art4you Scotland

Discover the versatility of oil pastels

Oil pastel is a painting and drawing medium with characteristics similar to pastels and wax crayons. Oil pastels consist of pigment mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder. The surface of an oil pastel painting is therefore less powdery, but more difficult to protect with a fixative. Oil pastels provide a harder edge than “soft” or “French” pastels but are more difficult to blend.

Our students usually need a few goes before they discover the versatility of this mediums.  During first attempts oil pastels are often described as sticky and not easy to blend.

But it is worthwhile to give this medium a second chance because it is actually a very adaptable medium. It can be used as a wash medium, a basic drawing tool, scraped with razor blade and reworked.

With other mediums such as watercolour oil pastel can be used as a resit. Oil pastels are also great for building up layers over an acrylic underpainting. They can be blended with brushes or cotton buds or manipulated with various painting mediums such as turpentine, liquin and alkyd-based gels.

Oil pastels can be used on various surfaces including watercolour paper, canvas, oil boards, acrylic paper, mountboard and more. When using watercolour and card it is best to prepare the paper/card with a gesso or acrylic ground to create a seal.

Oil pastels never dry completely and can’t be painted over but you can use it on top of watercolour or acrylic. Oil pastels can also be combined with oil paints. To protect a finished art work we suggest to use glass to frame it.

Here are some mixed media techniques listed:

  • Use oil pastels on top of acrylic or watercolour
  • Use oil pastels as a wax resist before the application of acrylic or watercolour
  • Use coloured pencil to draw into oil pastels
  • Use a razor blade to create textures and marks of oil pastels
  • Use turpentine, liquin, zest-it or white spirit to mix and blend colours

TIP: Oil pastels go sticky when held too long. To cool them down pop them in the fridge!