What are Oil Pastels?

Often oil pastels are mixed up with soft pastels but in terms of their qualities they are very different.  I explain the differences and give some tips about oil pastels and how they can be used.

Oil pastels I’ve found in my teaching experience are often overlooked and an unpopular medium, usually purchased by mistake instead of soft pastels.  There is great potential with oil pastels however and they are worth a try at least once to explore their possibilities.  

Benefits of Oil Pastel

Oil pastels are very portable and don’t leak,smudge, crumble so are great for working outdoors with.  The colours can be very vibrant and they can be layered and combined with other media such as paint easily. 

Varying Qualities

It is easy to get a bad impression of oil pastels if you have used the cheaper varieties that are often found in schools and colleges.  Oil pastels on the more quality end of the spectrum are softer and blend well.  The cheaper oil pastels have less of a range of colour and more of an ‘crayon’ feel to them and wont’ blend or layer as readily.  

Oil Pastels can be used in different ways

Supports

The paper is important for oil pastel, the best type of paper would be one with a tooth to grip the pastel and robust enough to allow layering. You can work on board with oil pastels or thick pastel paper.

Best techniques

Oil pastels are quite versatile and can be used for a number of technique.  If you are new to them the best place to start would be to layer and blend them.  Other techniques such as resist, working with paint and scraffito scratching into the oil pastel are great next steps to try.  More about resist and scraffito techniques in my painting posts.

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