As I venture into the world of pastels, I want to find my way methodically. Thus I thought it would be best to start by comparing how pastels perform compared to charcoal. To get the best comparison, I took color out of the equation and used a black pastel. The brand I am using here is Rembrandt, which I have heard are a little harder than many other brands of soft pastel. I am also using smooth bristol paper because that's what I had around. I also used a 6B charcoal stick.
In each image below, charcoal is on the left, black pastel on the right. The first thing I observed is the feel of the medium on the paper. Charcoal is gritty, rough. You can feel it scratching the paper. Pastel goes on much more smoothly. The black pastel is also blacker than the charcoal.
In the first image, I used my favorite blending tools for charcoal. I was quite disappointed with how the pastel blended. The stump seems to be the best option for not leaving stroke marks underneath. In the second image I tested erasers. Pastel clearly does not erase as fully as charcoal, especially using the kneaded eraser. Click the images to see larger versions.
Next, I want to experiment some more with applying pastel, layering and blending to get different colors and effects. Since it is really a paint, I'm going to use paintbrushes. Stay tuned.