hold 72 pastels each. The individual pastels are protected in a foam insert.

The pastel sticks are rolled and formed by hand. They are smaller in length and fatter in width than the other two brands. A small paper sleeve is wrapped around the centre of each stick but does not cover them fully.

It might be because I have large hands but I prefer the size and look of the Unison pastels.

The majority of Unison pastels give a smooth buttery application of colour. There are a few pastels that are rather more gritty  such as some Natural Earth colours. There are also some unusually transparent colours such as Blue Violet 12. Occasionally you will also find pastels that are undermixed and speckled with pigment. This may be an unaviodable aspect of the pastel making process. It may also be unproblematic if you don’t mind occassional streaks of colour in the passage you are working on. Notice how the pastel below is speckled with both dark and light pigment spots.

Tray1. 100/400 Schmincke pastels
Tray1. 100/400 Schmincke pastels

The full range of 400 pastels are contained in a beechwood presentation box. Inside are 4 trays each holding 100 pastels. Two small fabric handles are fixed centrally to the tray edges to help lift the trays from the box. The trays might tip and pivot when lifted out due to the handles being positioned centrally. If they were offset from the centre this might prevent them tipping. However the box and trays are very well made, beautifully presented and the pastel sticks are easily accessible.

The pastel sticks are long and thin compared to Unison pastels but not as thin as the Sennelier pastels. They are wrapped in full length glassine paper sleeves.

There were more than 20 broken sticks in the new set of 400 pastels which isn't too bad considering how soft they are. Having said that there were four pastel sticks that were too hard to use on normal non-abrasive paper. I had to apply a pastel ground to the charts for these four pastels to adhere properly. The colours in question are Quinacridone violet 048B & 048D and Purple 1, 049B & 049D.

Due to the incredible softness of the Schmincke pastels there is a lot of waste. When using these pastels on a non-abrasive surface they gave off two to three times more pigment dust than Unison pastels. I believe Schmincke pastels are designed  to be used on an abrasive/sanded surface.

The Schmincke range of pastels are logically ordered into 75 sets of five graduated tones. Each small set has one true/default colour, one shade (with black) and three tints (with white).

In general the Schmincke range of colours is quite saturated/chromatic. In other words the colours are bright, vivid, cosmetic and contemporary compared to some of the Unison colours which appear more earthy and natural. The Unison range does not have some of the lipstick pinks and lucious violets found in the Schmincke range.

Due to the bright saturation of colour the Schmincke charts are very pleasing to the eye.

Tray3. 175/525 Sennelier pastels
Tray3. 175/525 Sennelier pastels

Sennelier offer the largest range of pastels of the three brands. The 525 pastel sticks can be bought together in a large presentation box. This box contains 3 trays of 175 pastels each. There are wooden strips separating the seven rows of pastels in each tray which offers them good protection from breakage. The pastels are packed in closely together and not easily accessible, therefore difficult to get hold of and remove from the tray.

Sennelier pastel sticks are slightly longer and thinner than Schmincke pastels. They are wrapped in full length glassine sleeves. The reference number of each colour is printed at both ends of the wrapper. This is a good design as the wrappers can be torn and partially removed from either end without losing the reference number.

Comparing pastels
Comparing pastels