Paint Anything With My Set of Soft Pastels!

That’s a rather bold statement I realise but I mean it: Paint anything with this set of soft pastels! And the set I’m talking about is my brand new set of 36 pastels just launched by Unison Colour. It’s the one that’s taken me two years plus to develop. 

So why did it take me so long to pull it together?

Answer: I wanted to create a set that you could use to paint pretty much anything! Find the whole creation story over on my Unison Colour guest blog.

In this post, I’m going to focus on my promise that you can paint anything with this set. Now, I realise the set only has 36 sticks in it but with this limited palette, by using layering and your artistic interpretation muscle, you will be able to paint all sorts of subjects. Seriously. You can create just about anything with this set of soft pastels be it landscape – lush or desert, still life – brightly coloured or more muted, figures in shade or sunlight, cityscape or seascape, day or night scene. Anything.

I’m going to share some of the images that I painted along the way as I tried out different colours and honed and crafted this collection for you. 

In October 2020, during the 31-pastels-in-31-days challenge, I made a chart to see which colours I was using. This was from the almost completed set.

Paint Anything With This Set of Soft Pastels: My 31-in-31 challenge test chart from October 2020
My 31-in-31 challenge test chart from October 2020

But there were some surprises. You can see, lower down, a dark purple I didn’t use once. The same went for the cool bright white in the bottom row. So, those colours were removed from the set. I also found I used a few other colours, a couple of which ended up in the set. You can see some of those tests in the bottom right corner.

Now let me take you through a selection of paintings, all of which were painted with the set I created. Some of these you’ll have seen before in previous blog posts.

First, some landscapes…

And now a selection of still lifes…

Paint Anything With This Set of Soft Pastels: Gail Sibley, "Gerberas in Purple," Unison Colour pastels on UART 240, 6 x 11in. SOLD
Gail Sibley, “Gerberas in Purple,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 240, 6 x 11in. SOLD
Paint Anything With This Set of Soft Pastels: Gail Sibley, "Party Frock," Unison Colour pastels on UART 320, 12 x 7 in.
Gail Sibley, “Party Frock,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 320, 12 x 7 in. Associated blog post

And here’s a selection of figurative pieces in different environments!

Paint Anything With This Set of Soft Pastels: Gail Sibley, "Artist Painting Tuscany," Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 8 1/4 x 5 3/4 in
Gail Sibley, “Artist Painting Tuscany,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 500, 8 1/4 x 5 3/4 in
Paint Anything With This Set of Soft Pastels: Gail Sibley, "Zoom Nude," Unison Colour pastels on UART 500 paper, 6 x 8 in. SOLD
Gail Sibley, “Zoom Nude,” Unison Colour pastels on UART 500 paper, 6 x 8 in. SOLD. Associated blog.

It really was difficult to make choices from so many colour options. (You can see the whole Unison Colour selection here.) As I worked on a piece, I kept asking myself, am I using this colour here only in this painting or will I use it when painting other subjects? 

I think this is the final selection of Unison Colour pastels in my set! (I did this before I had made my final commitment!)
I think this is the final selection of Unison Colour pastels in my set! (I made this swatch prior to making my final commitment!)

I want this set to do a whole heap of things for us: I want you to be able to take it when you travel (and that’s it!), for when you work en plein air, and at life drawing or portrait sessions. 

As I said earlier, it’s only 36 colours and I know that, along the way, I may want to add a few other colours….so I can see perhaps developing a supplementary set of soft pastels. But let’s see how this one goes first!

In the meantime, I’m keen to show (prove?!) the flexibility and applicability of this set to just about anything. There’s a plan for me to do a demo at the wonderful Dragonfly Arts store on Salt Spring Island. (Yes! For those of you in Western Canada – this store carries Unison Colour soft pastels and will be carrying my set!) And for sure, I’ll be doing something with the makers themselves, probably in early 2022. 

You can purchase my set of soft pastels directly from Unison Colour HQ. Or, in Canada, from Dragonfly Art Supplies. In the USA, Dakota Art Pastels stocks it f you have a local store that carries the Unison Colour brand, be sure to bug them about carrying the Gail Sibley set!!

Have any questions? Just let me know in the comments.

Until next time,

~ Gail

PS. The one colour that’s missing from this set of soft pastels, for me anyway, is a gorgeous fuchsia pink. There isn’t one in the set because the Unison Colour collection has no bright pinks. They make all their sticks from organic pigments i.e. no manmade pigments allowed! Soooo….no hot pinks! Ah well… And, that’s probably a good thing when it comes to lightfastness. Fushias are notoriously fugitive! (UPDATED March 2023: read this article on lightfastness!)

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26 thoughts on “Paint Anything With My Set of Soft Pastels!”

  1. Whenever I hear myself complaining that I don’t have enough colors, I stop and say, “Gail Sibley could paint this whole subject with a dozen sticks or fewer, so quit your whining!” Glad your set is a little more generous than that, and it looks very well thought-out. Thanks for all the work you put in to choose such lovely colors!

    1. Ahh Ralph, you made me laugh!!
      And yes, I decided I didn’t want to do a set of 18 as that would feel so limited! I wanted all the gorgeous colours in a range of values so here we are 🙂

    2. Wowsa! You really did a ton of work and lots of thought went into this ! THANK YOU! Love your charting process. I might try this myself to see what my own favorites are. And your set will be a nice plein air box.

      1. Thank you so much Susan for your full-on appreciation for the work I did to make the pastel colour choices for my set!! Love that you’ll be using it as a plein air set. Let me know how it works!
        And yes, the chart is a cool way to find out more about your favourites and your tendencies. 😁

  2. I am chomping at the bit to receive my set. The vibrant colors drew me in to purchase! Unison has kept me up in the shipping status! I am traveling to my beloved Anguilla in Nov. keeping faith they will arrive so I can just pack and go, ( well I may need to throw in a few extra blues) leaving all the stress to travel application, testing, quarantine!

    1. I’m glad the vibrant colours hooked you Brenda. You know me – colour!!!! I sure hope they arrive soon! Let us know in the IGNITE! membership.
      Antigua!! That’s wonderful. What a fabulous getaway that will be. You deserve it after all your work in COVID. I hope everything goes smoothly.

  3. Congratulations on getting your Unison set out. I recall your talking about building this set in Costa Brava, your workshop a few years back.

    I have ordered a set and look forward to working with them.

    My best,

  4. Hello , Please could you kindly supply a list of the reference numbers on all the 36 pastels for your new Unison set?
    I happily find I have some of the colours already, after scrutinising the picture of the enticing set.
    However, not all the numbers are visible in the photo.
    Unfortunately, needing to observe economies, its a little out of my reach just get the set in one new go.
    But, I hope I can build up a complete G S set by getting those relevant singles which are missing from my existing Unisons, whenever I can.
    Thank you so much, I really benefit from being able to access this site !
    I’m so happy and inspired about how inclusive you are with featuring so many other artist’s speaking about their work, as well as your own very interesting pieces.

    1. Hi Dolma,
      You can find a colour chart and list of the colours in the box HERE. That should help you create your own set!
      And I’m so glad to hear you are enjoying HowToPastel!! 😁

    1. Thanks Deb!
      I’ve arranged the set to have darks, middle, and light values. It’s true that there aren’t a lot of deep darks but I’ve found, for a small set, there are enough for my palette. You can always add your own choices. And who knows! Maybe there will be a follow-up complimentary set!

  5. It looks like a lovely set and my wife and I will probably both get our own sets as we are both rather possessive of our own pastels. We have not tried any Unison sets yet so look forward to it. Is there by chance a special release sale price or code available to purchase these?

    1. Thanks so much Al and I love that you and your wife will get your own sets!
      Unison Colour are a fabulous brand – soft and great consistency.
      I don’t think there is a public offering of a discount. (However, if you join my IGNITE! membership when it opens in early November, there’s a special code there good until the end of November!)

  6. HI Gail, Congrats on your Unison Set of 36 paint anything. When I searched around a few years back on beginner sets to get and saw your intro video I got the 16 half sticks unison set. Which I can say got me happily on my way to pastel painting and learning. It looks like a decent pink on the lower left corner of the
    color sheet. Yes everyone needs some pink sometimes. Well get that set at Dakota Arts and I’m sure they’ll sell like hot cakes.

    1. Mark thanks so much for your comment (and apologies for taking so long to respond!!). I LOVE that the Unison Colour small 16-piece set got you into pastel painting. As you will know from it though, there are some colours missing 🤣
      Pinks, true pinks, are hard to come by in the Unison Colour pastel world as they use natural pigments rather than manmade. Still, we use what we have…and what we have is pretty darn wonderful!
      I LOVE that Dakota Arts will be getting stocking the set. I know there are a few people waiting for the store to carry them!!

  7. Hi Gail,
    I’m unable to find your set in Canada. Dragonfly doesn’t have online sales, yet, and to buy from Unison in the UK is rather expensive. I would purchase if they retailed through their Ontario retailers, Kings Framing and Art Supplies but they don’t have the set. I would even buy from UK shop Jackson’s, but they don’t have the set yet either. It looks amazing and I think even though I already have 12 of them, I want the whole set to have them all together and use in concert rather than fish out of my messy collection, lol. So if you get a link to any Canadian sellers I hope you’ll put it in a newsletter to your group.


    1. Hi Lorna, thanks so much for your interest in my set! Dragonfly isn’t online, you are right but they are a phone call away and I love supporting them as they are the only retailer out west that carry Unison Colour! I also believe Kings will be carrying them as they reached out to me about doing so. The best thing to do is make your interest known to them!! I know that Unison is first trying to sell the set (they then of course make the full amount which supports them) and then plan to start reaching out to their various retailers like Jackson’s. Again, the best thing is to email Jackson’s and make your interest known! Thanks!!!

    1. Hey Audrey, I know that Dakota Art Pastels is ordering some. If you have other places you usually buy from, do ask them for it to let them know of your interest. If they already carry Unison Colour pastels and know there’s a market for it, well, you never know!

  8. I have a quite a few Unison pastels in my arsenal, but would love to have your “Paint Anything” set in my car. Couldn’t find ’em here in the U.S. At Jerry’s, or Dick Blick, at least. Or do you have to order directly from Unison….

    1. That’s wonderful to hear Curtis! I know that Unison will be reaching out to the retailers that carry their pastels. I am pretty sure Dakota is ordering some. I would also ask both Jerry’s and Blick about it as once they know there’s interest, they may order some. Market-driven!!

      1. Thank you, Gail……I’ll check back with the retailers….! I like the idea of carrying a limited number of pastels…..forces you to be creative…..and I like the colors in your set…..

        1. Curtis, Dakota now has the pastels! Click HERE
          Glad you like the colours. 😁 I also believe that a limited palette can help with creativity and I’ve organized this set to have all the colours and values and temperatures that you’ll need for just about anything!!

  9. Hey well done Gail! This is now on my Christmas list :). Found it online from the Skipton Art Shop here in the UK at a good price. I have a few Unisons already and I really like them – nice intensity of colour without being too soft and crumbly.

    1. Thanks Brenda! And how cool that the set has found its way into retail outlets. Glad you found it at a good price.
      And yes, Unison Colour pastels are consistently good for all the reasons you list. I’m honoured to have my name on their pastels!

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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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