Conté, also known as Conté sticks or Conté crayons are manufactured using natural pigments (iron oxides, carbon black, titanium dioxide), clay (kaolin), and a binder (cellulose ether).
Conté crayons are most commonly found in black, white, and sanguine tones, as well as bistre, shades of grey, and other colours. Currently in the USA, sets of 12 assorted portrait and landscape colours are available as well as a sketching set, plus sets of 18, 24 or 48 colours.
Coloured sets are especially useful for field studies and colour studies. Some artists create entire paintings with them, using them more like pastels than like a drawing medium. They are also used often to sketch under pastel paintings or lay down initial layers before using dry pastels. The colour sets lean toward very bright spectrum hues that mix well; even the 12 assorted colour set can be layered to produce any hues or values desired. Colour Conté mixes better on paper than many hard pastel products.
They are frequently used on rough paper that holds pigment grains well. They can also be used on prepared primed canvases as an under drawing for a painting. The sticks' square profile make Conté crayons more suitable for detailed hatched work as opposed to the bolder painterly drawing style demanded by soft pastels.