Color Spree

Color Spree
My favorite color is "all of them." What's yours?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mungyo Gallery soft pastels

Mungyo Gallery soft pastels are good student grade pastels at a loony cheap price. I bought the 64 half stick set from Jerry's Artarama, but I have also seen these sets in hobby stores, art stores and craft stores. The price is low and the quality very high for the price.

The packaging is excellent. I noticed this with my first half stick set of 32 - there's a sturdy cardboard box with glossy printed cover, styrene insert inside and then a cardboard sleeve that the box slides into. A foam pad and plastic foam pad cover the pastels to keep them from getting damaged. This packaging is fantastic.

The cost is kept low because the sticks are small, 1/4" square by a bit over an inch long. So this keeps the entire set compact. With that elegant packaging, I don't need to worry about slipping it into a bookbag vertically or tossing it around in a backpack. It's the perfect carry-along pastels sketch set.

The color range is well chosen and strong on chromatic bright colors. This is a great thing for a colorist - you can find those good aqua and red-orange and other tertiary hues as well as a great assortment of greens and blues for landscapes. Plenty of warm earths and a few good tints allow for mixing good skin tones too if you're more interested in sketching the people at the park than their background.

Four fluorescent colors up at the top left are extremely fugitive. All fluorescent colors are by their nature - the pigment degrades as it soaks and reflects UV light for the fluorescent effect. But when you're doing creative art journals, sketchbooks, holiday decorations, crafts applications or signs, durability isn't always a primary consideration. Also anything in a bound book is likely to last much longer even if the pigment is fugitive because it's only exposed to light when someone opens the book to look at it.

So I'd recommend using the fluorescent colors only where you know it's for a temporary use or know the art's going to be protected from light most of the time. They're fun for practice sketching and gorgeous for giving some zing to illustrations - if the prints are the final durable form in a mixed media production, then go for the fluorescence. They can really pack a punch glazed over similar colors or used as small accents - or used heavily on black for a black-light painting for parties.

The soft texture is consistent across all colors. That makes them predictable and easy to handle. They smudge easily like any pastels, but being softer than the hard pastels range, they also go over each other to seven or eight layers on nonsanded paper. It's easy to turn them on their sides for broad strokes because the small square sticks aren't wrapped and are already the perfect size for plein air. It's also easy to turn a stick on an angle and get small details with a sharp corner or wear the edge of the end down to a chisel tip for doing thin lines.

Jerry's Artarama carries Mungyo Gallery pastels in two forms - soft wrapped sticks and square wrapped sticks. They do include calcium carbonate - chalk - so these can rightly be called chalk pastels. This gives them a slightly different look from artist grade pastels, a little more matte, a little less glittery from pigment crystals interacting. Once blended they look the same.

They also handle the same as other soft pastels. This is vital for practice and sketchbook use. Some well known professional painters commented when I posted my contest entry at Jerry's that they use these constantly. One fellow who's won numerous major contests was on his fourth box of the half sticks because he uses them so frequently for plein air studies and sketching.

So if you want sketch pastels to conserve those several dollars a stick artist grade pastels for commissions and gallery paintings - these are a great choice for studies, sketchbook use, illustration, any use where you're not concerned about lightfastness. They have a lovely look in a finished painting that's unique to them and the colors mix, scumble, blend and handle wonderfully.

You can't beat the price for that little set to bring along no matter where you go - I got my set for $9.99 on sale and that's the larger half stick set, there's also a 32 half stick set that's even tinier. The box is 9 1/2" x 6 1/2" x 5/8" thick - fits into any school bag or backpack, weighs very little and holds a huge well chosen range. I recommend this set for a sketching and plein air set for anyone.

It's also a great starter for beginners with its huge range, good packaging and compact size. If you really want to be frugal, try using Mungyo Gallery soft pastel half sticks on fine grit sandpaper from the hardware store as well as regular sketchbook paper, brown paper cut from grocery bags or printer paper.

I bought this set to enter the Jerry's Artarama Summer Pastel Challenge, deadline just passed. My entry was on Richeson Premium sanded pastel paper, a very high quality artist grade sanded paper. I had no problem layering and building up a full colourist painting with the Mungyo Gallery Soft Pastels, they handled as well as the artist grade brands and produced a great entry. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post it in a review though, should probably wait till the contest is over to see if I won anything. Trust me though, it came out as well as it would if I'd used pastels that cost far more.

Here's a sample sketch I did following an oil painting video on Jerry's Artarama by artist Wilson Bickford. I liked his anatomy of a wave demonstration, knew I could transpose it to pastels and had my Mungyo Gallery half sticks handy. My surface is 65lb smooth white sketchbook paper in a Reflexions 8 1/2" x 11" hardbound sketchbook also from Jerry's Artarama. It's similar to most lightweight sketchbook papers.


  1. Fabulous review. Thank you so much!

  2. Your review was very helpful. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts about these pastels.