Oil Pastel Drawing: Tips, Techniques, and Inspiration

Oil pastels are a medium that allows the artist to create rich, layered textures with vibrant hues. The color intensity and ease of use make oil pastels a preferred choice for many artists. If you’re new to oil pastels, you’ll quickly discover how enjoyable and rewarding this medium can be.

In this blog post, we will cover a range of topics related to oil pastel drawing. We’ll explore the best oil pastel drawing techniques, tips on how to start an oil pastel drawing, ways to blend oil pastels, what to sketch under oil pastels, and how to improve your oil pastel drawing skills. Additionally, we’ll showcase some magnificent oil pastel art pieces to inspire you.

What are Oil Pastels?

Oil pastels are a medium formed from pigment, wax, and oil. The pigment provides color, the oil binds the pigment together, and the wax gives the pastel a smooth texture. They are often compared to oil paints because of their creamy consistency and blending ability.

Oil pastels are preferred by beginners and professionals alike because they are easy to use, don’t require any solvents or brushes, and can be blended and layered to create visually stunning effects. Moreover, they can be used on a variety of surfaces like paper, canvas, cardboard, and wood.

How to Start an Oil Pastel Drawing?

Starting an oil pastel drawing requires a few steps that are relatively easy to follow, even for beginners.

1. Choose the Right Surface

Oil pastels can be used on various surfaces like paper, cardstock, canvas, or wood. However, you must select the right surface that meets your artistic needs. For example, paper is the most commonly used surface for oil pastels due to its affordability and easy availability. On the other hand, you may want to choose a rigid surface like canvas or wood if you want to create something durable.

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2. Sketch Your Drawing

Before starting your oil pastel drawing, you may want to sketch your idea on a piece of paper to ensure you have a clear vision of your drawing. This step is optional, but it can make a significant difference in how you execute your drawing.

3. Select Your Colors

Oil pastels come in a vast array of hues, and hue subtleties can vary depending on the brand you use. If you’re a beginner, you might want to invest in a basic set of colors and add more as you get comfortable with the medium. Some of the best oil pastel brands to consider are Sennelier, Caran d’Ache, and Holbein.

4. Start Drawing

Once you’ve got your surface and color set up, you can begin to create your artwork. Use layers of color to create depth and dimension and blends of colors to create unique hues. Experiment with different blending techniques to create your style; circular blending, cross-hatching, and feathering are just some examples.

How to Blend Oil Pastels?

Blending oil pastels is one of the most satisfying and visually appealing techniques. When blended correctly, oil pastels can create gradients of color that are not possible with other mediums.

1. Use a Blending Tool

Blending tools like stumps, tortillions, or your fingers are commonly used to blend oil pastels. Stumps or tortillions are perfect for blending precise areas, while your fingers can give your drawing a more tactile look.

2. Use Solvents

Solvents like odorless mineral spirits and turpentine can be used to blend oil pastels. However, you must use them with caution, especially if you’re working in a poorly ventilated area. Always test solvents on a scrap piece before blending your artwork.

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3. Layer Your Colors

Layering your oil pastels can create a blend without using any blending tools or solvents. You can apply different colors on top of each other, and then use your finger or blending tool to blend the top layer.

What Do You Sketch Under Oil Pastels?

Sketching underneath your oil pastel artwork can add an extra dimension to your drawing. Here are some options you can try:

1. Create a Grayscale Underdrawing

A grayscale underdrawing can help guide you through what areas to shade with the pastels. You can create this grayscale image on your computer or print a grayscale image.

2. Add Texture

Adding texture to your underdrawing can create a different effect under your oil pastel artwork. You can add sand or tissue paper to your surface using an adhesive and let it dry before starting your drawing.

3. Use Tracing Paper

You can use tracing paper to transfer your drawing to a different surface. Trace your drawing onto the tracing paper, flip it over, and transfer it to your desired surface using graphite or ballpoint pen.

How to Draw Well with Oil Pastels?

Drawing with oil pastels is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Here are some tips to help you draw accurately and effectively:

1. Vary Pressure

One of the benefits of using oil pastels is that you can vary the pressure to create different effects in your drawing. You can apply more pressure for darker colors, or less pressure for lighter colors.

2. Experiment with Different Blending Techniques

There are several blending techniques available when working with oil pastels, so don’t limit yourself to one technique. Try out circular blending, feathering, cross-hatching, and more. Experimenting with different approaches is a great way to find your style.

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3. Be Open to Happy Accidents

Oil pastels can be unpredictable and take on a life of their own. Try to be open-minded and see the potential in mistakes. They can often turn into something unexpected and exciting.

What is The Best Drawing With Oil Pastels?

Artists around the world have created spectacular works using oil pastels. Here are some oil pastel drawing examples that showcase the medium’s versatility:

  1. “Birch Trees” by Patricia Merrett: This oil pastel artwork captures the beauty of a forest in winter with its intricate details and soft colors.

  2. “Girl with Sunset Hair” by Zimou Tan: This oil pastel artwork is a testament to Tan’s mastery of the medium. The vibrant hues and shadow play show the potential that oil pastels have as a medium.

  3. “Sunrise Over the Australian Outback” by Luuk de Haan: This landscape oil pastel artwork is both skillfully executed and awe-inspiring. The light and shadow play create a sense of depth and texture.


Oil pastels are a medium that offers endless possibilities. Whether you’re an experienced artist or a beginner, oil pastels can help you create artwork that is rich in texture and color. By following the above tips and techniques, you can be on your way to creating stunning oil pastel artwork that you will be proud of. Remember to experiment, have fun, and stay open to happy accidents.