Advice & Guidance, Art Products, General, New products

Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils: A Review with Pleasant Surprises | Anita Pounder

4th December 2023 Estimated reading time: 3 mins


caran d'ache-pastel-pencil-review

Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils are available in 84 individual colours and can be used for sketching, on their side to build up colour, and sharpened to a point for fine detail. Sets come in 12, 20, 40 and 76 colours.

First Look at Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils

The set of 12 used here contains Chinese White (901), Golden Bismuth Yellow (820), Fast Orange (300), Scarlet (070), Light Ultramarine Violet (631), Light Blue (161), Light Olive 40% (245), Dark Phthalo Green (719), Desert Rose (042), Burnt Sienna (069), Dark Sepia (408) and Black (009).


caran d'ache-pastel-pencil-review

The lightfast rating is on the barrel of each pencil and is shown in stars, tested using the Standard Blue Wool Scale. They are rated between 3-star (good) and five-star (excellent). A glance at the full-colour chart will show that most colours are rated 3-star and above, with only five (blues/violet) being rated 2-star.

Each pencil has a good colour band, which makes it easy to identify at a glance, and the colour of the band is fairly close to the actual core colour.

The Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils do feel a little softer than other brands. As with any new product, it is important to test the materials on different surfaces, as each brand reacts differently.

Tests performed
1. Light application
2. Medium
3. Heavy pressure
4. Blending with finger
5. Blending pencil into pencil
6. Light colour over dark
7. Swatches of each colour in the set of 12

Caran d’Ache Pastel Findings: Surface Reactions, Colour Softness, and Notable Performances


caran d'ache-pastel-pencil-review

As with many mediums, pastel pencils react uniquely to surfaces and brands. Creating swatches helps feel softness differences, allowing you to find combinations that suit your style.

Black (009) and Dark Sepia (408) are among the hardest colours, feeling slightly scratchier on paper surfaces, though less so than some other brands. On Pastelmat and Velour, they apply colour easily. They blend well on both pastel and watercolour paper, with texture showing and diminishing with layers. Chinese White (901) excels for fine details and highlights, maintaining strength under pressure despite being softer.

Pastelmat is a superb surface, gripping the pastel pencil with ease, creating little dust and colour is easily and quickly applied. The biggest surprise was the Velour.
Pastel pencil can be applied after layers of soft pastel have covered the surface, but when used directly on the surface some brands and colours of pastel pencils do not apply well and
scratch the soft fabric surface. Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils lay down colour directly on the Velour surface, which was unexpected, showing it is worth testing on lots of different surfaces.

Sharpening Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils: Tips for Handling the Soft Cores

Sharpening pastel pencils can be tricky as the soft core can easily break. Caran d’Ache recommends using a craft knife rather than a sharpener, and I can see why.

I started with a single-hole plastic sharpener. However, I discovered that sharpening became challenging because pastel, unlike coloured pencils or graphite, quickly dulled the blade. This caused the core to crumble and break easily in the sharpener.

Hand-cranked sharpeners are effective; turn the handle slowly to avoid breaking the tip on the blade. Sharpen until the core is exposed, then use a sandpaper block for a fine point. The set of 12 pencils includes a small square of sanding paper, useful for this purpose. Tap off any loose dust into a bin. For softer colours like white, it’s recommended to use a sharp craft knife to prevent the core from breaking in the machine.


I found Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils pleasing. These pencils provide rich colours suitable for various surfaces and can be used with soft and hard pastels. They combine effectively with other mediums such as ink or watercolour for mixed media techniques.


Caran d'ache-pastel-pencils-review

Shop the full Caran d’Ache range at

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