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Oil Pastels


by JuliannaKunstler.com

Oil pastels are very different from the pencils and colored pencils.

Oil pastels are made to be very blendable - they are soft, oily and designed to be mixed and spread together on the paper.

They are used by professional artists especially for these qualities.

oil pastels

oil paster drawing

materials used:

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oil pastel 50

oil pastel 25


linseed oil


palette knives


oil pastel drawing
oil pastel drawing
oil pastel drawing



oil pastel strokes

Oil pastels come in many colors and are made by different manufacturers. Try different brands to find the type that works for you.

Always get some extra white, tan or grey colors as they are often used to blend with other colors (to lighten the color or to dull it down).

Use paper stumps or blending brushes to mix colors.
Use palette knife to scratch off oil pastels.
Have some turpentine or baby oil ready for a painting effect.

working with oil pastels

oil pastel mixing

You can mix pastels to achieve the right shade by drawing with one color over another color in circular motion.

Use white, grey, or black pastels to change the value of a color and its brightness.

Usually use lighter color over darker one. (Darker color should be applied lightly).

oil pastel strokes

Use the tip of the pastel for more intense coloring or a side - for larger areas.

Try to work on a velour paper - especially colored one - you will like the result!

Prepare the color sets.

The colors below are approximate - your colors will depend on the color of your paper and your color scheme.

main color

oil pastel

Color of the paper (to correct mistakes)


oil pastels

lights and highlights

oil pastels

Lights - for lit areas.

The tints do not have to match the actual objects' colors or the color of your paper.

white pastel

White - for highlights


dark oil pastels

Dark values - for shadows and shaded areas


Practice color value scales

fading oil pastels

Experiment with pressure

oil pastels strokes

Blending colors

blending oil pastels

practice first



mix oil pastels

Color carefully around the edges.

1. lightly color with main color, use WHITE to blend
2. pure color
3. lightly color with main color, blend with GREY
4. lightly color with BLACK, blend with main color

oil pastels

Use this exercise to see the difference of the resulting color when you alter the order of pastels.

1. Color in with WHITE pastel, then use a color pastel and color over, mixing and blending the colors.
2. Color in with your main color (from intense coloring at the top to fading at the bottom). Use White pastel and color over mixing and blending the colors.

Compare the difference.

oil pastels

Repeat the same steps with BLACK pastel and the main color.

blend pastels

Create a color value scale.

1. Start with lightly shading the entire shape with the main color.
2. Color intensely in the middle of the shape (where it says "pure color")
3. Use WHITE pastel on the left and mix it with the base color. Use WHITE as a blender
4. Use BLACK pastel on the right. Color lightly. Then use the main color again as a blender.
5. Make sure the transition is smooth.

Always use lighter color of the two as a blender!
oil pastel sgraffitto

You can create textures by first applying bold color to the paper and then going over it with another color until it is completely covered.  

Next, use a razor blade or a palette knife to scratch off the second color, revealing the color underneath.  It creates a result similar to a scratch-board.

oil pastel mineral spirits

By using a solvent (50/50 turpentine and linseed oil) with oil pastels, one can achieve results similar to painting without actually using brushes and paints.

You can always use just either one of them. Adding turpentine will make pastels dry faster than oil alone.

Use a Q-tip or a cotton ball to blend colors.

blend oil pastels

Using a cotton ball with a solvent is great for coloring large areas in your drawing (sky, backgrounds, etc...)

examleRemember that you cannot do detail work in oil pastels!
The best detailed work can be done using paper stumps.
oil pastel drawing

If you are laying out your drawing with pencil first, be sure to draw lightly, as light colors will not fully cover dark pencil marks.