The 5 Best Pastel Pencils in 2023 (October)

Best Overall

Caran d’Ache

High-quality, professional-grade pastel pencils; lacks neutral tones.
Best for Beginners

STABILO CarbOthello

Affordable and richly colored; perfect for beginners.
Best for Drawing


Soft core, water-activated for blending; best for intermediate artists.

The Best Pastel Pencils

A beginner entering the world of pastels might wonder what the best pastel pencils to use are, which we will cover, and why price, color variety, and consistency are the primary factors to consider when choosing pastel pencils. We will also cover how to choose the best pastel pencils for beginners, drawing, and the best pastel pencils for professionals.

How to Choose the Best Pastel Pencils

The most important selection criteria for pastel pencils are as follows:


Pastel pencils can be pricey but are well worth the investment due to the unique highlights and finer details they add to artwork. Beginners can invest in a good quality set for around $30, whereas professional sets with many pigments can be a few hundred dollars.

Color Variety

Distinct from other mediums, pastels are opaque and do not blend well in order to create different tones, so professionals or artists who have used pastels before and understand their application and technique would do well with a large variety of colors. For beginners, starting with a few colors is best in order to master technique and understand how pastels differ from other mediums.


Most pastel pencils are water-soluble, allowing for smoother color blending, making them less chalky and rough like hard or soft pastels. Hues are layered, then a blending tool like these VENCINK blending stumps are used to combine colors, and the set also includes one of the best sharpeners for pastel pencils. Pastel paintbrushes, like these Creative Mark set, can also be used to blend pastels. Pastel pencils can have a soft and powdery texture, perfect for shading, layering, and color distribution, whereas hard “pitt” pencils are better suited for fine details. Just as important as choosing colors with the right consistency is selecting the best paper for pastel pencils, which is thicker and toothed, allowing the colors to integrate into the paper. An excellent choice is the Strathmore 400 series pastel pad.  Lastly, some artists swear by using a fixative to protect their final work and our previous article here covers different types of fixatives, including non-toxic options.

Pastel Pencils vs. Soft/Hard Pastel Sticks

Pastel pencils are a nice option for pastel drawings and a good alternative to the larger pastel sticks, such as soft pastel or hard pastel.  There are several reasons why an artist might choose pastel pencils are pastel sticks, including:

Sharper Point and Detail

Pastel pencils are able to be sharpened and can hold a fine point.  This is especially useful for fine details.

However, for applying lots of pastel to a paper/canvas at once, soft pastels are a better option.

Cleaner and Less Smudging

Working with pastel pencils is easier to use than working with hard or soft pastel sticks, as they are cleaner to work with and don’t create smudges on the paper.

Artists will often use a combination of soft/hard pastels, oil pastels and pastel pencils in the same piece, so it’s not necessary to choose one or the other.

Our Product Recommendations

Best Pastel Pencils Overall – Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils

caran d'ache pastel pencils

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$198.95
    • Our score: 8/10
  • Color Variety – 120 Pieces
    • Our score: 10/10
  • Consistency – Hard
    • Our score: 9/10

About Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils

The Caran d’Ache brand is unique in that the company creates its products based on feedback from professional artists. This allows them to produce one of the best quality pastel pencils on the market and one of the finest pigments available. The consistency of these wax-based 120 piece set is hard and powdery, making them perfect for layering. Pigments are vibrant and packed with color, and all pencils in the Pablo range are water-resistant and permanent.


  • Each pencil displays its lightfastness rating
  • Easy to sharpen and hold a point
  • Produces no wax bloom like other brands
  • Vibrancy can be toned down with a blending stump


  • Does not include neutral or skin tones

Best Pastel Pencils for Beginners – STABILO CarbOthello Pastel Pencils for Beginners

stabilo carbothello pastel pencil beginners

Selection Critera

  • Price – ~$30.49
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Color Variety – 24 Pieces
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Consistency – Chalky
    • Our score: 7/10

About STABILO CarbOthello Pastel Pencils

Artists looking for the best pastel pencils for beginners won’t be disappointed by the price, quality, or variety of these STABILO CarbOthello pastel pencils. These pastel pencils are ideal for beginners, and this set of 24 provides enough color variety to understand layering and highlight techniques. While these pencils have a chalky consistency, they don’t leave a lot of powdery residue that can smudge artwork. The colors are rich and can be layered for brighter pigments.


  • One of the best bargains for a quality pastel pencil set
  • Easy to blend and smudge


  • Their soft core can make them difficult to sharpen
  • Does not conform to ASTM standards of health

Best Pastel Pencils for Drawing – KOH-I-NOOR Pastel Pencils

KOH-I-NOOR Pastel Pencils

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$66.48
    • Our score: 8/10
  • Color Variety – 48 Pieces
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Consistency – Soft
    • Our score: 7/10

About KOH-I-NOOR Pastel Pencils

One of the best pastel pencils for drawing due to their bold colors, soft core, and powdery texture, these KOH-I-NOOR pencils are suitable for intermediate artists who have experience working with pastels. These pastels activate with water, making them easier to blend than other water-resistant pastels. In addition, there are a large variety of natural colors like browns, yellows, greys, and blues, making them one of the better sets of pastel pencils for drawing animals, skin tones, and landscapes.


  • Bold colors
  • Doesn’t contain duplicate colors
  • Easy to sharpen


  • May be difficult to sharpen

Best Professional Pastel Pencils – Derwent Pastel Pencils

Derwent Pastel Pencils

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$144.48
    • Our score: 8/10
  • Color Variety – 72 Pieces
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Consistency –Soft
    • Our score: 8/10

About Derwent Pastel Pencils

Professionals will appreciate the variety of bold and diverse colors in this 72 piece Derwent pastel pencil set. Colors include a large variety of browns, greens, and blues, perfect for adding highlight and details to art. The pastels are soft, powdery, and create an even consistency on nicely toothed paper. It’s important not to blow the chalky residue left on the paper but to lightly tap it into the garbage.


  • Includes an excellent variety of colors for different applications
  • Black paper highlights their vibrant pigments


  • Some colors are more difficult to sharpen than others
  • The tin can pop open if traveling.

Best Pastel Pencils for Fine Detail – Faber-Castell Pastel Pencils

faber- castell pastel pencils

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$138
    • Our score: 8/10
  • Color Variety – 60 Pieces
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Consistency – Hard
    • Our score: 8/10

About Faber-Castell Pastel Pencils

Creating fine details with pastels can be challenging, but these Faber-Castell pastel pencils can make easy work of it due to their pitt cores. Pitt pastel pencils are entirely wax and oil-free, making them easier to sharpen without breaking and are able to hold a point. They are also lightfast and have vibrant pigments. These pencils were also rated as one of the best pastel pencils for portraits with their assortment of skin and hair tones.


  • Are non-toxic and conform to ASTM standards of safety
  • Easy to sharpen, even in an electric sharpener
  • Leaves hardly any powdery residue


  • Tin isn’t great for traveling


This wraps up our guide to the best pastel pencils. Not only have we discussed how you could identify different kinds of pastel pencils, but we’ve also shared our recommendations in various contexts.

We’ve discussed how you can choose the best pastel pencils and why price, color variety, and consistency are key deciding factors. We’ve outlined them thoroughly to help you understand them easily.

Lastly, we’ve combined our recommendations in different situations. So whether buying the best pastel pencils for beginners, for drawing, or pastel pencils for fine details, we’ve discussed it all.

Thanks for reading; we hope our suggestion helps you purchase a set of the best pastel pencils for your next project.


You Might Also be Interested In:


About Lauraine Velez

Lauraine is a freelance writer with a strong background in the arts. Lauraine is currently finishing her novel and has been exploring different art mediums for over two decades. Her favorite art activities include drawing, painting (especially watercolor painting), designing haute couture clothes, photography, and designing and creating gifts for family and friends.

In addition to Lauraine's expertise in art, she has experience in commerce content, grant writing, and health and wellness. Before becoming a freelancer, Lauraine held various positions in large and grassroots organizations locally and abroad.