The best brands for pastels are the brands that will have a specific job and do that job perfectly. Just like any professional sports team, successful teams work together to achieve a win. This is true with the pastel brands that are best to create a successful painting.
In my opinion, these are the best of the best in the pastel pencil. They have a nice thin feel, just like a regular pencil. Their choice of colors is professional. Whether you are doing portraits or landscapes, these beauties will do the job.
These are wonderful because they are inexpensive but are lightfast and rich in pigment load. One of the features that I love with these pastel pencils is that they match the Cretacolor Pastel Carre pastel sticks color for color.
These are super hard pastels. They are perfect for the initial layers of pastels. Remember in pastels we need to go from hard to soft. As you layer the pastel, you will not overload the surface.
When I started to work in pastel at The National Academy, School of Fine Arts, there were only a few brands. One of those brands was Rembrandt Soft Pastels. This pastel, on the harder side, is wonderful for doing much of the workload. They are not too hard or soft and we can use them from the middle to the end of the painting. The colors are rich and they cover the pastel pencils beautifully.
Holbein Pastel Soft Pastels are my favorite, they are slightly softer than the Rembrandts but I love the colors. They are rich but not overpowering. Since I mostly paint portraits, I need colors that are realistic and not cartoon-like.
These are the Rolls Royce of Pastels. They are imported from France and this company has been making soft pastels for hundreds of years. Famous Impressionists such as Edgar Degas, and Mary Cassatt, used them. As you may have guessed, these pastels are among the most expensive. The Senneliers are soft and rich. They will cover many layers of pastels. Since they are so soft, you will reserve their use of them until the end of the painting. I like to use them for the accents, the cherry on top. I also recommend purchasing the half sticks since they are a better value.
Art Spectrum Pastels
I have many years of experience painting in pastels at a high level. I have tried many brands and these are the best of the best for creating amazing work at the best quality. When we paint, we want to play chess and not checkers.