Buttery and vibrant, soft pastels are a sheer delight to draw with. But these colorful sticks can be pricey. If you’re new to pastels and unsure where to start, uncertain if you’ll like the medium, or on a budget—or perhaps all of the above—try a student-grade product. These pastels are made with more filler and less-expensive pigments, tend to produce more dust, and are not as lightfast, but that doesn’t mean you can’t produce spectacular works with them. Note that unlike professional-grade pastels, these are sold in sets and aren’t available individually.
1. Sargent Art Artist’s Pastels
You get 48 colors in this chalk pastel set made by Sargent Art, a company based in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, that has making quality art supplies since the 1930s. Perfect for sketching and covering large areas with velvety textures, these sticks can be used on blackboards (where they are totally erasable) as well as on paper, while the set’s range of colors offer a myriad of creative possibilities. Each measuring 2 1/2 inches in length and 3/8 inch square in thickness, the sticks come in a box with plastic trays that hold each color separately. A nontoxic formula makes it safe for younger artists.
2. Prang Pastello Art Chalk for Paper
Specially formulated for use on paper, this set of nontoxic chalk pastels from Prang is great for both parents and kids and offers 12 colors to choose from. Measuring 2 1/8 inches long and 5/16 inch square, these sticks contain a high pigment load, ensuring superb color coverage, and they are made with the purest, additive-free chalk for a smooth stroke. Their thin profile also means they will fit easily in your child’s hand for hours of easy artmaking.
3. Mungyo Pastels
When it comes to getting maximum bang for your buck, it’s hard to beat these soft pastel sticks, which cost about as much as a decent sandwich for a set of 64 colors. Are they as good as professional-grade pastels? Obviously not, but if you’re a parent, an educator, or a beginner who wants to try pastels out without making a big investment, these will do just fine. These sticks are nontoxic and lightfast and contain enough pigment to provide colors that blend with and layer over each other with ease. One caveat: These sticks are small, each measuring only about 1 inch long.
4. Jack Richeson Jackson Landscape Soft Pastels
Despite the name, these soft pastels aren’t just for landscape, though this particular set gives you 24 colors, more than enough to create any kind of outdoor panorama you can imagine. Each stick measures 2 1/2 inches long and 3/8 inch square and comes encased in a slide-out plastic tray to avoid breakage. Though soft, these pastels produce less dust than other brands but still provide smooth and creamy coverage.
5. Creativity Street Square Artist Pastels
While pricier than either Sargent Art’s or Mungyo’s product, this set of 48 colors offers exceptional value for the money. With enough colors to satisfy all but the most demanding artist, these soft pastels combine the finest pigments and the purest chalk to produce rich, velvety textures that blend easily without generating too much dust. Use the edges of these square-profile sticks to create thin lines, or use the flat sides for quick, broad coverage.