When you paint in pastel, there is nothing like having a good range of quality pastels to work with.  It has taken me years to amass a collection of varying brands with different properties in a large colour range.  This is because they are not cheap.  But I’ve come to realise that quality not only lasts better, it makes the whole process easier and more enjoyable when the materials do what you want them to!
Unison Soft Colour Pastels are the main pastels I use in my work.  I love their texture.  They’re soft but not so soft they crumble.  When I lean lightly I can create thin masks of colour.  When I lean heavily I can get such a strength of colour like no other medium.  I really think Unison’s ‘Portrait’ set helped me introduce more colour to my people portraits, and sometimes just having a palette to get started with is what you need.  After a while I found alternatives to the set and I get braver playing with other colours the more adventurous I get.
Unison have asked me to put together a set of colours perfect for painting animals.  I created an 18 and a 36 set based on my most used colours when painting a wide range of animals.  The following images will hopefully explain how I put the different colour sections to use.
The full 36 set.  Yum!

 

The Top Left row is all about the lights.  This is an example of
how many colours there are reflected in white dogs.  I’ve included
a large range of light shades as you want to have warm and cool
tones.  These also make a great row of highlight colours for any
animal.  Pure white is very stark.  I save white for the very brightest
point in a painting but use off whites for most highlights.

 

The blue range in the Middle Left row
comes into play in dark animals especially.
A dark animal will reflect whatever is around them.
You might want to consider adding some greens
to your collection if you intend to paint animals
outdoors as green can be reflected also.
I also use this blue row as my shadow highlights
in other coloured animals.

 

A good selection of cold and warm brown tones
is essential for animal painting.  The whole bottom row
of the set supplies a selection which should cover the most
unusual brown coats.

 

The top right row has a few great additions to the 18 set.  I find
fleshy purple tones come in so useful.  Animals tend to have
fleshy inner ears, pink around thinner areas of fur, and of course
pink wet tongues!  Flesh tones are definitely useful!

 

The Middle Right row has many uses.
Sometimes a black animal can shine with warm tones.  A really
vibrant orange like A7 can add real warmth to a sunlit dark animal.

 

Similarly this row of yellows through to rich reds is useful
for red toned animals.

 

The colours in the mid section of the set can add
a real bit of vibrance to the fur.
Here is the colour code list for both sets:
18 Set
Top 
Grey 28

 

Grey 27
LT6
A19
A4
Grey 10

 

Middle

 

BV9
Grey 8
Dk14
Y15
A17
NE1

 

Bottom

 

BE14
RE9
RE18
RE12
NE7
Grey 36

 

36 Set
Top Left 
Grey28
Grey27
A7
A19
A31
A4
Top Right
RE13
LT6
BE21
A27
A18
BE23
Middle Left
BV7
Grey10
BV9
Grey8
BV8
DK18
Middle Right
Y16
Y15
A17
RED2
RE18
RE12
Bottom Left
BE14
BE9
BE11
RE9
BE17
BE5
Bottom Right
NE1
NE7
BE6
BE36
DK14
Grey36
No doubt you might find shades you prefer yourself and I warn you that pastel collecting becomes an addiction!  I don’t stick to these alone given the rainbow of choice available but I know if I had to complete an animal portrait with a limited number in my palette, I could work comfortably with either of these boxes.
I hope you’ve found this helpful and consider giving my palette a try.  Unison have also kindly offered me a free Animal 36 set of pastels to hold a competition on my Facebook page at EmmaColbertArt.  I will post details of this there on Sunday evening 19th October.  There will be pastels and my own 2015 calendars for the winners!