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Soft Pastels vs Hard Pastels

Pastel painting takes you back to the origins of colour. Lying somewhere between sketching and painting, pastels encompass the best of both. Pure enjoyment resulting in beautiful art works.


A Guide to Softness

Soft Pastels vary in their degree of softness and we are often asked about this. The list below is arranged from softest to hardest and is based on our experience.

Ultra Soft Pastels

Very Soft Pastels

Creamy Soft Pastels

Medium Soft Pastels

Hard Pastels

Pan Pastels
United States, 92 Colours


Germany, 400 Colours

Blue Earth
United States, 336 Colours

Art Spectrum Extra Soft
Australia, 180 Colours

France, 525 Colours


Terry Ludwig
United States, Selected Sets

England, 402 Colours

Townsend Soft Form
United States, 408 Colours

Townsend Terrages
United States, 190 Colours

France, 300 Colours


Holland, 218 Colours

Art Spectrum
Australia, 154 Colours

Japan, 144 Colours

Mt Vision

United States

United States, 96 Colours

United States, Selected Colours

France/China, 48 Colours



  • Colourfix is a sanded type paper with two main grades which are Origianl and Smooth.  It is available in 20 colours in sheets (50x70cm, A3, oversize A4) and pads.

  • Original is a Medium tooth paper and the most popular.  Fixative is optional.  Suitable for underpainting.

  • Smooth is a very fine tooth paper.  Fixative advisable if heavy layering is used.  Suitable for underpainting.

Colourfix Optimum Boards

  • The Optimum Foamcore Boards are extremely strong but lightweight and have the Colourfix Original surface applied to them.  Currently available in a 41x51cm size.

Mi Tientes Touch

  • Touch is a sanded type paper with a Medium Fine tooth.  It is available in 14 colours in sheets (55x75cm) and pads.  Fixative advisable. Suitable for underpainting on coloured area.

Mi Teintes

  • This is a traditional drawing paper with cotton content.  The paper is 160gsm and has a grain which is used to hold the pastel.  Sheets are 50x65cm and pads are also available. Fixative is recommended.  Suitable for light underpainting.

Fabriano Artistico

  • This is an artist quality watercolour paper.  It is 100% cotton, 300gsm and comes in sheets (76x56cm) and pads.  The grain of the paper helps to hold the pastel.  Often for mixed media use as opposed to straight pastel paintings.  Suitable for underpainting. Tutor will advise on fixative.


  • Pastelmat is a flat grip paper.  It holds a very good amount of pastel whilst its relatively flat surface allows for detail when painting.  It is available as sheets (70x100cm, 50x70cm, 50x35cm, 35x25cm and A4), boards (70x100cm, 50x70cm) as well as pads. Fixative rarely required. Suitable for underpainting.

Sennelier Pastel Card

  • Pastel Card is a flat grip paper.  The surface is relatively flat but quite abraisive.  It holds a good amount of pastel and allows for detail.  Fixative rarely required.  Not suitable for underpainting, dry work only.

UART Papers

  • Uart is a sanded paper with a perfectly uniform surface from edge to edge.  It comes in seven different grades.

    • 240 Grade, Very Rough.

    • 280 Grade, Rough.

    • 320 Grade, Medium Rough.

    • 400 Grade, Medium.

    • 500 Grade, Medium Fine.

    • 600 Grade, Fine.

    • 800 Grade, Extra Fine.

  • 400, 500 and 600 are the most popular grades with 800 being a favourite of pencil lovers.  The paper is available in sheets (68x101cm, 53x68cm, 30x46cm and rolls).  Suitable for underpainting and fixative is optional.  The rougher the grade the more pastel is held.  The finer the grade the more detial is possible.

Ampersand Pastelbord

  • Pastelboard is an artists hardboard coated with a Medium Fine abraisive surface.  Fixative optional but generally required.  Suitable for underpainting.

Fisher 400

  • A sanded paper you will need to order from overseas.  Use Uart 600 as the alternative.


  • Yupo is a flat synthetic paper often used for mixed media work.  It is available in pads and sheets (A3, A4 and larger sizes).  Suitable for underpainting.  Tutor will advise on fixative.

Gatorboard  (see Colourfix Optimum Boards).

Other Items

Liquitex Clear Gesso  - a normal acrylic gesso which is colourless.


Art Spectrum Gesso - normal acrylic gesso.


Art Spectrum Colourfix Primers - the Colourfix surface available as a primer which can be applied to most clean surfaces.  You'll need a small foam roller etc.


Pigmented Inks  - many ranges are available including Schmincke Aerocolor, Golden High Flow, FW Inks and Art Spectrum.


Watercolours - many ranges available including Schmincke Horadam, Sennelier, Holbein, Maimeri Blu Watercolours and Daniel Smith.

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