Best Oil Pastels
Oil Pastels: The Ultimate Guide to Finding the Best for You.
Oil pastels are an affordable and accessible medium for artists of all levels. From students to professionals, there is a perfect oil pastel out there for you!
In this post, I will discuss the different types of oil pastels available as well as their benefits and drawbacks so that you can make an informed decision about what type is right for you.
If your goal, like many oil pastel artists, is just to have fun or create something beautiful without worrying too much about technique, consider buying student-grade oil pastels.
However, if technique and quality matter more than anything else in your art then a professional grade should be at the top of your list!
What are oil pastels?
Like crayons, chalk or pencil, pastels are a drawing media, . The name is derived from the use of natural oils as binder, in contrast to water-soluble crayons that are made using waxes and chalks which have their pigment mixed into an entirely different type of powder. Other mediums typically contain gypsum rather than oil.
Oil pastels are typically much softer, with a more creamy texture than chalk and crayons, so are usually used for the blending of colours.
Whether artist grade or beginner, oil pastels come in a wide variety of brands, shapes, textures and colours. Like oil paints, there are many different brands of oil pastels available on the market. If you, like may artists are looking for the perfect oil pastel set, read on!
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Best oil pastels.
What are the best oil pastels?
The “best” oil pastels will depend on what is best for you – your level of experience, your budget, and the type of art you are creating. What may suit a landscape artist may not suit a portrait artist, and what will be ideal for a beginner will not meet the demands of a top pro.
But don’t worry, I have gone through the options to help you decide on the right oil based pastels to suit you.
For beginners: We recommend student-grade oil pastels because they are affordable and still give you a chance to learn the basics.
For professionals: Professional grade is best for those who want their work to be taken seriously or need finer details like small areas of shading. Professionals will also enjoy smoother blending with professional quality colours
Best oil pastels for professional artists
What are the best oil pastels for professional artists?
Let’s jump straight in at the top, looking at the best of the best when it comes to professional quality oil pastels. Top professional artists wanting a high grade of oil pastel will want to look at the following brands.
Artist grade pastels
What is the difference between artist-grade oil pastels and student-grade pastels?
In addition to the difference in colour, artist-grade pastels are smoother and more saturated with pigment than student grade.
Student grades also have a lower percentage of pigments per square inch which means they can be easily blended together for those who want to learn how to layer colours.
So let’s take a look at oil pastel sets and the pros and cons:
Sennelier Oil Pastels / Oil pastel set – Artist grade
Who makes the best oil pastels? I love the brand Sennelier and I know I’m not alone in this – many artists will agree with me! Sennelier oil pastels are an excellent choice for professional artists who want something high quality and inexpensive.
Sennelier oil pastels’ resin-coated pigments give you a rich colour palette that is durable, smoother than other brands, and offer more vibrant, intense colours than ever before.
These are soft oil pastels with a creamy texture and come highly recommended. Many say they look and feel like working with actual oil paints which makes them unique among the brands.
Sennelier oil pastels are made in France and are the number one choice for professional artists.
Paul Rubens Oil Pastels Set, 48 Colours
Paul Rubens pastels are another great option for the best oil pastels. These are a favourite among many professional artists despite a higher price band, and they have excellent pigments that produce bright colours.
Holbein oils make it easier to blend colours together if you want your art to be more vibrant like paintings from Monet or Van Gogh.
Personally, I found the Paul Rubens pastels to be a little harder than the Sennelier soft pastels. I recommend these, as do many artists, to anyone who wants a top of the line product and doesn’t mind paying extra for it.
Very high-quality pastels and certainly professional grade oil pastels.
Cretacolor Oil Pastels
Another top brand oil pastel on the market, Cretacolor will definitely satisfy any artist who is looking for high-quality products that are reliable and durable.
Cretacolor’s high pigment load colours blend smoothly with each other to create beautiful compositions while still being very easy to use.
Cretacolor Oil Pastels are available in a variety of sizes and sets to suit your individual needs perfectly. 100% professional artist quality oil pastels for sure.
Caran d’Ache Oiul Pastels
Caran d’Ache Oiul Pastels are a favourite for many artists because of the wide variety and affordability.
The colours in this set range from soft to dark which makes it perfect for any style, whether you want something pastel or bolder looking. Caran d’Ache is one of the few brands that offer artists’ quality oil pastels at an affordable price.
Caran d’Ache Oiul Pastels are available in sets of twelve, twenty-four, and forty-eight colours so you can pick the perfect one for you.
Faber-Castell oil pastels
How good are Faber-Castell oil pastels?
This is a question I get asked a lot when chatting to fellow artists. The answer is pretty simple, they are amazing. Faber-Castell oil pastels are easy to blend and smooth on paper meaning you can create a softer-looking painting with them than other brands.
The great range of colours in the sets come in handy when dealing with complex subjects like portraits or large landscapes which require more detailed work but without sacrificing any colour strength or vibrancy.
The Faber-Castell oil pastels are available in sets of twelve, twenty-four and forty eight colours so you can pick the perfect one for you.
Since they come from a well known company that is dedicated to art supplies you can be certain that their production process is very well guarded and controlled meaning there’s less chance of defects and each set is as good as the last.
Best oil pastels for students & young artists
Student grade oil pastels & soft pastels | For art students
If you are a student, you’ll be looking for a quality oil pastel that won’t break the bank. If bang for your buck is top of your criteria here are some brands I think will fit the bill.
The best part about these is that they are available for such an affordable price so you won’t feel bad if you decide an art project isn’t worth finishing or the colours don’t turn out how you had hoped.
Camel Camlin Kokuyo Oil Pastels
If you are looking for a great beginner oil pastel that is still high quality, then Camel are a perfect choice! Suitable for younger artists, these chunky pastels offer a great start.
They have bright colours that will not fade or blur over time. This set comes with 25 or 50 vibrant colours which means that they will be able to suit any project you might have in mind.
Van Gogh Oil Pastels – soft pastels
I would class these as student-grade oil pastels and they are a great choice for beginners and skilled students alike. The pack sizes vary and provide smooth blending in a range of vibrant colours for your oil pastel painting.
The Van Gogh pastels are soft pastels perfect for various types of oil pastel artworks including, portraits, landscapes, still life, abstracts, starch art and wall art.
Sakura oil pastels – Specialist
Sakura oil pastels are a great choice for the professional artist who wants to experiment with different textures and colours. They come in a variety of sizes, from small square shapes to larger rectangular pieces that can be used for shading or blending.
The Sakura set includes 36 vibrant colours, which means there is something suitable for all types of work and projects.
STAEDTLER Oil Pastels
STAEDTLER oil pastels are a good option for beginners and students.
The STAEDTLER oil pastel set I tried out features an assortment of 36 colours for amazing value.
The quality was good and the set is perfect for those who want a very affordable price, something easy to use from a known brand.
Cray Pas Expressionist
The Expressionist set by Craypas is a good option for those who are looking to experiment with different textures and colours.
I was impressed by the quality of these Cray Pas oil pastels which were cheaper than other brands making them a good solution for beginner and student artists.
Mungyo gallery soft oil pastels – * TOP PICK *
Mungyo gallery soft oil pastels set offers fantastic value for money. At the time of writing, they were on special offer too, meaning you get 48 colours for less than £25. I found them to be very smooth and easy to manipulate. The quality of others in this price range doesn’t even come close to these.
I was very surprised by how well they lasted and how strong they were. A great choice with a deal too good to miss – ideal if you are on a budget!
Pentel arts oil pastels
This roundup wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Pentel arts. Pentel has been around for decades and is known for its quality art materials, so it should come as no surprise that they have good oil pastel sets available.
Definitely more suited to children rather than serious artists, these sets offer long-lasting and fade-resistant, bold colours. 50 colours for less that £10, wow!
A few things – more details and extra information
Here I’ll cover a few questions frequently asked and areas of oil pastel artwork we haven’t yet covered.
Best oil pastels for beginners
If I had to choose one of the above oil pastels to suggest to complete beginners, I would have to go with the Faber-Castell.
They are soft pastels, so easy to use, affordable and the colours have a great mix of vibrant shades that beginner artists will be sure to love.
Which oil pastels are best for kids?
The best oil pastels for kids are those which have a softer, more gentle feel. There is no need to use the same type of product as adults because children aren’t looking for that level of detail and intensity from their artwork.
My top pick will have to be the infamous Crayola oil pastels which are a soft/medium soft pastel. Anyone who has children or who was once a child themselves(!) will know Crayola for their safe, quality art products. They are a brand you can certainly trust and the Crayola oil pastels range offers no exception.
Although they are designed for kids, don’t underestimate the quality of these oil pastels. The pigments & basic colours in Crayola’s product are non toxic and are among the best and brightest compared to other oil pastels on the market. The soft and creamy texture means that all your little ones will be able to create beautiful work with ease.
Sakura Cray Pas – Junior Artist Oil Pastels
Sakura Cray Pas – Junior Artist Oil Pastels are a great choice for beginners offering a few colours. The colours are simple enough to get you started. They’re also good for adults who want to do art with their kids too.
The pigments in this set are high quality and as they are soft pastels they blend well without any lumps or bumps.
Best oil pastels for adults
The best oil pastels for adults will depend on the type of artist you are and your level of experience. Whether you are a professional, a beginner or somewhere in between along with your available budget are factors to take into account when choosing.
Above we have certainly covered a great range of brands, quality, and prices of oil pastels so you can choose the right oil pastel brand for you.
Chalk pastels vs oil pastels
Chalk pastels and oil pastels are both great tools for artists to use when creating artwork. There a few differences. One of the main differences is the texture of the pastels.
Chalks are rougher to the touch and they are gritty. Oil pastels have soft texture and are more velvety or smooth, with a more creamy consistency than chalks. Oil pastels tend to transfer and smudge more easily, whereas chalks are dusty and can be blown away.
Best surface for oil pastels – recommended pastel paper.
What is the best paper for oil pastels? There are many different types of pastel papers that you can use when applying your pastels. So many to choose from in fact, I have provided a great rundown of the best pastel paper to choose from here.
Artists prefer a high grade and weight of pastel paper to get the best results and most vivid hues.
The paper should be able to withstand the harsh effects of the soft pastels when applied in layers, without cracking and tearing, as well as being supported by a strong backing board in order to keep its shape for prolonged periods of time while working on it.
The best papers are also acid-free so that they remain in pristine condition over time when combining them with acid free pastels and other acid free art supplies.
How to blend oil pastels
Although I don’t want to go into detail about specific techniques in this article, I did want to touch upon how to blend oil pastels, as I get asked this a lot. Blending colours is something you’ll want to start with straight way when working on your first pieces of art.
Ways to blend oil pastels
As with all art supplies, good quality oil pastels will be the easiest to blend and will give the best result. Here’s how to blend:
- Using your fingers
- Using a palette knife
- Using a rubber Kneaded Rubber
Well known oil pastel artists
A few of the most well-known artists who use oil pastels are
- Vincent Van Gogh
- Pablo Picasso
- Claude Monet
Oil pastels – My conclusion
In conclusion, oil pastels are one of the most popular art mediums for artists. They use them because they blend well and can create vibrant colours that other paint media cannot be as successful with in comparison to their ease of use.
I hope this article all about oil pastels has helped you decide which is the best option for you!
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Adam has made a name for himself in the illustration industry and is a passionate blogger and writer on the subject of art, illustration and graphic design.
His artwork has been featured in countless publications and used for very well-known media projects. As a professional illustrator for over 20 years, Adam's wealth of knowledge and experience enables him to consult and advise artists and illustrators all over the world.