There are several types of pastels; hard, soft, oil and pastel pencils and each one has its own unique use. They are all made with pure dry pigment and a small amount of binder. The soft pastels look like sticks of chalk and the pastel pencils look like colored pencils at first glance. Artists' quality pastels contain the best pigments available and a higher ratio of pigment to binder. This means that artists' colors are brilliant and more intense. They also won't fade over time. I use soft pastels, hard pastels, and pastel pencils – sometimes all of them in one painting.
Because pastels are made with pure pigment and a little binder they produce the most brilliant and intense colors – that is one reason I love them. The first pastel painting I saw was a beautiful ocean scene with an old ship sailing on rough seas with a turbulent sky above. I was so taken by the beautiful intense colors of this painting I just had to find out how it was painted and how the artist got those brilliant colors. When I found out it was a pastel painting I took a class on pastel painting and was hooked.