My Top 12 Pastel Colours

written by Sophie | Beginners, Pastel

A single brand of pastels will have over 400 colours in their repertoire. And as we have seen, there are dozens of pastel brands out there. A 'Candy-Store' trap many pastel artists fall into is to keep on buying all these gorgeous colours. And we don't need them. We can mix colours like any oil painter. Yet we cannot resist. I cannot resist. One brand stands out for its amazing earth tones, while another for its exceptional darks. In this post I hope to provide some candy for your eager pastel dusted fingers: my favourite colours from my pastel collection. 

Share Your Favourites!

Of course there is one drawback. There are even more yummy colours that I don’t own. After all, there are more pastel sticks in the world then we could ever collect. 

So that's why I am asking YOU to share your favourite pastel colour in the comments below.

My Taste

And then there is such a thing as taste and style. My paintings are fairly muted, often portraits, and I love earth tones. If you are more into bright and bold colours you will have totally different preferences. Another reason to comment below. I might not be sharing the best and brightest red, so please take over where I leave off. 

Most of my pastels are by Rembrandt. I also have lots of Unison, and some Schmincke's as well as the odd other brand. So my favourites will fall into these brands. 

A Note on Rembrandt

Make note that the colour names can be very misleading as a 408.9 Raw Umber isn't actually brown but very light grey/green and what they call Indian Red is actually a pale violet. This is because Rembrandt names their colour ranges by one family name (and gives it a family number) and then creates a value string of it (the number after the dot like 339.5). So their Indian Red has a dark version and four more lighter versions. The .5 colour is the 'full shade' and so the colour we would expect to see with its name. Anything .2 or .3 are mixtures with black and .6 to .12 are mixtures with increasing amounts of white. 

My Favourite Pastel Colours

Rembrandts are great for their range of colours and great grey tones.

  • A warm pink, great for skin colours: Light Oxide Red, 339.5 (image left)
  • A pale grey/brown: Light Oxide, 339.3 (image right)
  • A grey/pink/violet tone,  great for cool skin colours: Indian Red 347.7 (pastel marks far left on image below left)
  • A pale light yellow: Deep Yellow, 202.9 (image below left)
  • A great cool highlight, a pale bright pink: Permanent Rose, 397.10 (the lighter marks far right in the image below left)
  • A wam orangy/yellow skin tone: Burnt Sienna 411.9 (the warm yellowish marks on the top in the image below left)
  • A greenish grey, great for neutralising colour, or a slightly cool tone: Raw Umber 408.9 (image below right)

Unison are especially (but not only) great for warm, rich and dark colours

  • A light orangy yellow, great for skin tones: LT4
  • A warm grey/pink, Red Earth, RE4
  • A deep dark forest colour, BE36 (image above right)
  • A deep rich red terracotta colour, RE18 (image above left)
  • A deep rich and amazing yellow ochre, Y1(image above left)

Images show pastels on Colourfix paper Aubergine and Sand

So what are your favourite colours?

Published: March 13, 2018

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  1. Hello,
    I'm Gary Millar, retired, partially disabled (which keeps me retired) and ready to finally devote my time to learning some painting skills I have long desired.
    I am self learning oils and have worked with pastels on and off for many years . Self taught in my case can be defined as the traditional method known as poke and hope.
    I look forward to receiving your blog. I have already purchased far too art material of most every kind. Will I need a beret?

    Thank you

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