What is Oil Pastel Art?

by Annie Saxena on Mar 09, 2023

What is Oil Pastel Art?

A painting and sketching media made into a stick shape called an oil pastel is made of pigment blended with a binder made of non-drying oil and wax. These are distinct from other pastel sticks created with a gum or methyl cellulose binder as well as from wax crayons made with no oil. A painting created using oil pastels has a less powdery surface than one created with gum pastels, but it is more challenging to correct. Oil pastels are vibrant and bold. Although they may be combined quickly, they can also break readily.

When applied sparingly, oil pastels can be utilized directly in dry form, producing results akin to those of oil paints. Massive build-ups can provide a look that is practically impasto. The oil pastel pigment can be worked with using a brush dipped in white spirit, turpentine, linseed oil, or another form of vegetable oil or solvent after it has been applied to a surface. As an alternative, oil can be applied on the drawing surface beforehand or applied directly to the pastel. Some of these solvents offer major health problems.

What is Oil Pastel Art?

Oil pastels are a sort of drawing media comprised of a combination of pigment, wax, and oil that are used in oil pastel art, a visual art form. Despite having a creamier texture and being prepared with a non-drying oil as the binder, oil pastels are comparable to classic soft pastels in appearance and have a buttery substance.

Oil pastel art can be used to produce a broad variety of effects and styles, from intricate and realistic drawings to more abstract and emotional pieces. Paper, canvas, glass, and metal are just a few of the surfaces that oil pastels can be utilized on.

The ability to immediately merge colors on the surface is one of the distinctive qualities of oil pastel art. Because of this, it is possible to generate a broad variety of textures and effects in addition to creating seamless color transitions. Drawings can also be made using oil pastels by layering them to add depth and dimension.

Oil pastels may produce vivid and bright colors because of their creamy texture, and they can also be applied in thick layers for a more painterly look. For a more translucent look, they may also be diluted out or combined with other materials like turpentine or mineral spirits.

Ultimately, oil pastel art is a flexible and expressive medium that artists of all skill levels, from amateurs to experts, may appreciate.

What are the Different Techniques of Oil Pastel Art?

Artists can produce a variety of effects in oil pastel artwork using a variety of techniques. Here are a few of the most popular methods:

The ability to combine colors on the canvas is one of the distinctive qualities of oil pastel artwork. Color blending and seamless transitions can be achieved by artists using their fingertips, blending stumps, or other tools.

Oil pastels can be placed on top of one another to give a drawing depth and substance. In order to build up the image, this approach applies many layers of color.

Graffito: Graffito is a technique in which the artist uses a sharp instrument, such as a pencil or pen, to scratch into the surface of the oil pastel to produce lines or textures. The details and highlights in a drawing can be added using this technique.

To add texture and depth to a surface, an artist uses the impasto technique, which involves applying several thick coats of oil pastel. A more artistic appearance is frequently achieved using this method.

Resist: This method includes covering the surface with an oil pastel layer, followed by a layer of ink or watercolor. An interesting effect is produced by using oil pastel as a resist to stop the ink or watercolor from sticking to the paper.

Scumbling: Scumbling is a technique in which the artist adds a dry oil pastel layer over an earlier layer to produce a fractured, textured impression. From delicate shading to strong, expressive strokes, this technique can be utilised to produce a range of effects.

These are only a few of the many methods that may be applied to oil pastel artwork. In order to find the ones that best fit their style and vision, artists might experiment with many approaches, each of which presents its own special set of opportunities and obstacles.

How to Use Oil Pastel in Art?

Many different artistic techniques can be applied to oil pastels. Using oil pastels can be done in the following ways:

Your surface of choice: On top of paper, canvas, and even glass or metal, oil pastels can be utilized on a variety of other media. Choose a surface that is suitable for the kind of artwork you wish to do.

Create a compositional plan: Making a composition plan before you begin drawing is beneficial. A quick sketch or outline of your topic can be made, and you can choose the colors and styles you want to employ.

To use the oil pastels, first paint your surface with a light foundation coat of color. When combining colors and making seamless transitions, you can do so with your fingertips or a blending tool. To provide depth and dimension, stack various shades on top of one another.

Employ a variety of methods: Graffito, impasto, and scumbling are a few techniques to try out in order to produce a range of effects and textures.

Detailing: After you've established the fundamental hues and shapes for your drawing, you can use graffito or other techniques to add in particulars and highlights.

Fixative: To prevent smudging or fading of your drawing when you're done, spray it with a fixative.

Oil pastels offer a wide range of creative possibilities, from realistic and detailed drawings to bold and expressive abstract art. You may use oil pastels to produce stunning works of art and establish your own distinctive style with some experience and experimenting.

Which Paper is Best for Oil Pastel Art?

When using oil pastels, choose the appropriate paper is crucial because it can change the final appearance and feel of your artwork. While selecting oil pastel paper, keep the following things in mind:

Surface finish Oil pastels need paper with a little toothy or rough surface to help them grasp the pigment. This makes it easier for the pastels to stay on the paper and keeps them from smearing. Be on the lookout for papers with a surface texture that resembles watercolor paper, such as cold press or rough.

Weight: The paper's weight is crucial as well. A heavier weight paper, such as one that weighs 140lb or more, will withstand the pressure of the oil pastels better and avoid buckling or warping.

Quality: Choose for archival, high-quality paper that is free of acids. By doing this, you can be confident that your artwork won't fade or deteriorate over time.

Color: Take into account the paper's color as well. Oil pastel colors will shine out more on white or off-white paper, while an interesting background can be added to your artwork by using colored paper.

With oil pastels, several common types of paper are:

Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel Paper, UArt Premium Sanded Pastel Paper, and Strathmore 400 Series Pastel Paper

Color fix Pastel Paper by Art Spectrum

The ideal paper for oil pastel depends ultimately on your particular preferences and the type of artwork you intend to produce. Try out various sheets to see which one works best for you.

How to Start Oil Pastel Art?

Here are some fundamental guidelines for beginning oil pastel artwork:

Assemble your resources: You'll need a set of oil pastels, paper or canvas, a pencil, and a blending tool to get started with oil pastel art (such as a blending stump or your fingers). Fixative spray, a palette knife, and solvents are optional supplies.

Make a composition plan: Start by lightly outlining your topic with a pencil. You can use this to get an idea of the colors and textures you wish to utilize as well as to arrange the composition.

Apply the oil pastel: As soon as you have an idea for your composition, begin adding color with the oil pastels. Layer and combine the colors as you go, applying minimal pressure to the canvas as you go. Try out several methods to add texture and depth, such as blending, scumbling, and hatching.

Blend and smooth: Make a smooth transition between shades of color by blending the colors together. To mix and produce fascinating effects, you can also use a palette knife or solvent.

Add details: When you've laid out the foundational colours for your drawing, you may add intricacies and highlights. To remove details, use a sgraffito tool or the sharp edge of an oil pastel.

Once you're done, it's a good idea to spray your design with a fixative to protect it from damage. This will lessen the likelihood of fading and smearing over time.

Keep in mind that perfecting oil pastel art requires practice and experimenting. Try new things and play around with different color combinations without hesitation. You can produce stunning and distinctive works of art using oil pastels with some time and effort.

What are the Different Benefits of Oil Pastel Art?

For painters, oil pastels can offer a number of advantages, including:

Oil pastels are versatile because they work well on a range of materials, including paper, canvas, wood, and even glass. They can be utilized in a variety of ways to produce diverse effects while drawing, sketching, or painting.

Intensity of colour: Oil pastels are renowned for their vivid, bright colours that may produce strong, eye-catching artworks. Moreover, they are simple to mix and combine, allowing for numerous colour variants.

Easy to use: Oil pastels don't need any specialised tools or preparation and are simple to use. They don't require brushes or other instruments because they may be applied straight to the surface.

Oil pastels are a forgiving medium that are simple to rectify. It is simpler to correct errors or make adjustments because they can be combined with or eliminated using solvents or even a dry cloth.

Long-lasting: Oil pastels are an excellent medium for producing artwork that will last for a long time because they are strong and fade-resistant.

Less dirty: Unlike traditional oil paintings, oil pastels are less messy and easy to clean up. They can be simply cleaned up with a dry towel and don't require any turpentine or chemicals.

Oil pastels are an excellent option for artists who want to work on the fly because they are portable and simple to carry.

Ultimately, oil pastel art is a flexible and satisfying medium that may benefit artists of all ability levels in a variety of ways.


Due to their ease of use and portability, oil pastels are typically used for sketching but may also be utilized for lengthy pieces. They are therefore thought of as a rapid medium. Because oil pastels never dry out entirely, they need to be protected properly, generally by putting a specific fixative to the painting or placing the painting in a sleeve and then within a frame. There are some known durability problems: firstly, while the oil doesn't dry, it keeps infiltrating the paper. The elasticity of the color layer is decreased throughout this procedure, which damages both the paper and the color layer.

The oil pastel painting's outcome can be dramatically impacted by the surface that is selected. Paper is a frequent surface, although this medium can be used on other surfaces including wood, metal, hardboard (commonly known as "Masonite"), MDF, canvas and glass. Many businesses produce papers made expressly for pastels that work well with oil pastels.