One of the first things you should know is that while they are called pastels, they come in a wide range of colors. Some people are very confused when they see this because they are thinking about the pale colors that most people are referring to when they mention “pastel.”
Oil pastels are one kind that you can choose to work with. These generally look like crayons, which can lead to a lot of confusion about how to use them and what they are for. Many people use these to create layers of color that can be continually added to and scraped away. Unlike crayons, they also blend nicely.
Pastel pencils are generally hard pastels encased in a wood exterior. One of the biggest perks to using these is that they are less messy to work with since you aren’t holding the pastel itself like you are when they are in crayon form. But they have their drawbacks as well. With pastel pencils you cannot create sweeping areas of color with a single motion like you can with the flat side of a pastel stick.
Buying pastel sets is a great way to get started. This can give you what you need without overwhelming you. If you haven’t worked with them before, you don’t need to buy the biggest, most expensive set you can find. A basic set with a good assortment of colors is a great way to go. This way you have all you need to start creating great art, and you can add onto it as you like.