Though I love my Rembrandt soft pastels, I thought it would be nice to have a set of softer pastels to add some final layers. I had heard good things about a few brands, so I ordered a few small sets from Jackson’s just to try them out. The first of those sets was the Unison 16 half-stick set.
Here is my colour chart.
Though I suppose it would be difficult to select a balanced range of colours for a set of only 16 colours (out of more than 300 colours in the Unison range), I was disappointed and a little bewildered by the fact this set didn’t include any browns, though I did like the lovely deep purples I got instead. The colours were pure and beautiful, thanks to Unison’s manufacturing process which uses different related hues to create lighter and darker colours rather than just mixing white or black into base colours.
Unison pastels are hand-rolled and therefore didn’t have to have their sides sanded off when I first started using them they way the Rembrandts and some of the Winsor & Newton pastels did. The size and shape varies a little but in general these half sticks seem to be a bit chunkier than half sticks in other brands. They are also incredibly silky and smooth to draw with and can lay down strong, thick colour in only one or two strokes. The downside to their soft texture is that they are rather crumbly; I accidentally mashed the ends of two or three of them with my finger as I was taking them out of the foam insert in the box. They also seem to drop a lot more dust than my Rembrandt pastels did (which seems to be the norm; the softer the pastel, the dustier it is). Still, all the pastels in my box of Unisons had a consistent texture (unlike in other brands where you get some medium-soft and then a few hard and scratchy pastels), so that was another plus.
The Unison pastels are about the same price (sometimes more) as the Schmincke soft pastels when purchased individually, putting them at the higher end of the price scale. This probably puts them out of the price range of most beginners, but for experienced pastel artists who are looking to upgrade or have almost used up their existing sets, a few Unison soft pastels would be a nice addition to their studio. I would also recommend that beginners buy two or three Unison pastels to add to their main set of pastels just to see the difference between a medium-texture and a truly soft pastel, as soft pastels like Unison’s can often be used to add another layer of colour even when the surface can’t take any more layers of a harder pastel.
Here’s a little still life sketch I did from imagination on Canson Mi-Teintes paper.
Even though the colour range in this small set wasn’t great, I love the Unison soft pastels for their consistent, fluffy-smooth texture. They are quite pricey, but I think it’s worth having at least a few of these pastels in your collection.