The best pastel pencils in 2024

Three of the best pastel pencils sets on a pink background
(Image credit: Caran d’Ache / Cretacolor / Koh-I-Noor)

The best pastel pencils are a great choice for artists seeking versatility. They can be combined with traditional pastels, they're brilliant for drawing in colour and they can be great to use with mixed media. Some are even water-soluble. On this page, we've gathered the best pastel pencils on the market based on our own reviews, in which we tested them in a range of different styles of art.

In our tests, we evaluated the pencils below in terms of binding, application and lightfastness, considering how they compare to each other. For more traditional pastels, see our best oil pastels guide, and if you want something wetter, check out the best watercolour pencils. But in the meantime, these are the products that get our vote as the best pastel pencils available today.

The best pastel pencils available today

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What are pastel pencils?

Pastel pencils are a form of pastel encased in wood (as with most pencils). To give it colour, the pastel core contains pigment and it also contains binders (usually including chalk) for body. This element is what differentiates the pastel pencils from the pencils in our best coloured pencils list. Ordinary pencils use wax with other binders rather than chalk.

How to choose the best pastel pencils

Picking the best pastel pencils for you will depend a lot on your working style. You may want to compromise between softness and how much the pencil can blend versus being firm enough to produce crisp lines. If you have a more expressive or painterly drawing style, opt for soft pastel pencils, and if you are more interested in fine details, look for ones on the harder side (note that all pastel pencils tend to be harder than conventional soft pastels and should produce less mess).

Another thing to consider is how easy the pencils are to sharpen. The core of a pastel pencil tends to be quite fragile, and it may be necessary to use a blade to sharpen it. Also, more expensive pastel pencil ranges generally contain more pigment, meaning the colours are brighter, and they are more likely to be lightfast, so they won’t fade over time. This is important for professional work but might be sacrificed for beginners in favour of value. 

Note that one challenge of pastel pencils is the dust they produce. To stop this lingering on the page, it's a good idea to draw using one of the best artists’ easels

How we tested the best pastel pencils

To test these pencils we used them in a range of different art projects. We tested them in terms of binding (how well they stick to a surface) application (how well they go on the surface) and lightfastness (how well the colour stays) as well as number of colours and overall value. We also evaluated whether they'd be best suited for beginners, intermediate users or professionals. 

Lancelot Richardson

Lancelot Richardson is an artist, painter, and freelance illustrator based in Brighton, UK. He tutors life drawing at independent art school Draw Brighton, and teaches in their online Patreon courses. He is also a freelance writer, producing articles on art and drawing. He works in both traditional and digital mediums.

With contributions from