Lightfastness In Pastels – D8330 – A New Standard

Lightfastness in pastels. Is this something you’ve given any thought to?

I have.

And I haven’t.

To tell you the truth, somehow, I thought we already had a general standard for lightfastness in place.

Schmincke pastels from Germany note lightfastness on the pastel wrapper – five stars mean excellent lightfastness, one star, definitely fugitive. But when I started thinking about it, I wasn’t sure I’ve seen that notation on other pastels. So I did some quick research. I found that Art Spectrum pastels from Australia have a lightfast rating while Savoir Faire, distributor of Sennelier pastels, in their FAQs, states that of the 520 colours, only 20 are considered fugitive. So it appears some manufacturers (in Europe and Australia at least) do at least acknowledge the importance of lightfastness as an aspect of the pastels they produce.

Lightfastness of pastels
Schmincke pastel showing lightfastness star rating. (Photo from Jackson’s website.)

Art Spectrum pastel label showing the lightfast rating notation. (Photo from Art Spectrum.)
Art Spectrum pastel label showing the lightfast rating notation. (Photo from Art Spectrum.)

A number of years ago, motivated by something I’d read, I did a lightfastness test in my window of some hard pastels – NuPastels – and was shocked at the fading I saw in some colours after only a couple of months. But, have I actually done that same test with my beloved soft pastels? No. And I’m not sure why not. 

Perhaps partly, as I’ve said, I thought that there was a standard in place and I guess I trusted that all manufacturers would let us know about the lightfastness of pastels. I was used to using Schmincke pastels at the time and being able to choose their most lightfast colours. And partly, it was maybe a bit of head-in-the-sand syndrome, not wanting to know the truth.

But the truth has arrived and it ain’t pretty.

Near the end of this post, you’ll find a video. It’s a presentation by Michael Skalka, Chairman of Subcommittee ASTM D01.57 Artists’ Materials. It was given at the President’s Forum at IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies) in Albuquerque this year. And now IAPS has made that presentation public. On their YouTube channel. For ALL to see. The truth is out

I’m going to give you a bit of a summary of the video but I urge you to watch the entire presentation as it’s fascinating, eye-opening, and a potential catalyst for change. 

So, the pastel standard.

How this all happened

It has a number – D8330 – and was created by ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials), now known as ASTM International.

What’s ASTM you may be asking? According to Wikipedia, it’s a “standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services.”  

D01 is the subcommittee for Paints and in the late 1970s, early 80s, a subcommittee was formed specifically for Artists’ Materials – D01.57. Probably the most well-known of these is D4236 which is the standard practice for labelling art materials for chronic health hazards. 

The current focus is the ASTM standard specifically for pastels – D8330. IAPS has served on this subcommittee for nearly 20 years and has been an ongoing, hard-working advocate for the completion of the testing. And we should applaud them for the work they have done on our behalf!

So back to the presentation. A number of pastels were donated by a few manufacturers and the rigorous test method used to test watercolours, oils, and acrylics was applied to these pastel samples. Tweaks had to be made to adjust for this medium. And the tests were done again.

Benefits of the standard D8330

In his presentation, Michael reviews the benefits of the standard D8330 for lightfastness of pastels. These include:

  • It provides a uniform way to test and compare products
  • A standard to establish a level playing field for quality manufacturing and that the public can rely on
  • The means for artists to lobby for better products.

Addressing criticism of the standard

When the test results were finalized and the findings presented (and as you’ll see, they are quite shocking), there was some resistance from the manufacturers to the publication of the results. One criticism was that compliance would be too difficult, that it would entail work. Yes, undoubtedly it will. 

One of the most sensitive issues was the worry that many beloved colours would need to be eliminated as they are not lightfast. Well yes, but as Michael says, isn’t it better to at least let artists know when colours are fugitive? Then we can decide whether to buy them and how to use them. 

And, something to consider, all other art media are labelled with their lightfastness. It’s just pastels that aren’t!

Visual appearance of light testing results

At this point (about 21 mins into the presentation), Michael shows a few examples of colour swatches. They show the original colour, the swatch exposed to indoor lighting and the swatch affected by sunlight.

Here are a couple of examples. (You can see the others in the video below.)

Screenshot from the video presentation of the lightfastness of pastels.
Screenshot from the video presentation of the lightfastness of pastels. Example of blues and violets.
Screenshot from the video presentation of the lightfastness of pastels. Oranges colours.
Screenshot from the video presentation of the lightfastness of pastels. Oranges colours.

Rather horrifying isn’t it?!

Notice that not only do some colours fade, they turn to grey! 

Summary of test results

We are are presented with an alarming summary of the test results. Of all the colours tested, only 48% achieved a lightfastness rating of I (Excellent) or II (Very Good). That means that over half of the pastels failed to reach this level of lightfastness, the level that we ideally want all our pastels to achieve. 

So why did over half of the samples do so poorly? The suspicion is that they are dye-based rather than pigment-based. 

Dyes will fade over time. All those gorgeous high chroma colours that dazzle us? They do so at the expense of potential fading. In fact, in the test, some of these dazzling colours started to fade within two to three weeks. Michael reports that some were fugitive within days!! The truth is that dyes cannot withstand light exposure.

Wow. If you’re like me you’re kind of in a stunned place right now.

I mean, aren’t you shocked that there’s been no standard of lightfastness for pastels until now?

Aren’t you dismayed that so many of our beloved pastels may be fugitive and that we had no way of knowing this before (unless we had performed our own tests)?

So what can we do about all this?

The first thing is to understand that ASTM International is not a regulatory or advocate body. They just do the tests. There are no enforcement policies and there are no penalties. This means that change can only come from us, the consumer, requesting manufacturers to use safe, permanent, lightfast pigments. And if we want them to continue to produce those colours that may not be lightfast, we need to ask that they be labelled as such. That way, we know what we’re getting.

Michael encourages us to first do our own testing. 

Take some of your favourite sticks and make swatches of them. Label them by brand and identification number (if you can find one). Cover half of the swatch with an acid-free piece of matboard or illustration board, something that will prevent light from affecting the covered colour swatch. Then put it all on a windowsill. Select a north-facing one that receives bright but indirect light. Set a timeframe. Maybe check them in a month. Or wait a couple of months. You could also set a duplicate group of swatches in a south-facing window and compare what happens. 

Don’t worry about testing the earth colours as they are probably all lightfast. Choose the glorious reds and pinks and bright yellows and blues. And then, wait to see if any of them fade. If they do, you have evidence in hand to report to manufacturers. Based on Michael’s suggestion, we can write something along these lines:

Dear —— (name of pastel manufacturer), I love your pastels but I would very much appreciate it if, going forward, your pastels conformed to the ASTM standard D8330 and that your pastels were labelled according to their lightfast rating. That will give me confidence that the pastels I use will create paintings that will stand the test of time.

(Remember, you can always watch the video on a faster speed by clicking on the gear icon at lower right. x1.5 times works well.)

Imagine not knowing if your watercolours will fade. Or your acrylics? Or your oils? We take it for granted that all these painting mediums are labelled with lightfastness ratings. So shouldn’t we expect the same for pastels?

It’s up to us to ask for change. If we do nothing, nothing will change. 

Do you want to know if your pastels are lightfast? I sure do. I want my pastel paintings to be enjoyed, in the years to come and be as colourful as they are now, not a washed-out shade of grey. If enough people make these requests of manufacturers, we can hope they will listen.

We know there will be a lot of work, effort, and cost involved with this kind of transition. But don’t we, the consumer, the artists who love using pastels, deserve to at least know which colours are lightfast and which will fade?

Change is hard. And turning the ship of business isn’t easy. We understand that. But we need to come together as pastellists to encourage and urge manufacturers to adopt the pastel standard. Now that we know, now that the shades are off our eyes, we are no longer ignorant. So shall we take this on? We can do so with compassion and collaboration.

My tendency is to want to tiptoe around this very hot topic but, the evidence is in. Do we ignore it or do we act on it?  

Leave me a comment about your thoughts, any ideas you have, or any questions that may have popped up on reading this post about the lightfastness of pastels.

Please also let me know if you’re going to do your own lightfast test with your pastels. That’s our first step. Let’s do this!

Until next time,


PS. A big thank you to Richard McKinley, IAPS President, for reviewing my first draft of this post and making valuable suggestions and corrections.

PPS. Apologies for this text-heavy post!!

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111 thoughts on “Lightfastness In Pastels – D8330 – A New Standard”

  1. I am horrified, as you say why do other mediums have ligth tests and not pastels. We must all join together and put pressure on the manufacturers. What do you suggest?

    1. It was a slow process for the other mediums and now we are have joined the line.
      Start with creating your own lightfast test as described in the post. That way you will have your own proof. It’s also really good to see yourself what happens!

  2. At Manchester Art gallery. UK, they have a pastel painting which is covered by a cloth. A member of staff is on duty next to it and will let you look at ot if you ask.

  3. Dear Gail,
    Thank you for this eye-opening article. I was aware that the watercolors I painted years ago would fade if placed in direct light and thought my pastels immune to such a hazard! I changed mediums boldly and now, RATS! Something else to be cautious about (not that I need to prepare work for the MoMa or any such place)! Thanks also for your energy and love for this medium. You make it fun.

  4. Wow!!! Who knew??? It would be fabulous if a lightfastness rating was required for all pastel manufacturers. Hopefully, bringing this into the light (no pun intended) and creating awareness of the situation will put some pressure on the manufacturers to follow in Sennelier’s footsteps. Thanks so much for bringing this to our attention.

  5. You know, I love pastels so much, and often find myself defending them to artists who express an interest but believe some myths about them.
    Lightfastness was never one of the subjects I had to defend. It was never mentioned.
    Now I feel disappointed because not only might those paintings I’ve sold lose saturation over time, but I no longer feel like I can defend my beloved pastels to artists in other mediums.

    I hope we can create change. I have too much to say as an artist to let the longevity of my work be a hindrance.

    1. Esther, I hear you! I think we all felt like that and so it was with much reluctance and trepidation that I wrote about this topic. But really, there was no alternative but to do so.

      let’s move forward and bring about this change!

  6. It’s really not a surprise that manufacturers using supply side economics provide a proliferation of hues, values and forms of pastels. At IAPS, the “Candy Store” moniker is evidence that Pastelists are eager to fund that process. That the pastels themselves have a varied level of light fastness per the standard presents a two-fold dilemma: a challenge to have manufacturers progress to compliance (ie, making pastels that comply, are labeled to the standard and providing consumer education), a challenge to artists to use lightfast products, protect the paintings already completed and to educate their patrons. Two daunting tasks.

    It’s unrealistic to imagine pastelists discarding their sticks so making a plan to better protect paintings, learning about selecting lightfast products and educating patrons seems an important next step. Doing that in parallel with the presentation recommendations is prudent.

    The test results left me thinking about two aspects: the chemistry of producing a pastel stick and testing lightfastness of a painting under glass options. IAPS might consider a test process for completed paintings. Those under museum glass vs conservation clear vs clear will have assuredly better lightfastness respectively. While it adds cost to the end result, museum glass will prolong integrity I suspect. A second thought is the composition of the stick itself. I’m wondering if pan pastels can more easily be formulated to lightfast (ie Is the stick “binder” percentage part of the issue?) Pure pigment seemed to result in better lightfastness vs synthesized dyes.

    It took a long time to get to this point, and progressing from it will take a cultural and economic shift so likely a few more years. Better to know and do something positive at this point. Thanks for bringing the issue to lightfastness.

    1. Thank you Gary for your in-depth and considered response. For sure the glass we use can help as will keeping work out of direct and bright light (true of any media is my belief!).
      And yes, it will probably take years but at least we are at this point and can move forward on a path to lightfastness and labelling.

  7. Hi Gail,
    Thanks so much for passing this on to us. I was at IAPS and finally met you, and told you I love your work, often share your articles with my students, and just appreciate all you do for us as pastel artists.

    I’ve always told my students that the “student quality” pastels found in many hobby stores often use dyes in some of their colors, and therefore often won’t be lightfast, but that artist-quality sticks are more pure pigment, held together with each manufacturer’s recipe of binder/filler, and therefore will be as lightfast as each individual pigment is. I don’t know if I read this or was told by previous instructors. I also actually assumed that ASTM’s lightast standards for oil and watercolor paints were more for the pigments than the paint formulas.

    Some of the test results revealed by Mr. Skalka were quite alarming…of course, I’m dying to know which manufacturers produced them. Were they some of my beloved Giraults, Unisons, Mount Visions, Rembrandts, etc? I think I will indeed do some of my own testing, since, as an instructor I need to know what I’m talking about.

    At any rate, having a standard of safety and lightfastness is a first step, and I’m glad that ASTM has provided that for us. And I do think that manufacturers should gradually try to improve their testing as part of their quality control, so that we as consumers can choose the most excellent products possible. Thanks again for sharing 🙂

    Lori Goll, PSA

    1. Hi Lori! Thanks for sharing your in-depth thoughts around this issue. As you say, I think many of us had been told and bought into the idea that our pastels were almost pure pigment and so lightfast. This may be the case for some of course but it would be prudent to create our own tests so that, as you say, we know what we are talking about.

  8. Hi Gail
    I was pleased that you brought this subject to everyones attention-it is something that needs to be addressed. Fugitive colours can totally ruin work that has taken weeks sometime longer to create.
    Dyes have been a problem in artists colours for a long time. Many years ago I obtained a copy of The Wilcox Guide to the best Watercolor Paints and used it a guide to buying colours.Those pigments that are fugitive in watercolour are fugitive in pastels as well.

    1. Yes, it does need to be addressed Barbara. And here we have a start. Thanks for sharing the book recommendation. As you say, pigments that are fugitive in other media will be fugitive in pastels. The thing is, some of our pastels are a combination of pigments and some may be lightfast, others less so. This will certainly turn the pastel industry on its head!

  9. Thank you for the article and video link! I will definitely be testing my pastels for lightfastness as mentioned in the article. We have always been told they will last for years and years. It’s something that we need to know as pastellists.

  10. Wow, does this mean when a manufacturer says the pastels are pigment based , they actually may not be?
    Very disturbing news. I love working with pastels but feel a bit of a fraud to sell work that may be less than what it should be .

    1. I think that anyone who says their pastels are pigment-based is saying it like it is. But that’s not to say all pigments are lightfast. Certainly, earth pigments are, but others may be less so. Just because the colour source is a pigment doesn’t mean it will be lightfast.

  11. Oh, my goodness! I had NO idea! Certainly I knew to keep paintings out of direct sunlight but I did not know fading could be so dramatic. Bright reds turning grey – that’s unbelievable!
    I have framed my small collection of well-known artists’ works with museum glass but as a fairly newly exhibiting artist, I can’t afford to use UV glass on all my paintings, buyers would not pay the difference in framing costs. So really, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place unless manufacturers work on improving their products to meet the standard.
    Perhaps we need to encourage all of our pastel societies to get on board and urge manufacturers to meet the standard and label their pastels with light fastness, that could be more effective than just hearing from individual artists.
    I usually buy half sticks without labels, there would need to be an information page in the box with details for each colour.
    Thank you so much for sharing this information Gail.

    1. Cathy that’s such a great idea about urging our pastel societies to take up the cause! Yes!!
      And I do understand about the cost of UV Museum glass…which is, as you say, a motivation to lean into purchasing lightfast colours, when we actually know what those colours are!
      Regarding half sticks, usually, there’s a colour table on the outside of the box. Or check online with the manufacturer’s website or a large retailer like Dakota or Jackson’s or Blick

      1. Yes, half stick boxes do have colour tables but only the colour code, no other information – we’d need lightfastness included should manufacturers decide to provide that.
        According to the Unison website they claim good lightfastness because they still use original recipes and pigments and steer away from dyes.
        The Art Spectrum website has a colour chart with lightfastness included, but I can’t find anything on the labels for their extra soft pastels.
        I can’t find any information on the Terry Ludwig, Girault or Diane Townsend websites.
        There’s a lot of work to be done!

        1. Cathy, thanks for being interested enough to go off and do some research. I know that Unison Colour has been adamant about the use of pigments and have care about lightfastness. I think this comes from the original creation of these pastels by an artist.

          There is lots of work to be done!

          And I’d love to see ALL manufacturers go through the same testing method so we could know we have consistency in our understanding of the lightfastness across the board so to speak.

  12. Thank You for sharing this important information. May we all take the time to encourage, request and inspire the folks creating our glorious pastels to provide quality products with integrity and disclosure.

  13. Dear Gail,
    My first reaction was OMG!!! Does this mean that the pastels I have sold over the years are perhaps already faded, even grey? I’ll never live this down!
    Then I decided to Google a few things, and I came across this:
    Soft pastels-Lightfastness #1-WetCanvas. It sort of rambles, and is text heavey but they rate brands of pastels.( My mcherished Terry Ludwigs seem to come out all right if I read correctly–whew). You might want to check it out.
    At any rate, your post is certainly an alarm bell and deserves consideration. Thank you for bringing this to us.

    1. Thanks Nancy for this link. Unfortunately, on first go at least, I couldn’t access the thread you are referring to. But I’m happy to hear there are convos about the lightfastness of pastels!

      1. Hi Gail, this is the link. I found the author’s thoughts informative. While she didn’t perform actual lightfast tests, she tracked down the pigments used by several popular soft pastel manufacturers. Her conclusions are based on the lightfastness of the pure pigments used. Pan Pastels, Unison, Terry Ludwig and Rembrandts use the most lightfast pigments.

        I also wanted to mention that I recently became a subscriber of Pastel Today thanks to Emma Colbert. So glad I signed up. You’re doing an amazing job!

        1. Thanks for tracking down the direct link Cherie! It all adds to our knowledge right?!
          Thanks for being a subscriber here and also Pastel Today 😁 And thank you for your appreciation!!!

      2. Since commenting earlier, I have done inventory, and sure enough, the Schminke purples, pinks are rated one *. Out!! I am testing greens, since I use them in landscapes and they are not on the charts in the video.. And watching my pale yellow clouds to see if they turn pink!
        I have contacted Terry Ludwig and Great American, no response as yet.
        Question: how is it that Degas’ pastels, as well as Madame de Pompadour by de la Tour, are still so fresh?
        Answer: because they are exposed in very dim light (which is turned off at closing time).
        Not exactly the same conditions in our flats. Perhaps we should caution our purchasers that pastels, like orchids, should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
        Since many of us are testing, it would interesting to compare notes, but the results will not be immediate, so how can we give you our feedback in, say, 2 months or so?
        Anyway, again, thanks for this so important post.

        1. Ohhh thanks for the follow-up comment Nancy.
          Good for you getting into your pastels and checking for ratings where they’re available. AND so great that you immediately reached out to some manufacturers. Let us know what responses you get.
          And yes to dim lighting…and their pastel selection was probably limited to the available pigments. And there was probably a knowledge of the lightfastness of most pigments in at least an anecdotal way. It would be great to get more info on this!!
          Good idea to compare our testing in a couple of months. Maybe I’ll do a callout for photos and results and do another post. (Feel free to remind me to do this lol!)

  14. Thank you for your reporting on this. We have all known for some time that many Nupastels were fugitive but I guess we have been too lazy to do anything about it.
    Now that we have evidence and we have to do our own testing it behooves us to do so, especially if we are going to sell the work. People that receive thousands of dollars for their paintings that will fade? How can we justify selling our work if it will not stand the test of time? We always tell people that pastels should sell at the prices of oils and watercolors and we have to overcome the problem of glass and now…that we know some colors will fade, how do we justify this?

  15. Thanks to Michael Salka for this shocking and informative video.
    Terry Ludwig and Schminke pastels do not come in wrappers. I own the set that was curated by Karen
    Margulis for Terry Ludwig.

  16. Thanks for raising this. I had always just assumed they were mostly lightfast. Wrong! I absolutely support any approaches made to the manufacturers and will gladly add my name.

  17. Thank you for this. Perhaps the reason this isn’t an issue is because as artists we thought this had been solved, years ago! The fact this is discussed behind closed doors and by invitation could be another reason. And this: So many resources have dried up it is difficult to be “in the know”.
    I had a manufacturer say to me; “Artists just do not complain”. My response: “As consumers, we, as artists, have the power to affect changes!”
    I have heard “artists” say: “I will be dead, I’ll let the conservators deal with it”. If you sell your work, it is your fiduciary responsibility to do the best that you can to produce the best product that you can.
    Again, thank you for presenting this.

    1. Exactly Whitney Studios (Nana?)!! I’m just so happy that IAPS shared the presentation with the public so we ALL can open our eyes wide to this issue of lightfastness in pastels!
      Such good points you make about what we’ve heard said. So true.
      Time for a change perhaps?!

  18. Rembrandt soft pastels are marked for lightfastness, or were back in the 1990s when I purchased my whole set in a tall wooden case. They have ‘+’ markes on one end of the wrappers from 1-5, one + being the lowest rating of lightfastness to 5 being the highest. I have found that most are 3-5, and the ones that appear to be 1 are unnaturally occuring bright pinks, reds, and oranges. Since I have had some fading even with my Senneliers, I have taken to framing all my work in museum conservation standards. The UV protection in the glass has gone a long way to helping with that problem, especially inside where flourescent lighting is a killer for anything non-lightfast. Hope this helps some of you out there.

    1. Thanks Jean for the reminder about Rembrandt soft pastels. Interesting that their ratings are opposite to Schmincke’s!
      Definitely UV glass helps but it would be great to be able to choose our pastels with knowledge.
      Thanks for bringing up the fact about how terrible fluorescent lighting is for fugitive colours!

  19. I wonder what the effect of sealing pastels with fixative has upon the fading? Since fixative tends to darken many colors, would they fade to the color they are supposed to be? It would be interesting to test pastel changes in light with a few brands of different fixatives.

    1. Interesting thought Theresa! If fixatives have a UV filter in then I’m sure it would protect. I love the idea of testing pastels for lightfastness after they’ve been fixed. Please report back if you do this!

  20. Thank you Gail for the informative post. I guess I never considered the lightfastness of the beautiful little sticks. I will be doing my own tests.
    I always break my sticks but don’t always save the labels. So, knowing the name/number will be a challenge.
    No apologies needed for the text heavy news – sometimes more words are better.


  21. Thank you for this important post Gail, although I really did not want to see it! I agree we have to do our own tests with the brands we use and make sure we know the quality of the material. I wonder if anyone has ever had a client come back to them and say that their painting is not as vibrant as when they purchased it? No one has ever said that to me, nor have I noticed any older pastel painting fading. Maybe the slow creep makes us just get used to it? I have always considered pastel to be one of the longest lasting art mediums but clearly that depends on the brand and colors used. Thanks for clearing away some of the dust on this issue…

    1. Hah hah…clearing dust from the issue. And my pleasure to do so.
      Thanks for your thoughts. I think slow creep may be one possibility we/our customers/galleries don’t notice. Certainly hanging out of direct light helps as does conservation glass. I often think how dreadfully faded some old posters and even book covers have gone…moving from bright colours to a washed out shade of blues. The result of dyes….?

  22. Thank you for this post and video on pastel lightfastness problems. I found it very enlightening and if I find my paintings losing their true colors I will be contacting the manufacturer and tell them that if they don’t fix their problems or let their customers know that certain colors are made from dyes vs pigment I will no longer purchase their products.

  23. Interesting reading indeed! I haven’t watched the video yet but I get the gist, and wow, how disappointing;(. The big question I have is that you said the suspicion is the colour is dye based vs pigment?? I thought pastels where supposed to be the closest we get to actually working with real pigment? Does this mean that we are being misled with the claims that pigments are what makes up the greatest proportion of material in a pastel?!? I would like to know the answer to that . Perhaps it’s on the video so I’ll watch it shortly to try and
    understand that detail.

    Thank you very much for this information and I’ll be watching to see if any of the other artists I follow online share this info. They have said they were going to be at the conference.

  24. Thank you Gail, for sharing this. I did watch the video. Lightfastness is very concerning! And pastels are expensive! A couple of questions:

    Have any tests been done regarding the prevention of pastel “fugitivity”when using Tru Vue Museum glazing over a pastel ?

    Do fixatives have an effect on “fugitivity” of pastels?

    1. Hey Trish, such good questions! And I have no answers. Perhaps tests have been done but if not, some testing on these two aspects would be useful!

  25. Thank you for bringing this important information to our attention. It is rather distressing to see how some of these colors completely lose their color. Pastels are so wonderful precisely because of the brilliant colors. Knowing that they should be placed on walls that stay in the shade or used more judiciously is very helpful information. I think this is also cause to petition manufacturers to share their ratings so that we may use their products in an informed manner. Thank you so much for sharing.

  26. I have to wonder if our demand for more intense colors and variety of values has contributed to the number of pastels that have failed lightfastness. It seems the competition between manufacturers perhaps has rushed development of new colors or perhaps they’ve never cared about lightfastness. The video remarked a number of times that earth colors were most colorfast and it seemed violets and reds failed the most.
    It is most discouraging to see the fading in some of the examples shown. Unless I am mistaken (because the study didn’t list manufacturers), the one violet looked like everyone’s favorite “eggplant’ faded to nothing!

    1. That’s such a good point you make Dorothy, that it’s our desire for those bright colours that has moved us in this direction of more fugitive colours!
      Let us all do our own lightfast testing with our favourites and see what happens…

  27. Thanks so much for the info . I have thought about it before because we went through the same thing with the color pencil society many years ago. They did influence the manufactures to implement new products practices. I’ll send your letter out. It would be nice if we had contact info for the various manufacturers to remove any excuses that might get in somebody’s way to take action.

    1. Alison, so interesting that you’ve been through this before with coloured pencils. I’m glad to hear that the society was influential in getting manufacturers to implement different practices.
      Thanks for spreading the word – the more people know, the more we can move towards change.
      And yes, it would be worthwhile collecting the contact person for the various companies….

  28. Thank you so much, Gail, for writing this! I appreciated all the info you gave and have watched the IAPS video.
    I recently had to repaint a gifted painting for a nursery for my grandkids—all the bright reds, oranges, pinks and blues had changed. This was in spite of the fact that the painting was hung in a non sunlit part of the baby’s room.
    I plan on experimenting with the colours I use for my floral pieces, since they all fall in the categories you mentioned and will write to the manufacturers upon results.
    Thanks again for taking the time to alert fellow pastelists to this issue.

    1. Wow Evelyn, you’ve had DIRECT experience with this lightfastness issue. Yikes! Thank you for sharing it with us. Let’s see what your tests reveal….

  29. I am saddened, but not surprised. The pigments/dyes that are used to create the colours of oils, watercolours, acrylic are likely the same ones used to create our beautiful ‘dusties’, it’s the ‘vehicle’ that carries the pigment/dyes that is different for each medium, not the colour molecules.
    I think I was a little smug, having been told in the past that our preferred medium was so much more stable than ‘those other mediums’.
    Now that bubble’s been burst, it’s time to knuckle down and get those light-fastness charts underway ! Could actually be fun, because I get to touch them without performance pressure or responsibility other than making swatches !

    1. Lauren, I know what you mean about being a bit smug lol! Things change and here we go on another adventure! Bring on those lightfast tests! And I LOVE the reframe – that it will be fun to do – to make colour swatches without a care in the world!

  30. Well, this is not only disappointing but sad to hear that the manufacturers are aware and yet concerned about improving the pastels due to difficulty or cost. We would think the goal is to not only produce lovely art for the short term but that it could stand the test of time long-term. Gail, this article had to be difficult to write, but surely it will help improve the products. Thank you for creating awareness and helping us to make good choices about our art.

    1. Thank you Pat for understanding how anxious I was to put this article out in the world. But it was necessary. And we can now move forward with this knowledge and encourage the manufacturers to begin to label their pastels and work to create more lightfast options

  31. Thanks for creating this wonderful, succinct report, Gail.
    The presentation at IAPS Presidents’ Forum with Michael Skalka was wonderful and eye-opening.

    His comment about the end-user, the pastel artists & societies, needing to encourage manufactures of soft pastels to comply to the color-fast standards is so true. Perhaps if IAPS can help us organize to do so.

    This is a great first step toward higher quality pastels and greater respect for the medium.
    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Terrilynn! Eye-opening indeed!!

      And yes, if we can get groups working towards change as well as us individuals, we may have more impact and more quickly. The IAPS Board members have done soooo much work to move this forward. I do hope they may take on the overseeing of this work BUT it’s up to us to actually put some time and effort and commitment towards making the change happen!!

  32. It’s disturbing and bewildering too. Was a list composed of certain colors within certain brands that are fugitive? If I advise beginner students to buy a set of Nupastels or Rembrandts, am I misguiding them?

    1. Hey Irene, no list I’m afraid. But from the colour swatches shown in the video and the info offered, we can see where some of the problems may lie. I think the best thing is to do is some testing yourself. I was shocked at the changes in some NuPastels when I did a test years ago. (I don’t know if anything has changed.) You’ll see that each Rembrandt pastel has a lightfast star rating on the wrapper. I think making sure your students are aware that not all pastel sticks will be lightfast is a good thing to do!

  33. Hi Gail, It was a pleasure meeting you at IAPS. I was initially upset and disappointed at the news that my beloved pastels weren’t as lightfast as I was I was lead to believe. I always thought that they were pure pigment with a binder. Coming from a oil & acrylic background I assumed that pastels were manufactured to the same light fast standards. I guess I just didn’t check my facts but just believed what I was told. I am disappointed but I believe that most pastel manufacturers especially since many are family owed and employees are passionate about creating beautiful colors and a great product will try to produce a product that is lightfast and labeled appropriately. Several pastel companies have shared that pigment supplies many be limited or unavailable in certain colors. I think we also have to look at this as a team or collaborative effort between artist and manufacturers. We shouldn’t say we need to put pressure on manufacturing to conform but instead look at our role as artists who are always wishing for MORE colors to create with. I think we have created a supply demand problem. In order to keep up with demand manufacturers added dyes to keep up with the demand. What would you do if your choice was give the customers what they want or possibly go out of business or layoff employees to keep your business going?

    1. Hey Susan! I totally get that initial assumption that all art materials are created with the same attention to lightfastness. I think many of us can relate.

      And yes, absolutely! We the consumer have certainly led the move to more fab colours. I’m so glad you laid out this point so well.

      And yes to collaboration between artist and manufacturer. Some pastellists will want to keep using the gorgeous colours that may be fugitive. Others will move to using lightfast colours only. It’s a choice. And to have that choice, we need to know what rating our pastels have. And so, we will move in that direction, encouraging pastel makers to label accordingly.

  34. Hey Gail, Thank you so much for reporting about this! The high failure rate on LF is indeed very disturbing. I am going to do my own testing for certain. Even though I don’t live at the latitude of Arizona, testing should still give me some clues about the quality of the pastels.
    I had always championed soft pastels to colleagues and buyers as the medium most pure in pigments, and now it seems that some manufacturers have used dyes?
    Super thanks, Gail, and to everyone involved in this research and testing! And, no, your post is not text-heavy, and is, as usual, very informative and nice to read!

    1. Thanks Barbara! This news is indeed disturbing but we now have the knowledge to take us forward. And a big YES to doing your own testing no matter where you are. It will be combined data!

  35. Thank you Gail for bringing this to our awareness. Along with all of you, I’m dismayed to learn this! Even though I’m not a professional artist, we invest heavily in our pastels and our work, and I’ve always believed that pastels contained more pure pigment than other mediums, so were more lightfast! Saying that, I’ve sometimes come back to one of my paintings months later and wondered at my “off” colour choices or why I made it so wishy washy. I’ve questioned myself, my eyesight, the light in which it was created, my choice of coloured pastel paper, but never, ever the pastels! Of course, it could be any or all of those variables, but it feels important now to do some home testing. Unfortunately, like many of us, I’ve trained myself to remove labels immediately, break and organise pastels by colour and value, but I do photograph them in the new boxes first, so could identify many with a bit of effort.
    If there are any scientists or methodical folks among us, we potentially have a wonderful international research platform that could be coordinated for testing and sharing results! We could do it informally and randomly, sharing results among ourselves, but could also work our way systematically eg through the colour wheel, using printable charts comparing agreed groups of brands and specific colour numbers and sharing more widely? Many of us will be part of other huge international groups too.
    Or, the process could be more formalised and collaborative. I wonder if the ASTM would be willing to coordinate pastellists in a massive international research exercise using the charts etc they’ve used? If the manufacturers of brands could jump on board and be part of such a collaborative process, all the better for mutual trust and reliable, transparent standards. Kudos to Schminke and Sennelier for leading the way, and the ASTM for taking this on board, and to you Gail for your own explorations and discussions!

    1. Angela, thank you for your comment. Eeps about looking at your art and wondering about how they look. Funny how we can blame ourselves and so interesting that it didn’t even occur to you to consider the pastels as part of the problem.

      I love your idea of a combined effort to create more data. And yes, let’s bring in our scientist members to help coordinate this effort!
      I think what you suggest may be out of the realm of ASTM responsibility but I think societies may be able to lead this effort. Let’s talk to them!!

      Thank you!!

  36. I was just about to buy a set of NuPastel but now I don’t know. I wanted a hard pastel for underlaying and fine detail. I use Terry Ludwig soft pastels (I’m actually new at pastels but common sense says use quality). So, what to do? Is there any other quality hard pastel that might be lightfast?

    1. Poppie, NuPastel is a popular hard pastel and many of its colours are lightfast. Other hard pastels are Faber Castell and Holbein. Holbein are made in Japan I believe. I would think they would be fastidious when it comes to the quality of the pastels including lightfastness. But I don’t know. Again, it’s up to us to test! So maybe buy a small set of any of these and try them.

  37. Not understanding the issue to be honest. Most of the quality pastels have pigment information on them and it’s easy enough to find out the lightfastness from there. I can’t believe so many of you guys haven’t bothered to do it already.

    1. Ohhh so interesting Genevieve! Many pastels do have this info, but many do not. What we want is a consistent lightfastness rating/notation so as a consumer, we instantly know what the rating is. Just as we do on paint tubes.
      Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts!

  38. Thank you for the great information, I have already sent emails to two of my pastel suppliers for lightfast ratings. Unison is lightfast according to their website (hoping this is true). Will be testing as well since it will likely take our favorite brands time to take action.

  39. Gail, I appreciate your time in letting us know about this. I will be passing it on. I knew about some of this because, a number of years ago, a beautiful large pastel was in a hanging spot in an office and the flowers were dark pink roses. In a few months, they were lighter pink. I looked into alizarin crimson and found out a lot. So… this was the tip of the iceberg. I’ll watch the video and learn more. I’ll also be talking to the Ludwigs to see more from their standpoint!

    1. Ohhhh not a great way to learn about lightfastness Marsha. Yikes! But, as you said, it made you aware of the issue. Thanks for sharing this personal firsthand experience.
      I’m delighted to hear you’ll have a chat with the Ludwigs. Please do let us know the outcome of that conversation (if you feel comfortable doing so).

  40. I have been a practicing pastel artist for more than 40 years. As a member of the Pastel Society of America off and on for years, as well as more local pastel societies, I always noted their information on pastels being the purest pigments out there of ANY medium, their unparalleled lightfastness, permanence, and the fact that original pastels from the 15th or 16th centuries have been found to be as fresh and vibrant as if they were done yesterday. So, how to reconcile this information with that?

    I do believe the early pastels WERE so lightfast because they were made of earth pigments, and the introduction of man-made colors of dyes introduced into pastels happened much more recently, however, that doesn’t solve the problem of fading colors today. Back in the very late ’70s, I did a small pastel painting of a magenta (dye?) morning glory flower. I had to take it off the market because the pinks/reds faded almost out of sight! I was perplexed.

    Again, in the early early 2000s, I completed a large and complicated painting of queen Ann’s lace and wild daylilies. After some time, I noticed the vibrancy of the orange lilies was gone. It was so subtle that it took me a while to realize it. Seemed there was something up with those reds and pinks. I likened this situation with the dyes used in the old-school lithographs that fade under sunlight (even reflected off other surfaces) and under UV indoor lighting from the “eco-friendly” flourescent light bulbs of today. We’ve all seen the prints in some businesses or homes that have “gone blue.” I took my daylilies apart and recolored the faded areas, but have no idea if what I used was more lightfast.

    For the last 20 years, I have worked mostly in Senneliers and Rembrandts. It was comforting to hear the words on Senneliers. Rembrandts were’t mentioned, however, I’ve had my case of them since the early 90s, and they are marked on each individual stick with plus marks (+) for lightfastenss. +++++ equals best, and + equals worst for lightfastness. Most are 5 or 4, several are 3, very few are below that, but there are some.

    In 2018, I began using museum glass in framing my work. Yes, it’s EXPENSIVE, but I haven’t had any issues of fading so far, and the lilies which I repaired are still vibrant. Now, though, I’m wondering if I should discard all my NuPastels and other unidentified sticks. I am heartbroken about this information and the fact that I’ve been giving misinformation to my customers for years about pastels. When I write about the medium to give to them, what should it say…?

    1. Wow Jean, thanks for this expanded comment and for sharing your own experience with pastels and their lightfastness. Love that you’ve covered so many points. Great to hear that the UV glass has helped halt the fading. That with using lightfast pastels should really make a difference for us pastellists!
      As to writing about the medium, I think we can still talk about oigment in a stick because it’s probably true of many pastels. I always say to hang out of direct light and so that doesn’t change. I’d love to hear from anyone else on this thought!

  41. Wow Gail, I thought that pastels could be a bit loosing colour but not that much! I have some pastels on a conservatory and they are still ok, plus these are my oldest paintings that were made in cheap paper and with the cheap pastels. Then I’ve started to learn of hand-made pastels and pastel papers and changed my game (and my pocket!)- and one painting I have on my toilet with direct light in every morning, but a museum grade PVC glass has hold well (at least from last year to now, more after an extremely hot summer).
    Obviously, I cannot afford to buy that kind of museum PVC (by the way, I know that people say that with pastels, I should use glass, but if I have to ship the frames, I am afraid of them arriving all broken- that was a suggestion of an old art teacher of mine, and with PVC my paintings seem to be fine, only the one with the museum grade PVC got a bit of dust on the PVC but it does not affect at all, looks like the painting is a bit more 3D)…sorry, went off topic!
    Will try to check my favourite pastels as you say, as I don’t want to have people getting my art losing my colours, I will feel awful if that happens. Thanks for opening our eyes… and I was talking as how much the pastels can outlast the oils and all… I still think they can, but oh well…

    1. Thanks so much for your comment Martina and for sharing your own experience with your paintings. And LOVE that you went off-topic – it all adds to the fullness of the conversation 😁
      Glad to hear too that you’ll be doing your own testing!

  42. Gail, thank you for publishing this information for us and encouraging us to do our part to effect change. I am performing some lightfast experiments with my favorite sticks and colors and will definitely write to the manufacturers to request that they label their products and look for better alternatives.

  43. Gail, thank you so much for raising this difficult issue – one that I’ll bet none of us suspected as we handed over our hard-earned cash for our lovely new sticks! Now it’s time for us all to get to work and prod the manufacturers to make changes. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  44. Thanks, Gail, for this article. I was wondering why not all pastels have lightfast ratings the same as major brands of oils and acrylics do, as I am familiar with those mediums. As a fairly new pastel lover, it is disappointing that many of my newly acquired pastels may not pass the lightfast test! I will be scouring each manufacturer’s website for this information. Is it correct that if an individual company may have lightfast ratings, but it applies only to their own pastels? And i wonder who does that testing for them? How could we as consumers find out? I will be doing my own investigation and testing , for sure. I am happy that the pastel society has been working on this lightfast rating for our benefit and education. Guess I have some (lots) of testing to do! I live in Florida, so we do have an abundance of sunshine! Thanks for all you do for the love of pastels!!

    1. Eva, you bring up such a great point about those pastels that do have lightfastness ratings. The thing about the ASTM D8330 standard is to actually have a standard test that all pastels can be measured with so there is a consistency between all pastels.
      Let us know how your testing goes!

  45. Thank you for raising awareness of this important issue for pastels. The colored pencil world has already been through this headache over the past 30 years. The Colored Pencil Society of America formed in 1990 and worked with the ASTM to develop the D6901 lightfastness standard for colored pencils. As a direct result, Caran d’Ache developed their Luminance 6901 line and Derwent developed their Lightfast line, in which ever pencil in the set is 100% lightfast. CPSA also does its own independent testing of all the major brands of colored pencils and publishes the results as a member benefit. Colored pencil artists of all levels are now much more aware of the importance of lightfastness. So progress has been made, but it has taken decades s to get this far.

    UV fixatives don’t help very much, because they are applied as a fine mist of microscopic particles, not a solid layer. (CPSA did some testing to confirm this result.)

    UV-filtering glass such as museum glass helps, but it’s not perfect; it’s still better to just not use fugitive colors.

    One also has to be aware that there are inconsistent rating systems by manufacturers; if the scale is 1 to 5, some will use 5 to mean the best, others will use 1 as the best. And there are plenty of manufacturers who simply state on the package that their pencils are lightfast, when actually testing shows that they’re quite poor.

    Many serious colored pencil artists remove the fugitive colors from their sets altogether, because we owe it to our commission clients and collectors to not sell them something that will change dramatically over a few years.

    I encourage IAPS to lead the charge. You can effect a change, as CPSA has. Both pastel and colored pencil have struggled to be recognized as a serious fine art medium, and getting manufacturers and artists to pay attention to lightfastness will help.

    (Full disclosure: I am on the national governing board of CPSA. I also love pastels!)

    1. Denise, oh my goodness, thank you so much for such an informative comment!! So interesting to hear that coloured pencils went through the same issue with lightfastness and that there was an outcome of manufacturers developing lightfast lines. There is hope!

      Thanks too for answering the question about UV fixatives and UV glass. As you say, best is to have lightfast pastels!

      And yes to the inconsistency in lightfast ratings. And one could also question how the tests were done. It would be great if all pastels complied with one standard for lightfastness.

      Please write to the IAPS board with your thoughts!
      (Glad you love pastels too 😁)

  46. Gail, this is so interesting! Do you know if this is more a product of today’s pastels? now that we have, and want, so many color choices? would you say that Degas, Cassatt, Picasso, etc used pastels based more on pigments and, because of that, had less variety of colors? Have these works of art been preserved well because of that…

    1. Angie, yes, I think you’re right. They also used more toxic pigments than we do today!
      But I don’t have the answer. We need a museum curator specializing in pastel work to chime in here 😀

  47. Wow! Thank you so much for bringing this to artists attention. I will definitely be making sure I learn more about this, and, of course, I am very disappointed! I had no idea. Yes, we need to push manufacturers, and pastel societies, to advance this so we know what we’re buying and so manufacturers, have their eye on creating the products we want and need. Wow! Thanks Gail.

  48. Hello Gail,
    Allthough I don’t believe this brand is sold in the U.S.-perhaps in Canada?–the pastels Roché based in Paris and the oldest manufacturer of pastels in the world, have a very complete site in which they explain the process of manufacturing, and state that their products are exceptionnally resistant to light. Incidentally they have 1700 shades! Just hop on a plane with an empty suicase and do your shopping!

  49. Thanks for this article! I’ve got some interesting info while reading markings on Schmincke pastel sticks: some colours with five stars in bright variant have just three stars when white is added.
    I have got several pastel sticks of vintage Rembrandt, it looks different from modern, and the system of numeration of colours on the labels is also different. For example, there are letters A, B, C, D. Does anybody know what they mean?

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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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