6 Best Pastel Pencils for Beginners and Professional Artists

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Pastel pencils arranged in a circle

Our Top Pick For Best Pastel Pencils

Faber Castell Pitt Pastel Pencils

Faber-Castell Pitt Pastel Pencil Set - Assorted Colors, Tin Box, Set of 60
Replacement pastel pencils are available on Blick

I chose Faber Castell as one of the best pastel pencils because of the experience and quality put into these Pitt pastel pencils that professional artists rely on for longer-lasting paintings. Making this one of the top pastel pencil brands.

Gain insights through our reviews on some of the best pastel pencils on the market today used by beginners and professionals. 

Being one of the oldest and purest pigmented art forms out there you can produce some amazingly detailed artwork with these pastel pencils given enough practice. Anything from realistic portraits to landscapes is possible. The sky is the limit!

I have seen artwork that looks like a photograph to the simpler less detailed work of abstract art.

Pastel pencils have found their rightful place in the artist’s hand as they are as versatile as any other art medium out there and possibly even more so.

See my reviews of some of the 5 best-colored pencils and best oil-based colored pencils used by beginners and professionals if you looking for some professional-grade colored pencils.

I really enjoy using pastel pencils because of how easy they are to blend and their ability to add color to darker papers instead of just white. Some really neat effects can be had when using a black piece of paper since you are basically using the paper as the shadow areas leaving you to add mid-tones and highlights.

The Best Pastel Pencils Review

After hours of research, I narrowed the field to just 6 of the best pastel pencil brands that will meet most beginner artists as well as professionals. Any one of these pastel pencil sets will do the job and it came down to comfort and pigment application and blending.

But there are plenty of other pastel pencils on the market to choose from which I will be adding to this review. You may not find my list as having the best pastel pencils so I recommend testing some other brands for yourself.

One quick note is that the best pastel pencils can get a bit pricey but you can always buy a smaller set in most brands or even single pastel pencils.

As an affiliate, I earn a commission from the links on this site. This does not affect the price in any way but helps to bring even more great content.

1. Faber Castell Pitt Pastel Pencils

Faber-Castell Pitt Pastel Pencil Set - Assorted Colors, Tin Box, Set of 60

Replacement pastel pencils are available on Blick


  • Medium lead hardness
  • Great for details
  • Blends easily
  • Rich in pigment
  • Sharpens to a fine point for detailed work
  • Oil-free binding agent
  • Comfortable to use
  • Light resistant


  • No color name on the pencil. Just a number
  • Can break if not sharpened correctly
  • Not recommended for children

This set of Faber Castell Pitt pastel pencils comes in a metal tin with 60 pastel pencils and is the largest set available by Faber Castell which has a good variety of colors which makes Faber Castell pastel pencils my choice for the best pastel pencils.

Pitt pastel pencils are an excellent choice for beginner or professional artists. Smaller sets of 36, 24, and 12 counts are available or individual pastel pencils are available also.

I was unable to find a lead diameter for these. But customer reviews show these can be good for fine details on intricate applications.

 I have seen a few negative ratings for sharpening but had a hard time finding anything else negative. Sharpening pastel pencils can be somewhat tricky anyways.

Customer reviews show that this pencil worked well when blending. A larger barrel size makes this a comfortable pastel pencil to use and is a great choice to add to your pastel pencil collection.

2. Derwent Pastel Pencils

Derwent Pastel Pencils - Set of 72

Replacement pastel pencils are available on Blick


  • A lot of color variations
  • Medium to soft pastel
  • Easy to blend
  • Good control of details
  • The color name is on the pencil
  • Use dry or wet
  • 4mm diameter core
  • Wood case with a bar to hold pencils in place


  • Can break when sharpening with a sharpener

This set of Derwent pastel pencils comes in a nice wooden case with 72 colors. The magnetic bar helps hold pencils in their location during transport. Buy 1 pencil or get 12, 24, or 36 count sets. Derwent also carries a 12 pack set designed for skin tones.

Derwent pastel pencils would be my choice for the best set of pastel pencils for beginners as they are affordably priced.

There are not as many reviews for Derwent pastel pencils but the ones I read were positive except when using a pencil sharpener. Use a hobby knife or razor blade when sharpening these pastel pencils then refine your tip with some fine-grit sandpaper.

Customer reviews suggest that they enjoyed this pencil and would recommend it to others. I have a set of watercolor pencils from this company and they are of high quality. The Derwent brand has been around for a while and is quite popular among many artists.

3. Conte A Paris Pastel Pencils

Cont� � Paris Pastel Pencil Set - Assorted Colors, Set of 48, Box

Replacement pastel pencils are available on Blick


  • Wax Based Core
  • Compliments softer pastels
  • 5mm lead diameter
  • Good for creating sharper details
  • Available Individually
  • Smooth pigment application


  • Possibly break in a pencil sharpener
  • Smaller variety

This is a set of 48 assorted pastel pencils and is available in a 24 count set also. The 24 piece set comes in a metal tin while the 48 comes in a cardboard box. That is not good for storage and transport meaning you may need to find a case when not working at home.

 I read claims that this pastel pencil has a harder lead which would mean a lesser light-fast rating but I do not think this is the case because I had better luck using the white over darker colors.

While also read that Conte A Paris Pastel has a softer core. The cause of this conflict appears to be that Conte A Paris may have improved the lead softness of their best pastel pencils line.

What I can say is that I have an old set and the lead is on the softer side. I am pleased with their quality. Customers who bought this item were happy with the product.

4. Koh-I-Noor Gioconda Pastel Pencils

Koh-I-Noor Gioconda Soft Pastel Pencil Set - Assorted Colors, Set of 48

Replacement pastel pencils are available on Blick


  • 4.2mm lead diameter
  • Medium to soft pastel
  • Generally smooth application
  • Decent variety
  • Available Individually
  • Sharpens Nicely


  • Can have a grainy area here and there
  • Possible blending issue with some but not all colors
  • May not be available individually

This set of Koh I Noor is a 48 count pastel pencil set that comes packaged in a nice presentable tin case.

Noor Gioconda pastel pencils are considered to have the best pastel colors for natural skin tones and this is why I chose this set to review.

I am unsure whether the name is on the pencil or not due to conflicting research. Though it does seem this pastel brand lays down smooth with the occasional gritty spot in the lead. 

Koh I Noor color range seems to be somewhat popular. Sets of 12, 24, 36, and 48 are available. You can purchase single pastel pencils.

The casing is made from California cedar wood which helps to save the core when sharpening.

5. Stabilo Carbothello Pastel Pencils

Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencil Sets - Set of 60

Replacement pastel pencils are available on Blick


  •  4.4mm lead diameter
  • Rich in pigment
  • Soft lead hardness
  • Layers and blends smoothly
  • Good for details


  • Are NOT non-toxic
  • Does not sharpen well in a sharpener
  • The color name is not on the pencil

Stabilo Carbothello pastel pencils is a well-known and trusted brand of pastel pencils in the art industry and their soft pastel pencils are no exception.

This 60-piece set comes in a metal tin with a hinged lid and is available in 12, 24, 36, and 48 but in a tin case. Single pastel pencils are also available.

This set of Carbothello pastel pencils is for a more professional artist and not for children due to the toxicity of some colors. Read the labels of art materials for this kind of information. Blenders, gloves, and masks may be necessary for safe use.

Stabilo Carbothello pastel pencils are for professional use and should be out of the reach of children since some of the pigments can be toxic. With that said. There are positive customer reviews pointing toward a quality pastel pencil.

I don’t think Stabilo Carbothello are good pastel pencils for beginners but are the best for professional artists. But if you are a beginner just be sure to use tools for blending or were gloves.

There are a lot of art materials that use more traditional ingredients. This ensures the purest form of the pigment is not lost which is what makes the best pastel pencils.

6. Caran D’ache Pastel Pencils

Caran D'Ache Pastel Pencils

Replacement pastel pencils are available on Blick


  • 4.7mm lead diameter
  • Made from raw materials
  • Softer lead hardness
  • Great for detailed work
  • Professional artist grade
  • Blends smoothly
  • The largest variety of colors
  • High-quality pastel pencils
  • Softest pastel pencils


  • Most expensive
  • Must use a knife when sharpening to get a fine point
  • Harder to get fine details

  Caran D’Ache pastel pencils have one of the largest sets I reviewed and come in a nice wooden box of 84 assorted pastel pencils.

If you are looking for a set of soft pastel pencils then Caran D’Ache pastel pencils is a strong choice as they can produce some fine details, especially when layering in lighter colors as your finishing touches.

I was able to find smaller sets of 12 and 20. Also, you can buy one at a time. Definitely more for the serious artist as these can be somewhat expensive. I recommend the set of 12 pastel pencils for beginners as they are quite pricey compared to other brands.

A large number of colors are very versatile allowing you to do portraits to landscapes. I was unable to find very many reviews and I accredit this to the price being higher than other pencils.

Customer reviews showed happy satisfied people. There was one mention about doing without the wooden box to cut down on cost.

The pastel pencil set shown above is available on Amazon

The Best Pastel pencils versus Traditional Pastels or soft pastels

Pastel and Pastel Pencil comparison

Soft Pastels are the purest forms of pigment. With enough bonding agents to make the core firm. Can use them like a crayon even though pastel pencils are way different unless you are using oil-based pastels which have a very similar feel to them. Thought of as colored charcoal for a while these types of pastels can create soft hues but can be much harder to get fine detail with this form of pastel and can be quite messy.

Many soft pastels are so pure in pigment that you can wet a brush with water just like watercolor pencils.
Pastel pencils have the same pigment. But with a little more bonding agent to help give strength to the finer lead.

This also gives this medium a little harder lead. It is then encased in a wooden barrel that allows you to use them like graphite or colored pencils. This gives more control when putting down color in smaller areas of detail which is the main purpose of pastel pencils.

Pastel Pencils for Beginners Tip:

Use stick pastels or chalk pastels for larger areas and pastel pencil for finer details. This helps when laying out your base colors.

Key Differences Between Pastel and Colored Pencils

Though these two pencil types are similar there are some differences worth taking note of.

  1. Pastel pencils are opaque which means they have more color saturation making it harder to see the layers underneath. While some pencils are somewhat transparent and will allow base colors to show through more effectively.
  2. Pastel pencils have a lesser amount of binding agent in them making them one of the purest pigmented art materials. One downside to this is that they can be somewhat of a challenge to sharpen as they can break easily. The opposite is true for colored pencils which are either oil or wax-based though you can find higher quality pencils that do have less binding material.
  3. Pastel pencils are considered a soft medium and blend very easily while colored pencils can be harder to blend and require more layers to get a softer appearance.
  4. There is no build-up of wax or oil with pastel pencils so you won’t have to worry about blooming whereas with colored pencils the binders tend to accumulate on the paper as you create more layers.
  5. Pastels usually need to be used with a fixative to get the pigment to adhere to the paper and to allow for building layers but this is not a set rule and the paper used can be a major factor.

These are just some of the key differences I noticed when using these mediums. I enjoy both but the techniques used for each can be somewhat of a challenge. The good news is that the more you use them the more you learn about each one until you are able to achieve the desired effect you want.

Best Pastel Pencils Buyers Guide

The price of pastel pencils can vary from 30 dollars up to 400 and is because of the pigment quality of the pencil. Beginners should start with a mid-priced set. Or pick the colors you need for a project before buying pastel pencils as this is much cheaper. Then buy 5 or 6 different colors since you can buy individual pencils on certain brands.

Many artists like to use the same medium in their pieces of art. A good rule of thumb is that before you buy a set, check to see if individual pencils are available to buy. Some colors also get used more and need replacing more often than other colors.

 Diameter of the Lead

I don’t place much emphasis on the diameter of the lead as pastel pencils get shaped to suit an artist’s needs. If you are looking for a high degree of detail then a smaller diameter lead may speed up the work involved.

The size of the barrel can be a good indicator of the lead thickness but always make sure by reading the labels. Also, note that not all brands state the lead diameter.

Characteristics of the best Pastel Pencils

 Being made with more pigment than a bonding agent allows this type of pastel to put more color on the paper and is a popular art medium used by many artists.

Generally not used in pencils because of how soft and fragile the lead is. Checking different brands you can find some pastel pencils to be softer than others but requires a surface with more texture to accept the pigment.

Use a gentle touch to ensure the lead does not break as these pastels are not as compressed. Blending and layering of colors are had without much pressure applied. More dust comes from the use of soft pastels.

You may need to use your finger or blending tool to push the pigment into the texture of the paper.

Hard Pastels

Though better at making finer lines this pencil does not blend and layer as well as the softer ones. Also, they need more pressure to get the pigment to apply to the surface.

Pushing the pigment into the texture of the paper is more difficult which can cause hand fatigue. Some harder pastel pencils will have a waxier core that will leave a sheen when applied which makes them appear shiny.

This can be good or bad depending on the subject matter and the effect you are going for.

Most of the pastel pencils out there are probably considered to be hard even though you will find some to be softer. These types of pastels usually require some kind of fixative spray to secure the pigment to the tooth of the paper.

Oil Pastels

This type of pastel is hard or soft due to the effects of hot and cold temperatures. The reason for this is that the binding agent in the pigment is oil and wax-based.

Don’t confuse this with crayon which has a waxier binder while oil pastels are really considered to be a painting medium. Warmer pastel tends to be more fluid while the colder is firmer and requires more pressure.

They are like oil paints when using some linseed oil to blend and soften lines. No fixative spray is needed for this type of pastel.

For beginners, I recommend buying small sets of stick pastels along with some pastel pencils. The soft pastel sticks can lay out the big areas of base color while using the pastel pencils for finer details.  More details on this are below.

Jackson’s Art Supply.

Best Pastel Pencils Q & A

Answered questions other people are asking on the internet about pastel pencils.

How do you use pastel pencils?

In most cases, you want to start with your lighter colors and work to the darker colors. Your finger or a q-tip can be used as a blending tool. Since most pastel pencils are harder and more powdery you may need to use a fixative spray.

These types of sprays can help to build layers of colors by using the fixative and allowing it to dry then applying more pastel colors over the top.

Can you use colored pencils with pastel pencils?

You can use colored pencils with pastel pencils. A good example of this is to try using the pastel pencil to do the out-of-focus work in the background since it is easier to blend pastels and use the colored pencil for the finer details in the foreground. This gives a nice photorealistic effect.

How do you sharpen pastel pencils?

The best way to sharpen pastel pencils is to use a razor blade or craft knife to carve away the wood then refine the lead by rubbing on fine-grit sandpaper. As pastel pigment is way more brittle than a standard pencil they will require a light touch to ensure there is no breaking.

I hear there is an electric sharpener that will work but I still recommend the old-fashioned way as mentioned in the paragraph above.

I have also found that you can use handheld sharpeners but the tip can break off in the sharpener and is a real pain to get out. This can happen even with regular graphite pencils in the best pencil sharpeners.

What paper is best for pastel pencils?

A good textured paper with a large tooth will be the best paper to use for pastels. As you layer and blend it will hold the pigment and help you to build more layers which can not be done with smoother papers which are for other art mediums. Paper is another thing to consider before you choose pastel pencils to buy.

There are plenty of pastel papers out there and I would suggest testing a few of them to find the best one for your specific project.

My choice for best pastel pencils

These 6 reviews show that sharpening a pastel pencil can be an experience in itself. Though similar, these sets are still diverse enough for a good comparison. There are plenty of other pastel pencils on the market which I will leave for you to research as I can not fit all the different pastel pencil sets in this article.

Nothing helps in the learning process more than trial and error. This will be a factor when deciding on how much to spend for testing various brands. In the end, you have to decide which is the best pastel pencil.

My pick is Faber Castell Pitt Pastel Pencils because of the quality and the non-toxicity levels of pigment. Which makes Faber Castell Pitt Pastels a great choice for beginners and professionals alike. The Derwent pastel pencils also hit all these points as well.

Thanks for reading and hope this review has helped you.

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