My favorite brand of soft pastels is Art Spectrum. This is a beautiful set. They are very lush and a bit softer than the pastels I first learned to draw with like Prismacolor Colors. Any pastels you have will work. You can even use water soluble pastels or oil pastels. If your soft pastels happen to get a little" stuck" (this seems to happen if they have gotten wet or have not been used in awhile) and won't draw try rubbing them on a coarse piece of sandpaper. If your pastels get a layer of "dirt" on them put them in a container of rice and gently shake it to remove the dirty layer.
"With pastels you don't need gimmicks and are only limited by your imagination. If something doesn't work for you... simply rub/scrub the offending area right back to the paper colour and build it up again." - Gail Boyle
Drawing with pastels
I don't know if having so many different methods and mediums for creating a drawing/painting around is beneficial or detrimental, but I love art supplies so much that I cannot help myself. Pastels are one of the mediums I have and don't use hardly enough. There is something so rewarding about using them, instant color, instant rich marks, like painting without water.
In this demonstration I use toned gray paper for the first exercise, using an image with strong lights and darks for my reference image. I put a layer down and then blended that layer. From there I continue to add more and more layers of pastels, overlapping and blending until I felt finished. I wanted to leave (not blend) some of the marks at the end to show off the beautiful texture of the pastels.
For the second demonstration, I worked on Yellow Oche Gessoed paper. Working in a similar manner as in the first demo, this time using bolder colors that don't necessarily match the reference image, but kept with the lights and darks of the image.
When working with Pastels it is important to try and not breathe in the pastel dust. Wearing a respirator is a very good idea. If you work on a flat surface be sure to tap your paper away from you when removing the dust. You can put a large piece of masking tape off to the side, face up, to collect all the dust. If you are working at an easel you can have a piece of masking tape at the bottom of your drawing to catch the pastel dust.
You can also wear gloves to protect your hand, but the most important thing is to keep it out of your lungs.