If you're not fortunate enough to have a fine art store that carries artist quality pastels in your area, then online shopping is the way to go. But be aware; prices and stock varies widely from store to store. It's always a good idea to compare prices at a few online shops before checking out.
If money is not an issue; I would recommend
I've done my comparison shopping from the online shops that I've ordered from in the past (With the exception of Pastels Girault which was a new find in my search)
Canada : Kings Framing and Art Gallery, Above Ground Art Supplies, Curry's, Delta Art & Drafting Supplies, Studio-Six Art Supplies
United Kingdom: Jackson's Art, Pastelsgirault
United States: Blick, Pasteletc, Dakota Pastels.
The linked file here is detailed of my findings: Comparing Online pastel Prices
It's important to consider shipping costs as well. Some of the Ontario Online shops in my review offer free shipping with varying minimum orders.
(Note: click on the Links to go to each store's shipping policies page)
Curry's Artists' Materials Free over $75.00
King's Framing and Art Gallery Free over $75.00
Above Ground Art Supplies Free over $150.00
Studio-Six Free over $200.00
Delta Art & Drafting Supply - This store is based in Alberta. If offers a 5% credit off of shipping charges for Ontario residents.
Ordering from the U.S. and Abroad
I admit, I've been pretty lucky (touch wood) when ordering from Jackson's Art Supply in the UK. More often than not, the delivery comes to my door without being caught at customs, where duty and sales taxes are added. What amazes me is the shipping costs from overseas. They're so much cheaper than the U.S. or Canada. For example: I ordered a box of 5 pastels from Mount Vision total cost was $22.77. The shipping was: $2.05!! (yes; that's in Canadian dollars!) I'll be updating this post with new findings on duty and charges from both the US and UK.
Pastel Paper Best Buys!
My review is on the three pastel papers I use most:
This is one of my favourites! I love how it grabs the pastels, and the multiple layers you can build. I find it doesn't eat the pastels as much as the Uart. One problem I've had when using a wet underpainting is that the sanded surface started to lift in some spots.
Studio-Six : 14.79 per sheet
Uart Premium Sanded Paper
This paper is fabulous! I prefer the 800 grit for the way that I paint. It's a very durable paper, and much more affordable than the pastelmat.
Delta Art and Drafting Supplies 9 x 12 pad $24.38, (600 grit) 21x27 sheets: 8.59
Canson Mi-teintes paper
This paper is not a sanded paper and will not accept many layers without using a fixative between layers. I still like to use this paper now and then. I really like the variety of colours available and the duo texture. One side being smooth and the other a honeycomb texture.
Kings Framing and Art Gallery: 1.69 sheet
Hard and Soft Pastels - My Picks
The pastels in my review are ones I regularly use: (From hardest to softest): Nupastels, Rembrandt, Mount Vision, Girault, Unison, Sennelier, Schmincke. The following link is a summary of pricing from the websites I searched: Comparing Online pastel Prices
If I were given the choice of only choosing one pastel to complete a painting, I would without a doubt choose Girault. But to my disappointment I can't find any Canadian online stores that carry them. I've often ordered from pastelsetc, and other US online stores while visiting the US. In doing this research I did find the official Girault website in France where they take online orders. Pastelsgirault.com.
The price is much cheaper than ordering from US and if they're like the UK online store :Jacksons, the shipping will be much cheaper too. I'll keep you posted on how it all turns out.
Best Buys On Pastels!
Here are some super savings: (note: all prices are in Canadian Dollars at conversion rate as time of review- Nov 2018. They do not include shipping charges, sales tax or duty)
Sennelier and Unison Pastels are made in the UK. They are available in Canadian online stores; but I've found super savings and have ordered from a UK online store:
(compared to a Canadian online: Curry's as 6.99 and 6.79...this is quite a savings!)
Rembrandt: $2.99 each
(compare to $5.29 at Curry's)
Nupastels: 1.39 each
(compare to $1.69 at Curry's)
Schmincke: $5.20 each
(compare to $7.39 at Delta Art and Drafting Supplies)