Here I’ll be giving you my first impressions of the new Unison Colour Soft Pastels: Set of 8 Half Sticks. I have several individual Unison Colour soft pastels, as well as their landscape set of 16 Half Sticks and portrait Set of 8 Sticks, so I’m looking forward to seeing what these smaller sets can offer an artist.


 

 

Please note: Some of the materials in this article are currently out of stock, but will be back in stock again very soon and you can sign up to be notified when they are.

 

Unison Colour is offering the Set of 8 Half Sticks as a low cost option to introduce artists to soft pastels at a great price point. All their soft pastels are made by hand and the quality is excellent, so being able to afford a small set is wonderful for artists on a budget, or someone keen to try them as a new medium, but nervous of investing too much money into the unknown world of soft pastels. A small set like this would give you a great introduction to soft pastels without committing financially to a large set.

 

Unison Colour

 

The Unison Colour Soft Pastels: Set of 8 Half Sticks would also work for the artist already familiar with pastels but looking to expand their range. Perhaps there’s a colour you always reach for and you’d like a few more shades to explore. Depending on the work you like to draw or produce a mini set would work well as it focuses particularly on tones of single colours – browns, greens, blues and orange/red and has been expertly curated.

 

Unison Colour

 

Each set has been put together to work in a particular area focusing on tone, and light and darks of a particular colour. There is also a Drawing Set which focuses on more neutral tones and greys. The sets are very neat and fit into the palm of my hand. They would be perfect to slip into a bag for location drawing, very lightweight and easy to transport. They are packed in protective foam and the colours are printed neatly on the inside so you can see what you are using at a quick glance.

 

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Drawing Set

Unison Colour

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Drawing

 

This set resembles a much-loved set from Unison Colour history which was then referred to as Chiaroscuro. A selection of light and shade colours for tonal drawing to encourage a sense of depth and dimension. This set feels like a really useful one to have on hand. It covers the basic tones needed for life drawing for example, and would be great if you enjoy working mainly in neutrals. I found this one the most versatile alongside the colours I already had, and I could see it working very well on my desk during online life sessions.

 

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Drawing

 

The colours are lovely. In particular Grey 21 is almost like a Yellow Ochre, and the Grey 31 has a beautiful blue hue to it which would be useful for sky and sea. I have the Additional 49 in my Landscape Half Stick Set and it’s such a great colour. Like a really rich deep Paynes Grey – nicer than a black. Grey 36 is also lovely, again not a black, very dark, but with the slightest warm brown undertone to it. For me this feels like the best set to buy if you are wanting something neutral to test out.

 

Unison Colour Soft Pastel: Set of 8 Half Sticks – Blue Set

Unison Colour Soft Pastel: Set of 8 Half Sticks – Blue

 

This set is a collection of favourite blues from the range. A perfect set to have on hand if you are capturing the skies or seascapes. There is a great variation in tone, from very light pale blues to deep dramatic shades. A good mix of warm and cool blues, some with green undertones and others with a slight violet hue. Light 6, Blue Green 10, Blue Violet 9 and Blue Violet 12 are particular favourites. You would be able to capture the sky and sea with this set, and perhaps if you also had the Drawing Half Stick Set as well you would have a lot of bases covered for moody winter skies, beaches – sand and rock as well as the bright blues the seascape can offer.

 

Unison Colour Soft Pastel: Set of 8 Half Sticks – Blue

 

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Green Set

Soft Pastels

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Green

 

A mini taster of favourite greens including earthy Chromium Oxide Green, yellow greens, and light Sap Greens. A useful spring/summer addition to the classic Landscape Set. I really love green so for me I loved this set. The colours are so well put together. The perfect range for landscape, garden, and plant drawing. If I was being super picky I’d have loved one very light, almost white-green, but the dark greens in the set are great. Dark 11 a rich dark leafy green and Yellow Green Earth 18 really pop as a colour on the page. A very joyful set!

 

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Green

 

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Natural Earth Set

Soft Pastels

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Natural Earth

 

A sampler selection of truly earth-based colours containing naturally occurring Italian Umbers, Sienna, and Ochres. This set would be really useful in life drawing or portraiture, as the colour palette offers a good range for skin tones. It would be good for rock landscapes and would combine well with either the Green Set or the Blue Set as a useful pair to have out on location drawing. That way you could capture land, sea and sky or you would have a wonderful range for fields, woodland or forests. I would have liked perhaps a much lighter earth and a very dark one as contrast to the colours offered, or something more Yellow Ochre. I found the Natural Earth 12, Natural Earth 15 and Natural Earth 14 too close tonally and in colour for my personal tastes. Natural Earth 1 however is a glorious rusty colour that is lovely to use.

 

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Natural Earth

 

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Red/Orange Set

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Red/Orange

 

This set offers a very warm and vibrant palette of oranges, red and yellows. Perfect to capture flowers or sunsets. Red/Orange is not normally a set of colours I reach for often, so at first glance I thought this was going to be my least favourite of the sets. However the colours are really nice – Orange 1 is a warm red-orange, like the perfect Vermillion. Yellow 8 I also really liked: it’s like a Marigold, a rich and Warm Yellow. Red 8 is almost a dark Burgundy, not quite, but a great contrast to the others in the pack, and Orange 6 has a soft peachy tone. Mixed with the other sets I found I really liked some of the colours I got.

 

Soft Pastels

Unison Colour Soft Pastel Set of 8 Half Sticks – Red/Orange

 

Testing the Half Stick Soft Pastels

Holding the Half Stick size is pleasing. It fits well in the hand and is nice to use on its side as well as the top. You can achieve big swathes of colour as well as being able to draw lines. I tested putting a few colours from each of the sets together to create palettes – they compliment each other well, so if you started with one of the Half Stick Sets you could expand your collection to include another set knowing it would work really well with what you already have.

 

Colour blending tests

 

Although the soft pastel sets blend well together there isn’t really the need for that because the colours in the set are nice and varied. Some sets blend better than others because they contain more lights and darks. For me the Natural Earth set didn’t blend as well. I found the colours all ending up similar and muddy. This set I feel would benefit from a stronger dark and a bright light shade.

 

Creating colour palettes from different sets

 

I also tried smudging some soft pastels together from different sets to try and get more muted, dirty and varied tones. I also achieved lighter and darker tones this way too. The Unison Colour Soft Pastels mix well together, they are soft and creamy to work with. I like using pastels in my Royal Talens Sketchbook even though it’s messy, so it was nice to see the colours on off white paper as well as the crisp white too. Some of the darker colours are more scratchy than the lighter ones, I’ve noticed this before with soft pastels, and I think it is just due to the pigment, it’s not a problem, it’s just something to note. The soft pastels are handmade and therefore vary ever so slightly in size.

 

Each colour palette from the range of Unison Colour Soft Pastel: Set of 8 Half Sticks

 

I think the Unison Colour Soft Pastel: Set of 8 Half Sticks will be very popular – they make a perfect introduction to pastels for an artist just starting out in pastels, and at an excellent price. Or, for people already familiar with using pastels, getting a small set of curated colours to top up what you already own would be a good way of increasing choice with a colour you love to use.

 


 

Further Reading

Using Soft Pastel for Observational Drawing

How to Repair Broken Soft Pastels

Everything You Need to Know About Pastel Paper

Soft Pastel for Beginners: What You Need to Get Started

 

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Sarah Dyer

Sarah Dyer is a picture book maker and illustrator. She enjoys working outside on location for reference and colour which feeds back into her book work. In between writing and illustrating Sarah attends festivals and schools to carry out events and workshops and she also teaches on the Foundation course at Kingston University.