I’ve bought from Senior Art Supplies in Melbourne a few times before through their website, but as I was in the city not long ago, I decided I might as well visit their brick and mortar store to have a look at all their goodies (even though I’d already been to another art supply store that day; one can never have too many art supplies). Among the familiar pastel brands was a small rack of pastels I’d never seen before; Lukas soft pastels.
I’ve used Lukas watercolours after buying a 48 half-pan set from an American online store some years ago, and though a lot of the paints were mixtures of pigments (even paints that are usually made from a single pigment), the pigment load and overall quality seemed to be pretty good. I was also very impressed with their gouache paints, so I figured it was worth checking out the pastels. I took one pastel from the shelf and drew a line on my notepad with it, and it seemed soft and buttery, so I put together a selection of 24 pastels and bought them (I don’t know about overseas, but here they only seem to be available individually, not in sets). Here are the swatches for the sticks I bought.
The size of the sticks is the same as full sticks in Schmincke and Rembrandt etc. Most of the medium-soft pastels seem to have consistently sized sticks; it’s just the softer ones that can vary in size and shape. The Lukas pastels have a gorgeous, buttery texture and felt almost ‘fluffy’ as I laid down the colour, though a few colours were a little scratchy (it’s not uncommon for slight texture inconsistencies among medium-soft pastels). They actually feel very similar to the Winsor & Newton soft pastels, excellent pastels which have sadly been discontinued (though you can still find them on eBay every now and then).
Pigment load is excellent – easily on the same level as the other pastels I’ve already mentioned in this post – and many colours give a reasonably opaque coverage. At about $4.90 a stick, they’re a bit dearer than Rembrandts and Art Spectrum but around the same price as Schminckes and Senneliers. Pigment information is listed on the wrapper for each pastel, though one of mine was mislabelled; my Titanium White pastel had Van Dyke Violet 7 on its label. You do need to check carefully, though, as there are some fugitive pigments used; once I got home, I realised that the two Pink pastels I’d bought use pigment PR83, the fugitive Alizarin Crimson.
Here is my sample drawing done with the Lukas soft pastels, based on a photo uploaded to WetCanvas’s Reference Image Library by Dewi.
If you are a soft pastel artist, I would recommend buying a few Lukas soft pastels to try. The fact they are not sold in sets (at least in Australia) may be off-putting to some, but the individual sticks are a good way to add some new colours to your collection, and they strike the perfect balance between being firm enough to withstand crumbling and soft enough to allow for a buttery application to the surface.