sennelier's iridescent pastels - a sampling

Sennelier’s Iridescent Pastels – A Review

Have you ever used Sennelier’s iridescent pastels or indeed, any iridescent soft pastels? I hadn’t and I was curious about them. So I acquired a box of 24 Sennelier’s iridescent pastels.

I just created and published a video showing my unboxing of the set for the first time, recording my initial reactions (YUM!).

I also tried out all of the iridescent pastels on three different types of paper:

  • the mid-value La Carte Pastelcard provided with the set,
  • a piece of black Canson Mi-Teintes (the smooth side),
  • and a piece of UART 280 (the company’s coarsest grade of sanded paper).

I then did a demo with ten of the iridescent pastels, copying a demo piece I’d recently done in a workshop using regular Sennelier pastels.

Here’s the video. It’s fairly long so you may want to know that the demo begins at 11:35.



As you can see, I am pretty delighted with the set and can’t wait to incorporate them into more work!

Here are the final images of each pastel plus two comparison close-ups.


Gail Sibley, "Poire Unique," Sennelier's iridescent pastels on Sennelier La Carte pastel card, 7 1/2 x 6 in
Gail Sibley, “Poire Unique,” Sennelier’s iridescent pastels on Sennelier La Carte pastel card, 7 1/2 x 6 in


Gail Sibley, "Single Pear," (workshop demo), Sennelier pastels on Pastel Premier Italian Clay paper, 8 x 6 in
Gail Sibley, “Single Pear,” (workshop demo), Sennelier pastels on Pastel Premier Italian Clay paper, 8 x 6 in


Gail Sibley, "Poire Unique," Sennelier's iridescent pastels on Sennelier La Carte pastel card, 7 1/2 x 6 in - detail
Gail Sibley, “Poire Unique,” Sennelier’s iridescent pastels on Sennelier La Carte pastel card, 7 1/2 x 6 in – detail


Gail Sibley, "Single Pear," (workshop demo), Sennelier pastels on Pastel Premier Italian Clay paper, 8 x 6 in - detail
Gail Sibley, “Single Pear,” (workshop demo), Sennelier pastels on Pastel Premier Italian Clay paper, 8 x 6 in – detail


And here are the pastels used in the iridescent demo:

Sennelier's iridescent pastels used to create "Poire Unique"
Sennelier’s iridescent pastels used to create “Poire Unique.” YUM!!!!!


After the video, I took one of the small colour studies I had made a while back (you can see the blog here – all about colour studies) and in parts of the piece, I added some of the iridescent pastels. As I mentioned in the video, Sennelier’s iridescent pastels aren’t all that flashy and it’s not until you see them in a particular light that you notice they are visually different from regular pastels.

There’s a before-iridescent-pastels shot, then an after-application shot looking directly at the piece followed by a photo with the piece slightly tilted to catch the light.


Colour study before adding Sennelier's iridescent pastels
Colour study before adding Sennelier’s iridescent pastels
Colour study after adding Sennelier's iridescent pastels
Colour study after adding Sennelier’s iridescent pastels (see colour uses top right)
Colour study titled towards light after adding Sennelier's iridescent pastels
Colour study tilted towards light after adding Sennelier’s iridescent pastels.The sheen is much more obvious.


In summary, these pastels feel soft and buttery and are a pleasure to use! They add a bit of subtle glamour to a piece. I think you could use them with any subject where you want a zap of sparkle. This could include still life, landscapes, abstracts, even portraits. Certainly if you do any mixed media, they would be great to have in your stash!

I do wish there were some more darks included (a dark green perhaps?) and also some other colours like orange and purple for instance.

Because the pastels aren’t instantly visible as iridescent especially once they get a bit dirty, you may want to keep them separate from your regular pastels rather than incorporating them into your collection. Otherwise you might suddenly have a sheen on your painting where you hadn’t meant to put it!

Sennelier pastels are pretty much available worldwide. They are distributed in Canada and the US by the distributor Savoir Faire. Prices vary so I’ll leave you to check that.

I think I’ve covered everything but feel free to leave me any questions below. Have you used Sennelier’s iridescent pastels (or any other type of iridescent pastels)? I’d love to know how you use them in your work!


Jusqu’à la prochaine fois (or Until next time),

~ Gail


PS. Here’s the box of Sennelier’s iridescent pastels!

PPS. Here are four metallics from the set:

Metallic sticks from Sennelier's iridescent pastels set

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42 thoughts on “Sennelier’s Iridescent Pastels – A Review”

  1. Hi Gail, nice review and demo on the scrumptious pastels. I have this set and have used them in a few paintings. A landscape with some snow and ice and a still life of a vase that had some gold trim.
    In the snow scene I lightly applied some of the light values over other pastels and the iridescent pastels gave a luster to the snow as we sometimes will see as the reflective quality of snow. The vase was merely to use the metallic gold just as it was on the actual vase. In both cases I was very happy with the results!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Sandi. And thanks for sharing how you’ve used them. I think that will be very helpful to other readers.
      And yes, they are “scrumptious”!!

  2. Love your blog’s. I haven’t tried the iridescent pastels but boy, do you have me fired up to try them.
    It’s always fun to open a new box of pastels and see them sparkling and clean like little jewels.

    1. Thanks Janet! Glad this got you interested in trying them. These definitely are like jewels and wish I’d used that word in reference to them!!

    1. Hi Ed, the surface of La Carte is sanded. It has a softer feel that say UART. The main thing about La Carte is you can’t get water anywhere near it. If even so much as a drop lands on it, the water will left the sanded coating and there will be a bare whiete spot that you can’t do much about! Otherwise, it’s a luscious paper.

  3. Wow! I am hooked and just ordered my iridescents . Can’t wait to try them. Thanks for the share Gail! Love your blogs Audrey x

    1. Thanks Audrey!! Oh happy you are getting some. They really are wonderful. Can’t wait to hear what you think of them. Maybe come back here and report!

  4. Great review. I actually liked the pear painting done in the iridescents better than the regular pastels. I haven’t tried any of the Sennelier pastels yet, but your video got me interested in them. I’ve been using Schminke and Ludwig mostly. Thanks for all the info!!! Love your videos.

    1. Hey Ruth, thanks! I do love Sennelier pastels and it was such a pleasure to try out the iridescent ones. I love Schminke and Ludwigs too but I’ll always have Senneliers alongside. I often take the half stick set on location.

  5. I would like to have a really small selection to use mainly as highlights on portraits. My style is more expressive than realistic, so I think that would be an extra kick! How about glints on trees and water? Could you make a juicy orange color? What happens if you blend a little? A couple deep green, ocre, and umbers would be nice in a set. I wonder if any are available a la cart? I love your blooper section of the videos, and your hairstyle!

    1. Thanks Genie! Great questions and suggestions! I think if you blend you lose a bit of the sparkle. I wish there was a deep green in the set. You can buy the sticks individually for sure. Go to Dakota Pastels and scroll to the bottom. You’ll find the list there.

  6. I’ve used them-not real crazy about the gold metallic as it didn’t have the effect i was hoping for.Just ordered the black one for a painting. The effect is somewhat subtle in the paintings i’ve used. I believe Leo Loomie told me there is another vendor of iridescents as well. I’m not overwhelmed but will definitely continue to try them as needed in certain paintings.

    1. Liz, yes, they are subtle which for me, makes them more usable in a more ‘realistic’ painting. If I was doing more expressive or abstract paintings especially mixed media, I might want something with a bit more flash!

      1. Hi Gail,
        Thank you for this awesome demo of iridescent pastels. I’Ve bien looking for metallic pastels for a long time to achieve Klimmt-like golden patterns in parts of my work (used the Sennelier powder golden pigment with gum arabic in watercolors before) but I couldn’t find a non liquid version of gold to achieve golden convincing bold marks and was thinking maybe the four metallics photo you posted at the end of your article could do the job…. what do you think? Are they too transparent or should I give them a try ? ( I was going to, but then Liz’s comment up here made me hesitate since she didn’t seem satisfied with the metallics and I don’t know what she didn’t like in them)… well thank you for everything and I’ll keep watching your great videos and beautiful energy !

        1. Luna, thanks so much for your kind remarks!! I love the pastels but I would have to say that if you want a metallic look that is immediately apparent, these may be too transparent. If however you want a sheen that shows on closer inspection, these would be fantastic!! If you can acquire a stick or two to try, then that’s what I’d recommend.

        2. Gail,

          Thank you so much for your fast reply!
          I’ll do what you suggested; I found these Sennelier in open stock and will try the gold! If it doesn’t work I’ll try to get a Diane Townsend metallic as I read they have very little binder, which makes me hope the gold will be intense…
          I wish you all the best for your art and thank you again for being such a source of inspiration for all of us. 😄

        3. Luna, I will look forward to hearing about and seeing the results. The same goes for if you choose the Diane Townsend route.
          Thanks for your good wishes! 🙂

  7. HI Gail,
    Enjoyed watching the demo. I haven’t used the iridescent’s yet, but have a question.
    How do they look under glass? And how close would you have to be to see that iridescence looking at it from an angle?

    1. Hi Julie, I can’t actually answer your question because this is the first time I’ve used them so have nothing framed. You can see the iridescence in life much more easily than on camera. I really had to go at an angle to show it on video. In life you can see it when looking straight on but like I say, they are subtle rather than in your face.

  8. Hi Gail, that was a great video! I have tried about every metallic medium except actual metallic pastels. I am not sure how they would appear under glass. I like my metallic effects to contrast with the backgrounds and really sparkle. However, I am now convinced to buy at least a few of them if I can get them open stock. I will let you know how they work. Thank you again for all that you do for your fellow pastellists!

    1. Thanks Emily! I’d love to know what you think of the iridescents (they are available in open stock). I think they will give a shimmer to your work although maybe not in such high contrast as what you usually use!

  9. Gail. great review. A question: would you use these pastels as a glaze over work already rendered in richer more opaque pastel? I love Sennelier, and am currently experimenting with La Carte papers and my collection of Unison, Sennelier, Terry Ludwig. Interested to know what you think about this paper with these pastels too!

    1. Thanks Louise. I did try to show in the post how I used the iridescent pastels over regular pastels. They do give a shimmer and I like the effect. If you are considering trying this, perhaps experiment on paintings you don’t care about or try it all on a new piece of paper. These pastels worked so beautifully on the La Carte paper. I found the rough grade of UART paper ate up the pastels too much but since the video, I haven’t tried their smoother grades.

  10. Hello Gail,
    Interesting demo, but it seems to me that using such pastels would depend more on the subject matter; like butterfly wings, or peacock feathers, for example? However, thanks for the post; informative as usual. Cheers.

    1. Thanks Cliff. I think it depends on what you want. If you like a shimmery lustre to your work, you could experiment with them in any or all parts of your work. Or you could use it where you think it might reflect what is happening in nature such as, as you say, butterfly wings and peacock feathers.

  11. Hi ! Gail Sibley
    I’d like to thank you for your demos and for the way you explain things always in a cheerful tone.
    Waiting for your next work.
    Hope my poor english correct.
    Bye then
    Soon Annie

  12. Hi, I just love shine. Most of the time you can do without, but that little pop of shimmer sometimes is an amazing thing! Metallics, especially. Since I worked in an art store in the late 80’s early 90’s, I couldn’t resist Senneliers irridescent colors for a decent price! Kinda like getting a pretty piece of jewelry for a much more reasonable price. If you ever get blue, just scribble them on some dark pape r and they will lift your mood. I do think Sennelier is a good choice for irridescents as the colors are fairly chromatic and the values are pretty decent comparatively. I think Sennelier was the first to put out irridescents. Great news, Mr. Kelly, of Mt. Vision Pastels has a new range of irridescents! I’ve been waiting on them for a while, guess they are finally here! Saw them on his site today! A set of darks and a set of chromatics. Can you say “It’s my birthday” , LOL! Anyway, if your into varied application, Pan Pastels has a relatively new line of Metallics and pearlescents that have quite the shine factor. The chromatic colors are a little tinted, but the Metallics are beautiful. The best thing is that they have a white and a black that you can mix with your regular sticks to give them the look of an irridescent. The fine grade mica flakes is just shiney, the course grade gives it the glitter look. Great American has a range of irridescents with a fairly nice opacity, but the amout of shine varys with the color, some more, some less. Diane Townsend has a lovely range of Metallics, pearlescents and irridescents and fluorescents . Laying flat they look like just tints. Put them vertical and the colors transform. They kind of remind me of interference colors when I played with acrylics. Dianes complexity of color has always been kind of an enigma to me. I can never quite place them, look at them one way I think this , another way I think that. But if your into a little risk and surprise, and something truley unique her colors are amazing. All her colors have an amazing opacity! Her exotic colors are worth the cost if your into going off the beaten track and don’t mind a little surprise. Schmincke has a limited range of pearlescents, tinted but shiney and opaque. Van Gogh has a small range of hard pastels, fairly tinted and the opacity is bit lacking but if your working in hard pastels or just doing linear work you might find them useful. It’s unfortunate on my wallet that I find almost all pastels useful in one way or another! Anyway, sure most of us realists have noticed the qualities of metals, the irridescent qualities of flowers in the sun, that extra glimmer of shine in a highlight. I do think a few irridescent colors are worth having on hand just to elevate our work and catch the nuances that go into a piece of art.

    1. Wow – thanks for this Michele!
      How super that Mount Vision now has iridescents – I will have to try them! My birthday is coming up so I can use that as a legitimate excuse!
      Great American was my first iridescent – it was by accident when I took a kind of yellow/ochre colour out and I realized later that there was a shine on the paper in the spots I had applied it!
      I have never tried Diane Townsend pastels – must do one of these days! Love the idea of them acting like interference paints!
      Yup, I know what you mean about hard on the wallet!
      Thanks again for sharing all this info!!

  13. Many thanks for the review. That’s how I learned about the existence of iridescent pastels. And almost immediately decided to buy them. A result of the first experiment (inspired by previous comments) is on my fb page. Of course the iridescence effect is hardly visible in the photo and painting looks more interesting in real life.

    By the way, what is favorite pastel brand? What is your opinion on PanPastels?

    1. I love that you discovered these pastels through my review and then took action to acquire them!! And then quickly used them. Thanks for sharing what you did. Butterfly wings are a perfect subject for them. And yes, it’s true that it’s difficult to get the iridescent look to show up in photos.
      As to your question about favourite brand – I don’t have an absolute favourite but love all the soft pastels that I have used – Unison, Sennelier, Schmincke, Great American, Mount Vision, and Terry Ludwig. I now have Gordon Becin’s pastels to try too! I’m sorry but I have really no experience with Pan Pastels. I love the feel of a pastel stick in my hand, so I can have both the linear and the painterly quality. Thanks for writing.

  14. Great review Gail! I can’t wait to use the pastels for night scenes with the northern lights which i think will really show the lights in all it’s glory! I have used the Mount Vision iridescent light & dark pastels which are great and which I use with my normal pastels but not a big choice of colours! I will try the Sennelier pastels & use them together in my new painting! Keep up your great work & videos! Peace & Light

    1. Paul, thank you for your encouraging words and for such a positive response to my review of these Sennelier pastels. And I love the idea of using them in paintings of northern lights! Let me know how these pastels work for you.
      I love Mount Vision pastels but have not used their iridescent pastels…..yet 😀

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Gail Sibley

Artist. Blogger. Teacher.

My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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