The Best Oil Pastels for Creating Art

Oil Pastel Set Outside

Here we take a look at the best oil pastels for use in art, there are two types – artist grade and student grade and we took a look at both.

While many may turn their nose up at student oil pastels, there are some that are actually very good. These ones are firmer and contain less of the pigment while their price makes them good for filling out larger areas.

Artist grade pastels on the other hand are softer, richer and let you add a bit of finer detail. Most artists on a budget will fill their collection with a good student grade and just pick a few artist pastels in open stock and build up their collection from there.

Here’s what we recommend:

Artist Grade Oil Pastels


Sennelier

Senneleier sits at the top of the range being a favorite of Pablo Picasso itself. They are thick, creamy and have a lipstick like quality that can be hard to control for the untrained hand. The quality however is rarely matched, giving an effect similar to actual oil paints. By blending two of the same color you can create varying shades.

Features:

  • Creamy flow
  • Highest quality oils
  • Ideal base layer

If you want a rich quality top layer that doesn’t blend with what’s underneath, this will be your choice. Just be careful as some  are toxic so be sure to wash your hands well after use.


Holbein


Holbein are firmer than their Sennelier counterparts. They add a nice smoothness to your work, an effect which comes at a price. Each color comes with two tints giving you nice variety. Easy enough to blend with without being over-creamy, so you get a balance between the two.

Features:

  • Moderate oil consistency
  • High blend ability
  • Range of colors and tints

The rustic unwrapped style is pleasing to the eye, but again beware as many are toxic, especially important in this case lest it comes of straight onto your hands. You may want to create a homemade wrapping to cover them. And just watch about nearby children or prize pieces of furniture!


Cretacolor Aqua Stic Watersoluble Oil Pastels

The Aqua Stic’s leading feature is that they are water soluble, a definite plus if you are used to working with water-media. The 80 different colors with different tints within these give you an excellent variety to choose from.

Features:

  • Medium-firm blend
  • Water soluble
  • Variety of colors

A long, narrow design have a pleasant feel that are comfortable for long periods of usage – just be careful you don’t press to hard or you may end up with twins! A medium firm texture makes them easy to work with compared to the two above – allowing you to add that finer detail. Using them at room temperature or warming with your fingers gives best results. An ideal for top layers.


Cray-Pas Specialist Pastels

Firmer than the Cretacolor above, Cray-Pas Specialist are an ideal colorless blender. Don’t be fooled by the texture though, as they transfer to paper smoothly & effortlessly. Many artists use them as an underlay to the other creamier pastels.

Features:

  • Firm texture
  • Easy color transfer
  • Ideal underlay
  • Affordable price

They hold the same square design as Holbein for that line definition. In contrast to Sennelier and Holbein above, they are non-toxic and also lightfast, while holding a much lower price tag. A good first choice of artist grade pastels to add to your existing student ones. Just be aware that they are hard to find in the West, and you may have to look for a Japanese import on one of the big marketplaces.


Best Student Grade Oil Pastels


Van Gogh

Top pick would be the Van Gogh, so being as they are on the verge to being an artist grade pastel. They are firm and non-toxic, while many contain the same pigments used in more expensive grades. The composition makes them firm and non-crumbling while easy to transfer onto paper.

Features:

  • High quality for their grade
  • Firm non-crumbling
  • Variety of colors and tints

With 88 colors and various tints to choose from you have an excellent range and high quality at this level. If you want the highest quality in both student pastels to complement your artist pastel collection, with these you can’t go wrong


Cray-Pas Expressionist

Another high quality pastel on the verge of an artist grade. The Expressionist is a lower priced sibling of the Specialist range above, without suffering too much of the quality. These would work just about equally as either a base or for larger artworks.

Features:

  • High quality student pastel
  • Colors true to form
  • Versatile for student and artist uses

Pastels are reasonably opaque, and even the white is true to form. You have a decent color range of 48 colours, and is a popular choice of artists for filling out large spaces in their work. At such a good value, this would be a good one to bulk up your stock early on.


Mungyo Gallery

Another excellent quality pastel for a student grade, priced at the middle level for its kind. Like the Van Gogh and Expressionist the Mungyo is borderline between student and artist.

  • High quality
  • Wide range of variations
  • Extra soft

It’s extra soft and easy to blend, with the highest quality pigments at this range for color gradations and overlays. The box set comes with some interesting variations – you’ll particularly like the fluorescent and metallic ranges. Yes, fluorescent pastels have little durability, but as you’d expect – they are still a good choice for temporary or seasonal work. The remaining colors are lightfast and hold out against fading. Especially good choice if you like playing with different colors.


Loew-Cornell

Loew-Cornell price on the border of ridiculous. No, they don’t fall apart in your hands or make you turn radioactive! On the contrary they are long lasting, an excellent blender, medium soft with a decent opacity. For larger works that don’t look like something out of play school (but more of a masterpiece!) you can’t want anything else.

  • Excellent price point
  • Long lasting
  • Decent quality
  • Excellent for larger work

At their price and handling Loew-Cornell make an ideal number for sketchbook drawing or when you just want to try new things. Take a little hunt around as they may be hard to find, but if you come across a trusty supplier it will be money very well spent.


Choosing the best oil pastels is a lot down to preference, and many artists will build wither arsenal with a multitude of brands. The verdict? Try them all! The ones on this list will rule out the no hopers though, and once you have a bit of budget you will have a nice

In summary, the best oil pastels for creating art are:

  • Sennelier
  • Holbein
  • Cretacolor Aqua Stic Watersoluble Oil Pastels
  • Cray-Pas Specialist Pastels
  • Van Gogh
  • Cray-Pas Expressionist
  • Mungyo Gallery
  • Loew-Cornell

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