Chalk Pastels vs Oil Pastels

chalk pastels vs oil pastels

Chalk pastels or soft pastels are they the same?

Pastels are one of the best mediums to work with due to the nature of their contents. The ingredients of pastels vary from type to type in all soft and hard pastels (or oil pastels even) and this makes them tremendously flexible and easy to use.

You might be wondering why we are discussing chalk pastels alongside soft pastels. Well, soft pastels are pretty much the same as chalk pastels as both pastels usually consist of pigment, white chalk, and gum arabic.

To avoid further confusion for the rest of the guide, we will consider chalk pastels to be part of the soft and hard pastel categories as they both have their own relation to the medium.

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Getting Started

Soft pastels require nothing for you to get started with. Amongst all other art supplies, they’re one of the best ways for you to get started without any extra equipment.

All you have to do is just grab a piece of paper, grab your pastel sticks of choice and get to work.

Soft pastel paints and oil pastel paints like any other pastel require no paintbrushes or extra stuff as they already come in a stick format.

However, to try out different soft pastel and oil pastel techniques depending on your personal preference you may invest in thinners and brushes etc.

Soft pastels usually have a fragile consistency. Due to the nature of the constituents, they contain more pigment and less binder, thus making the sticks fall apart easily.

The results of application, however, on different surfaces are phenomenal and loved by all artists.

The increased dry pigment makes the pastel paintings appear with vivid colors while still allowing the artist to apply different techniques and achieve shading effects as well.

Soft pastels are great for complete beginners due to the fact that you can instantly get to work without having to buy different art supplies.

You are free to work with the pastel sticks with your bare hands for blending due to the acid-free nature of the ingredients that constitute the makeup of the sticks of pastel.

Many artists actually prefer soft or hard pastels as opposed to other pastels due to the simplicity of application and texture.

More information will be disclosed further regarding soft, and oil pastels down the line.

There are a great number of things to consider in pastel painting due to the increased pastel types. Some people prefer harder pastels as opposed to soft pastels for their art project or even prefer oil pastels. It all depends on what you are most comfortable with.

Hard pastels are good for detailed work and drawing finer lines due to their non-crumbling nature as opposed to soft pastels.

Considering both soft pastels and oil pastels, oil pastels are perfect for impasto effects and soft pastels or hard pastels are perfect for drawing more detailed work.

Artists depending on their preference of the waxy consistency from oil pastels or the powdery texture from soft or hard pastels make their pick for drawing and working with their painting.

Additionally, for fine point painting, nothing can beat pastel pencils as most soft pastels or hard pastels come in stick form and do not have any sharp points other than the edges to work with.

The soft pastels ensure vivid color throughout while offering you various techniques to blend, with or without blending tools.

Artists that work mostly with soft pastels or hard pastels would recommend using protective gear such as a respirator since soft pastels kick up a decent amount of dust while being applied.

Like pastel pencils and graphite pencils, the chalks have layers that are easily able to move around on pastel paper or any surface. However, they are much softer as the name suggests.

Overall, soft pastels are great for finer details and with the help of preliminary sketches, you can achieve amazing details for your art projects.

In conclusion, both hard and soft pastels are suggested for your art and you can even mix and match the two of these media together to create your imaginative masterpiece.

Oil pastels

oil pastels
Oil pastels generally have a creamy texture as opposed to having a chalky and dry texture, making them a fun and a little messy medium to work with.
The pastels generally do not adhere to any surface that strongly but still stick better than soft or hard pastels. They are great for any surface such as colored paper, card stock, painting cardboard, canvas, watercolor paper, pastel paper, etc.

Oil pastels are usually made of pigment, binder, non-drying oil, and wax. The binder is made of wax and oil as opposed to the gum binder found in soft pastels.
Artists have a lot of fun working with oil pastels due to the nature of the pastels. They are great for blending and you can have a lot of fun with maybe a foam blender, a blending stump, or even get to work with your fingers.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to blending oil pastels as suggested before. Most people love the intense vibrancy of the colors and you are free to mix and match the hues to get stellar color combinations for your canvas.
The pigment in oil pastels gives an intense hue look while soft pastels tend to give out more subtle colors. So, it’s perhaps a little easier to have more expressive lines and paintings with the help of oil pastels.

Please note: You may need to overlap the pastel drawing with multiple layers for a more complete and opaque look.

Top Tip: Take your oil pastel painting to the next level by trying out various blend techniques on your art projects with your pastel paint set.
Oil pastels are generally acid-free. The nature of the paint will allow you to get handsy without having to worry about toxic chemicals. Something that artists love to do is get into their projects without having to worry about external effects.
Another thing to consider while working with oil pastels for your art projects is that the pigment is quite vibrant which would ensure you have brilliant expressive strokes, something that seasoned artists absolutely adore about oil painting.
Oil pastels are very much like oil paint and can be worked with minimal solvents achieving great results.
If you’re a fan of expressive painting, meaning you don’t really need a lot of fine intricate details on your painting, oil pastels are simply one of the best ways to achieve what you are imagining.

Soft pastels vs oil price comparison

soft pastels

In the world of art, artists often have to worry about budgeting their art supplies, and knowing the price difference can come in handy when it comes to decision-making.

Soft pastels have a very similar price point to oil pastels. The only thing that comes to mind while considering soft and oil pastels for budgeting is how many pastel colors you would need for your arsenal.

Each set of pastel sticks for both soft pastels and oil pastels come in a very versatile selection of pastel colors sometimes reaching up to over 100 sticks per pack.

There are many art materials websites out there stocking almost all you can think of in terms of supplies for art, starting from pastel paper to any brand of oil pastel under the sun making these an artist’s dream for shopping.

Top Tip: One of the best brands for both oil, soft pastel sets, and art products, in general, is Sennelier pastels, they are a brand that provides quality products at a very reasonable price.

Soft pastels vs oil pastels in terms of safety

Neither of the mediums of pastel is actually toxic or harmful for your skin so you can use your bare hands while working with the pastels.

However, it is highly suggested to not ingest any of the media (as you wouldn’t do with any medium of course), even unintentionally due to the hazardous nature of the binder in the pastels.

Oil pastels do not generally have any residue that kicks up while working, whereas, soft pastels may kick up chalkdust while applying them on any surface.

Hard pastel pencils generally do not kick up although it is still good to take precautions and wear a respirator while working with this media or keep it at a distance.

Oil paints and pastels require minimal precaution or appliances while working with your project. Pastels have the advantage of having acid-free compounds allowing you to blend with your fingertips if you do not possess any of the other blending equipment.

Whether you like painting on paper or canvas, both soft pastels and oil-based pastels are greatly recommended to be used for your projects for the amount of safety and fun these media of pastels offer you.

Soft pastel techniques

There are several techniques to be tried with all of these media of pastels. You may like to keep it simple and get to work on standard paper or canvas with no brushes, especially if you are a beginner at painting.

My advice is to explore the techniques, it’s advised to keep it simple while working your way up the ladder with the pastels.

Try experimenting with as many blending options as you can possibly think of to achieve different effects. Your finger, cotton balls, scrunched up tissue, even an eraser to spread the medium around…

Oil pastel techniques

Oil pastels also have various ways to be used, whether you like blending your paints or scribbling your paints on paper, this media enables and encourages you to do all sorts of fun stuff.

One of the best parts is that you don’t really need to worry about having any special paper or brushes to get started as mentioned for the former as well. All you need is the pastel stick and the surface you want to draw on and get to work right off the bat.

With oil pastel having a firmer finish having been applied, it is also possible to cut, scratch or work into the layer of color giving unlimited textures and finishes too. This alongside the unlimited options on blending (as mentioned with the soft pastel techniques) should give you plenty of combinations to try out.


To conclude the review, when talking about soft pastels vs oil pastels it is crucial to keep in mind that tastes vary from person to person.

While you may enjoy one, someone else may enjoy using the other media so it is crucial to keep an open mind and not let any review guides dictate what you actually prefer.

It will take you a while to decide which medium is right for you even though there are countless review guides out there that will try to explain what you will be getting when you purchase either of these sets.

So, have patience and faith in the process of trying the products out for yourself before you invest all your budget into something.

… and remember, these review guides are only there to give you a heads up on what you will be getting into before you dive into these pastel sets.

Finally, once again it is advised to always keep an open mind like you would do while working on your art to keep your expectations in check. You never know what you might end up loving or hating while trying your hand at all the different pastels and painting techniques.

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Written By Adam Rushton

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, Adams media outlets, a wealth of knowledge, and experience enable him to consult and advise artists and illustrators in this country (from York and Manchester to Southampton and London) and all over the world.