The Art Gear Guide  

The Art Gear Guide is your one stop shop for the most recent, up to date, honest reviews on all your favourite art supply products. 


Unison Colour Pastels

Unison Colour Pastels

Unison Colour Pastels

For as long as fallen in love, metaphorically speaking, with art, one medium I've always admired has been pastels. I understand that some of us find them to be messy and some artists can't stand the texture of the pastel on their hands, never the less, in the right hands, the results from a pastel artist can be breathtaking.

All that said, it is not just a simple case of lifting a set of pastels and painting with them. There are different types of pastels and the paper you use is also a very important factor in creating a beautiful pastel painting. 

Today I am reviewing the very popular, Unison Colour Pastels, however, before jumping into the pastels and their performance, I'd like to give a brief outline of the company and their outlook towards the products they have created. 

Artist John Hersey formed Unison Colour in the 1980's. Jon became somewhat disillusioned with the type of pastels he was using as they often failed to meet his expectation of what a pastel should be. Rather than resigning himself to the fact of simply living with his dilemma, John Hersey decided to create a pastel that was going to fulfil his vision and thus, Unison Pastels were born. 

The Old Coach House Where The Pastels Are Made

Still to this day, every single Unison Pastels is handcrafted, with over a quarter of a million, lovingly handcrafted pastels produced every year. When you first open a box of Unison Pastels, their delightful form is instantly evident as each individual pastel displays it's own unique characteristics and quirky imperfections in terms of non-uniform cylinders.

The company is nestled in the beautiful Northumberland countryside, and is run by John's wife Kate Hersey and son Dan Hersey. For those of you fortunate enough to have visited the majestic Northumberland countryside and coast, it will be easy for you to visualise where the inspiration is filtered from to create such a beautifully delectable colour palette, throughout the Unison range. 

Image courtesy of

Unison is a family run business that also employs local people. Unison Colour may not have been around for a few hundred years, however, they have certainly made up for lost time, with the love, unity, perfection and professionalism that goes into each and every Unison Pastel.

In general, there are five types of pastels, Soft, Hard, Pencil, Pan Pastels and Oil Pastels. The pastel we are reviewing today belongs to the first category, the Soft Pastel. 

Soft Pastels are perhaps the highest quality pastels on the market. All pastels are a mixture of pigment, which is the colour and a binding agent used to hold the mixture together, which is normally a substance called Gum Arabic. In the case of Soft Pastels, they are created with a grater concentration of pigment, against the actual binding agent, whereas Hard Pastels and lower graded pastels are the reverse, little pigment and more binding agent. 

I was sent the Starter 18 Set from Unison and from the second I opened the box and was presented with a treasure trove of colour, the softness and level of pigment in the pastels was clear. With the lightest feather touches, the pigment had attached itself to the foam protection mat covering them. I couldn't wait to use them and put them through their paces. 

Each pastel is sheathed with a small paper ring, depicting the classic Unison Colour logo and in the centre is a clear representation of the colour name and code. Along the bottom of the ring is the words "Hand-made in England", although as I've mentioned, their handcrafted form is immediately evident, removing notions of mass factory produced pastels.

On removing the pastels from their snug foam dens, their softness is once again evident as the pigment covers the tips of my fingers, even with the most delicate of touches. When laying the colour down on the pastel paper, the silky smooth covering of the pastel on the paper is simply delightful. Almost like magic, as I move the pastel along the paper using the lightest touch, the lush and vibrant pigment trails behind, attaching itself effortlessly to the paper.

When using my finger to move the pigment around the paper or to simply apply it into the required area, the movement is almost poetic, with the true craftsmanship of the Unison Pastel shines through. 

Unison provides pastel artists with approximately 436 separate colours, however, to make selection easier, Unison have created sets for all manner of pastel artists, be they completely new to the medium or professional. There are sets for all flavour of artist. 

Sets typically come in numbers as small as 8 and as large as 72, of course Unison Pastels can also be purchased in open stock form, so you are permitted to create your own palette according to your own style of art. However, Unison go one step further to help you chose a set according to the type of art you prefer and have assembled sets accordingly. Sets such as Landscape 18Portrait 36,  Landscape 36 or perhaps you are new overall in which case you may chose from one of the Starter Sets. The choice doesn't stop there; you may perhaps have a favourite pastel artist which you may wish to follow. If so, Unison have sets named after certain prominent pastel artists with a particular style, such as the Mary Brigid Mackey - Irish Landscape 36, Emma Colbert - Animal 36 SetHeather Harman - Mediterranean Half Stick Set or my personal favourite, the Peter Podmore - Northumbrian Landscape set. This is only a small selection of the Unison range, so it is certainly recommended that you visit the Unison Colour website and marvel for yourself the stunning colour ranges they have on offer. 

I have absolutely loved using the Unison Soft Pastels and would highly recommend both professional pastel artists and new pastel artists to try them. For the new pastel artist, it is not worth purchasing a cheaper branded pastel to see if you are going to enjoy the medium, as you are unlikely to get a true representation of what a quality pastel can achieve. Start with one of Unisons starter sets and really experience pure craftsmanship in your hands and see for yourself the vast range of quality pigment spill from each pastel onto your paper. 

I'd like to make one thing clear to all who read this review and other reviews I've completed in the past and will complete in the future. If a company requires my opinion on one of their products, my main focus throughout the review is honesty and integrity toward my readers and viewers. If I feel there is an issue with the product I will highlight that issue. However, I am not out to discredit companies, if a product has slight imperfections or bad qualities, I know the companies are always striving to enhance their products. I have nothing but the utmost respect for all art supply companies trying to produce various grades of supplies, whilst trying to ensure all their customers are happy and content. It has been my experience that art supply companies would much rather have an honest review of their products so they can continually improve their product if needed and thus maintain the happiness of their customers. My review of Unison Colour Pastels as you can see was an incredibly favourable review, this was simply because the product is of such a high quality and no other reason. 

Thank you to Unison for extending this honour to me and for trusting my opinion on such a valued product.

Don't forget to check out my YouTube video to go along with this review, click the link.   

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