Some time last year, I ordered a few small sets of soft pastels to try, and one of those was the Schmincke set of 15 full-sized sticks. I’d have preferred half sticks as they’re cheaper but unfortunately it seems that Schmincke doesn’t actually make half sticks.
There are about 400 colours in the full range, but luckily the little set I bought still had a well-balanced selection allowing me to layer or blend to get most of the colours I wanted. Here is the chart for my set of 15 Schmincke soft pastels.
Schmincke pastels are nearly $6 a stick at my local art supply shop, making them – on average – a bit over a dollar more expensive than the other machine made pastels. That being said, most stores do sell them, so at least they’re easily available if you need to replace a particular colour at short notice. Each stick has the colour name and pigment information on the wrapper, which is useful if you’re choosing colours in the shop and don’t have access to the internet to check the site online.
As far as the quality goes, Schmincke soft pastels are very heavily pigmented. I used them on a dark background and even pale colours gave full (or almost full) coverage. They are also the softest machine-made pastels I have tried (there are a few hand-rolled ones that are softer), and even with a fine-toothed surface (I used Art Spectrum’s fine tooth Colourfix primer), I was still able to build up a large number of layers without coming anywhere near filling the tooth. Softer pastels usually allow you to add layers over firmer pastels once you can’t layer the firmer pastels anymore, and it’s easy to see why many soft pastel artists keep a number of Schmincke sticks in their collection for this purpose.
The soft texture of these sticks also comes with a noticeable downside: they are very fragile. In the process of doing my sample drawing, I managed to accidentally snap every single stick I used. Though I’ve broken pastels from other brands in the past by inadvertently pressing too hard, it usually only happened to one or two sticks from the whole set, rather than nearly all of them. To make it worse, the Schmincke sticks often didn’t just snap, they kept crumbling into chunks that were big enough to noticeably shrink the pastel but too small to actually use. As I result, I found I ended up with more ‘wastage’ than I do with other pastels. (yes I know you can grind up the chunks and add water and roll them them until they form a new stick but I’m too lazy to do that)
Here’s my sample drawing done with the Schmincke soft pastels, based on a photo uploaded to WetCanvas’s Reference Image Library by Lexiashea.
Schmincke soft pastels are a bit dearer than their competitors but their softness means they can sometimes allow you to add extra layers when the full tooth of the surface won’t accept firmer pastels. I don’t think I’d buy a large set of them because their crumbly nature would frustrate me too much on a large scale, but it’s definitely worth getting at least a few colours to add to your collection (whites and pale colours would be useful for final highlights).