Sennelier Extra Soft Pastels
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans.

The Bottom Line

When Sennelier describes their soft pastels as "extra soft", they're not kidding. You don't need to push them into the surface of the paper, especially if you're working on Sennelier's pastel card. It's more like gliding a stick over the surface, with a creamy, painterly feeling.


  • Sennelier pastels available in 525 shades, as standard or half-size pastels.
  • 62 shades available as large pastels. Black and white as extra-large.
  • Sold in sets with either full-size or half-size pastels (which are chunkier, without a paper cover).
  • Also available as single pastel sticks.
  • Strong, saturated colors.


  • The pastels are very soft, so if you press too hard, they do break and crumble.
  • Not cheap, but then these are top-grade artist's quality pastels.


  • The full pastel range has 525 shades, as standard or half-size pastels. 
  • Available as themed color sets, for example, landscape, portraits, darks, iridescent, plus a starter pastel set.
  • Start with a box of half-pastels rather than full pastels, as you get to try more colors for your money.

Guide Review - Sennelier Extra Soft Pastels

Painting with pastels gives you immediate access to colors. No mixing, no waiting for anything to dry. Instant gratification, in many ways, which suits my tendency to be impatient and to work quickly. Having used mostly harder pastels and charcoal until I tried these pastels, the softness of Sennelier's pastels was new to me and took a little getting used to. I have destroyed a few sticks by pushing too hard on them and either breaking them in half or shattering a few into bits. Small bits of pastel can, of course, still be used, but scrabbling around the floor for the pieces before I stand on it isn't my idea of fun.

The pastel goes on smooth and creamy, rather than dry and scratchy. Especially when working on Sennelier pastel card, which has a surface like fine sandpaper. It's easy to lay down layers of color, to blend, and work on top. Also to add just the tiniest bit of a highlight right at the end. The result is decidedly painterly, with a very satisfying tactile feel.

The range of colors and tones is huge. When first faced with a box of 120 colors I found myself staring at it, mesmerized by choice. So for each painting I've done, I've pulled out a smaller set of pastels, a limited palette, and worked with that. Sometimes I've gone back into the treasure box for an additional color or change of tone. I've subsequently bought a few single sticks in a range of "skin tones" because I'd used most of those up.

Disclosure: A box of pastels was provided by the manufacturer as a review sample. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.