10 Oil Pastel Techniques & Tips To Help You Get Better FAST

Michael Daly
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10 Oil Pastel Techniques by Sakura of America

You might be pleasantly surprised to discover what you can do with oil pastels if you just remove your preconceived, self-imposed boundaries. This article, which is contributed by a professional oil pastel artist from Sakura of America will be showing you how oil pastels can be your new options to explore and expand your creative work.

Pastel and oil pastel may sound similar but they are two entirely different mediums. However, they share some characteristics. Both are used on a substrate and adhere to the surface for a long time. Even though this article is about oil pastel, the techniques mentioned here can also be applied to other dry pastels.

Oil pastels come in a variety of colors, from the basic earth palette to the more vibrant. A striking feature is how malleable and blendable oil pastels are compared to other mediums.

In traditional oil painting, pastels are usually used to judge the values before painting. Oil pastels are made up of pigments and oil but are less concentrated than oil paints. This allows oil pastels to spread and blend more easily, making it easier to capture the mood and emotions of the subjects. For example, the artist used some purple and grey oil pastel colors to create an intense atmosphere.

6 Oil Pastel Techniques by Jackie Ruzicka

A few years ago I was an oil pastel pioneer! My work was hard to place in art shows because people never saw oil pastels being used in such a manner, back then.

The Basics Of Oil Pastels by Lets Create Something

So, what are oil pastels?

Oil pastels are small hexagonal sticks with a wax base. This is what gives them their distinctive chunky feel and provides more intense colors than traditional pastel sticks.

I’m confused about pigment vs wax.

Firstly, wax is just a form of solid pigment. It is a semi-plastic so it can melt again when required. This is how it can be blended with any other colors (up to 4) and create new ones.

How To Dilute Oil Pastels

To make watery oil pastels, all you need to do is add a little water to your oil pastels until the color becomes diluted and of lighter tone.

To dilute oil pastels you can either do it within the tube or after separating the oil pastels form the tube. Or a combination of both.

Add a few drops of water within the tube method:

To do this you would first need to break the tip of the oil pastels. Hold the oil pastel and break it with the help of a sharp object. Next, using a toothpick, or any small card, mix the oil pastels with the help of small bits of paint. Repeat this step until you get the desired consistency.

Add few drops of water after separating the oil pastels from the tube method:

This method is most recommended because it is easier while providing the most desired consistency. All you have to do is break the tip of the oil pastel using a sharp object and then separate the oil pastels from the tube. Using a toothpick or any needle, mix the oil pastels with the help of few drops of water. You need to repeat this step until you get the desired consistency.

Depending upon the quantity of water you add, you can create 2 different scenarios –.

Rule of 3s by Patrick Neumann

The Rule of 3s can also work for photography. When energy is too high, refine it down. For outdoor portraits, I'll often start by having the sun behind the model's back and above their eye-line. I'll then use a reflector to create a little more sunlight on the subjects face to eliminate dark shadows. This forms a triangle with the sun being the focal point. Or if the sun is not the light, I'll use two reflectors to bounce light into the dark areas touching up those areas.

In both scenarios, I'm using 3 points of light in my photos. One point of light being "natural".

Oil Pastel Speed Painting by Ellie Fine Art

When people tell you that you add so much "life" to your paintings, they're talking about the impasto rich in pastel.

For years, I only practiced in soft pastels. The colors were infinite, and they were so easy to be smooth and fluid. No one could be in a hurry, with pastels, unless I went into a panic attack about color or value!

So for my first show in Los Angeles I went with soft pastel.

Guess what? Oil pastel painted in very thin layers the FORME on the surface was infinitely more luminous–and it didn't feel like a dead surface to me. It felt like what I could only hope to capture with oil paint. It was immediate and luminous.

I thought I had wasted my time with oil pastel. But it wasn't wasted. It was my "Eureka" moment. I use it just like any other paint. I add impasto to have depth, to make a surface look tactile, or rough, or mountainous, or gleaming and smooth and shiny.

I love the colors, which are subtle. I love the buttery silky feel of the paint. I love the ease. I use them on paper or canvas.

Impasto Landscape – Oil Pastel Painting Lesson by Madhubala Arts

There are many ways to paint with oil pastels. The oil colors blend well and don’t dry as fast as watercolors. They also have a soft texture and impart a beautiful glow.

Oil pastels lend themselves to a variety of color mixing techniques. Applying layers of pastels in various tones will give you a rainbow of colors. This exploratory use of oil pastels is also called color layering, blending, gradation, and mixed media. It’s a technique that allows you to create paintings that are alive, natural, and uncapturable. It’s a way to express inner emotions and transmit a feeling to the viewer.

Here are examples of some oil pastel techniques that are easy to do.

Baby Oil & Oil Pastels by Trista

When I first started doing oil pastels, I had no idea where to start. Everyone said I was crazy, because I was drawing my subjects in charcoal or pencil. I was jazzed though! I was doing something totally different that brought out a whole new skill set for me. It was "a whole new game". Definitely worth it.

Oil pastels and baby oil have a very short working time. Be sure to do your sketch or portrait in a few hours. If it's warm out, check your process because the oil pastels might dry very fast (literally minutes) on the paper. If you need to take a break, put your panel in an air conditioned room to slow down the drying.

I use the "control – alt – delete" method for my subject. I draw exactly the set-up I see, then I start my first layer with darks, working slowly towards my subject. I do a second layer on my drawing, then I start my light layer. I brush on my light layer using "dry brush" technique. I use a soft hair brush for a precise look and I continually change my brush until I get the look I want. I use one color at a time & often will brush a layer over with a white or off-white pastel to give a "glow" or "halo".

Oil Pastel Tutorial – Parrot – by Mr. Otter Art Studio

Don’t leave your oil pastels in direct sunlight.

Exposing oil pastels to sunlight can fade the colors on your artwork. Leaving your oil pastels in your purse or backpack can damage the paper.

Wipe your brush off before mixing colors.

Overworking the oil paint in the mixture can destroy the consistency of the mixture, leaving you with a busted mess.

Keep your oil pastels in a cool place.

While oil pastels are easy to keep in one location, it’s very important that you store your oil pastels in a cool place. Keeping your oil pastels in the sun, in a hot attic or inside your car is certainly not advised!

You can use crinoline for a smooth surface.

If you’re having trouble creating a smooth surface with your oil pastels, you can use crinoline to assist you. Simply add a small amount of crinoline to your palette before mixing your colors, and use it as it is.

Crinoline can also be used to pin your paper. Simply attach a piece of crinoline to your drawing paper and press it gently down.

Oil pastels are not good for blending.

Galaxy Drawing with Oil Pastels by Deepak

Deepak Shukla is an award-winning Global Artist. He is known especially for his attention to detail and vibrant, vibrant colors. He is regarded by many as one of a kind. He is described as a “flair for imagination—. Here is how you can follow in his footsteps and create galaxies of your own.

Find Fine Art Supplies and Oil Pastels

No matter what project you are about to embark on, the first thing you need to do is find and get the supplies you need to work with. When you use one of the shops I mentioned several pages back, you are going to find the best quality materials.

Of course, you can find the same supplies on Amazon as well. The top rated oil pastels are manufactured by Kryon and Caran d’Ache. The best pencils are manufactured by Art Spectrum.

Use a Sketchbook

A sketchbook is one of the first accessories you should invest in. These books are lightweight. Their paper allows you to blend colors without any trouble. You can get them in a wide variety of pages too.

Choose a Subject

One of the first things you need to do is pick a subject for your drawing. When you are working with kids, it is always a great idea to use a coloring book.

Push The Limits With Oil Pastels

What sets oil pastels apart from other art supplies is the buttery-smooth application and blending, with full color saturation. They’re soft, buttery, and blendable on paper while leaving bold, intense color deposits. In short, oil pastels are an underrated art medium that can create stunning pieces worthy of any gallery or frame.

The key to mastering oil pastels is learning to control their soft nature. Apply too much pressure and your piece will likely include a lot of gray, or white.

Instead, apply a light pressure, and blend your strokes for a soft effect. Here are a few tips to get you started.

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