Oil Pastels vs. Crayons: What’s the Difference?

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Time to read: 16 min.
Michael Smith
I'm Michael Smith, the founder and creative director of Art and Drawing. With over a decade of experience in the art and design industry, my keen eye for detail and passion for creating inspiring artwork drive my work. I'm dedicated to capturing the world's beauty through vibrant, expressive pieces that spark imagination and emotion.

Are oil pastels crayons? What are the differences between oil pastels and crayons? If you’re an artist or art enthusiast, these questions may have crossed your mind. In this article, we’ll explore the distinctions between these two popular art mediums, delve into oil pastel techniques, and discuss the best oil pastels for artists.

Key Takeaways:

  • Oil pastels and crayons have distinct differences in composition and color quality.
  • Oil pastels offer superior blending and layering capabilities compared to crayons.
  • Oil pastels are versatile and can be used on various surfaces, while crayons are primarily used on paper.
  • Oil pastels offer a wide range of techniques, allowing artists to create unique textures and effects.
  • Crayons are more suitable for children’s art activities and detailed drawings.

Composition and Color Quality

Understanding the composition of oil pastels and crayons is essential in exploring their distinct color characteristics. Oil pastels are crafted using a composition of pigments mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder. On the other hand, crayons are typically made from paraffin wax or soy wax. These differences in composition directly impact the color quality and saturation of the two mediums, ultimately resulting in divergent visual effects.

Oil pastels composition

Crayons composition

Color saturation

Due to their unique composition, oil pastels exhibit higher color saturation compared to crayons. This characteristic gives oil pastels the ability to produce brighter and more vibrant artwork. The non-drying oil and wax binder in oil pastels facilitate rich color application and create captivating visual effects.

Conversely, crayons, with their paraffin or soy wax composition, offer colors that may appear less vibrant in comparison. The wax base can have a softer and more subdued texture, resulting in a different perception and visual impact.

Comparison in Color Effects

By understanding the composition of oil pastels and crayons, artists can leverage these mediums to achieve distinct color effects and enhance their artistic expression.

Medium Composition Color Saturation
Oil Pastels Pigments mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder Higher saturation, vibrant colors
Crayons Paraffin wax or soy wax Lower saturation, softer colors

Blending and Layering

One of the key advantages of working with oil pastels is their ability to blend and layer colors seamlessly, allowing you to create depth and texture in your artwork.

When blending with oil pastels, you can blend colors together by applying light pressure and gently rubbing the colors with your fingers or using a blending tool like a tortillon or blending stump. This technique creates smooth and gradual transitions between colors, giving your artwork a soft and blended appearance.

Layering with oil pastels involves applying multiple layers of colors on top of each other. By layering different hues, you can achieve richer and more complex color combinations. To achieve this technique, start with lighter shades and gradually build up to darker shades, ensuring that each layer is dry before applying the next one.

Unlike oil pastels, crayons are not as effective in blending colors. Crayons have a harder texture and do not blend as smoothly. While they can still be layered to create different effects, they are better suited for detailed drawings rather than blending and layering colors.

To better understand the differences between blending with oil pastels and crayons, refer to the table below:

Blending with Oil Pastels Blending with Crayons
Oil pastels blend easily with smooth transitions between colors Crayons have a harder texture and do not blend as smoothly
Blending can be done with fingers or blending tools like tortillons or blending stumps Blending can be challenging due to crayons’ harder texture
Allows for the creation of soft and blended color gradients Suitable for more detailed drawings rather than blending colors

With oil pastels, you have greater freedom to explore blending and layering techniques to add depth and dimension to your artwork. Crayons, on the other hand, are better suited for precise line work and detailed drawings. Experiment with both mediums to discover which one best suits your artistic style and desired effects.

Versatility and Surface Compatibility

Oil pastels and crayons offer different levels of versatility and surface compatibility in artistic creations. While oil pastels can be used on various surfaces, including paper, cardboard, masonite board, canvas, and wood, crayons are primarily designed for use on paper and may not adhere well to other surfaces.

When it comes to oil pastels, their creamy consistency allows for easy application and a wide range of usage. Artists can experiment with different surfaces to achieve unique effects. Whether it’s a textured canvas or a smooth piece of wood, oil pastels adapt to the surface, enhancing the overall artwork.

Oil pastels on different surfaces:

Surface Oil Pastel Usage
Paper Oil pastels are a popular choice for creating vibrant drawings and paintings on paper.
Cardboard Oil pastels can create interesting textures and effects on cardboard, adding depth to artwork.
Masonite Board The smooth surface of masonite board allows for precise detailing and blending with oil pastels.
Canvas Oil pastels can be used on canvas to achieve a painterly effect, resembling oil paintings.
Wood Wood provides a unique texture and surface for oil pastels, allowing artists to create richly pigmented artwork.
See also
Oil Pastel Drawing Guide: Master Your Artwork!

In contrast, crayons are best suited for drawing on paper. Their hardness and waxy composition make them ideal for coloring and shading on a smooth surface. While they can be used on other surfaces, crayons may not adhere as well or deliver the same level of vibrancy as oil pastels.

Therefore, if you’re looking to explore different surfaces and broaden your artistic horizons, oil pastels offer greater versatility and compatibility compared to crayons.

Unlocking Creative Possibilities

Using oil pastels on different surfaces:

  • Create vibrant and textured paintings on canvas using oil pastels.
  • Experiment with blending and layering techniques on masonite board.
  • Add depth and dimension to your artwork by using oil pastels on cardboard.
  • Explore the rustic appeal of oil pastels on wood surfaces.

“Oil pastels open up a world of possibilities when it comes to exploring different surfaces. From the smooth strokes on canvas to the gritty textures on wood, each surface adds its own unique character to the artwork.” – Art enthusiast

Techniques with Oil Pastels

Oil pastels offer a wide range of techniques that can transform your artwork into stunning masterpieces. By experimenting with different blending techniques, you can create unique textures and effects in your oil pastel drawings.

Blending Techniques

Blending is a fundamental technique in oil pastel art that allows you to seamlessly merge colors and create smooth transitions. Here are some popular blending techniques:

  • Finger Blending: Gently rub your fingers over the colors to blend them together. This technique provides a soft and subtle blend.
  • Blending Stumps: Use blending stumps, also known as tortillions, to achieve precise and controlled blending. They are especially useful for small, detailed areas.
  • Brush Blending: With a soft bristle brush, gently brush over the colors to blend them together. This technique produces a more painterly effect.

Stippling and Scumbling

Stippling and scumbling are techniques that can add texture and depth to your oil pastel artwork.

Stippling involves creating texture by applying small dots or dots of varying sizes onto the surface. This technique is great for rendering rough textures like grass, foliage, or stone.

Scumbling, on the other hand, is the process of layering and smudging colors lightly to create a speckled or textured effect. It can be used to portray fur, clouds, or other textured surfaces.


Cross-hatching is a popular technique in drawing that involves creating intersecting lines to add shading and texture to your artwork. With oil pastels, you can achieve beautiful cross-hatching effects by layering and overlapping lines of different colors. This technique can give your drawings a sense of depth and dimension.


Sgraffito is a technique where you scratch or scrape off layers of oil pastel to reveal the underlying colors or the surface of the paper. This technique can be used to create intricate patterns, highlight details, or add texture to your artwork.

Oil Pastel Art Ideas

Oil pastels are incredibly versatile and can be used to create various art subjects. Here are some ideas to spark your creativity:

  • Create vibrant landscapes with rolling hills, breathtaking sunsets, or serene seascapes.
  • Explore still life compositions by arranging everyday objects like fruits, flowers, or household items.
  • Challenge yourself with portrait drawings, capturing the likeness and personality of your subjects.
  • Experiment with abstract art, using bold colors and expressive strokes to convey emotions.
  • Combine oil pastels with other art mediums like acrylics or watercolors to create mixed media artworks.

Oil Pastel Drawings Tutorial

Looking for some step-by-step guidance? Check out the following oil pastel drawings tutorial:

  1. Pick a subject: Choose an image or a scene that inspires you. It could be a photograph, a still life arrangement, or even a memory.
  2. Prepare your canvas or paper: Use a sturdy surface that can handle oil pastels. Consider using textured paper or canvas for added interest.
  3. Sketch your composition: Lightly sketch the main elements of your subject using a pencil. Keep it simple and focus on capturing the basic shapes and proportions.
  4. Layer your colors: Begin by blocking in the large areas of color using light, gentle strokes. Gradually build up layers of color to create depth and richness.
  5. Blend, blend, blend: Use your chosen blending techniques to smooth out transitions between colors and create the desired effects.
  6. Add details and highlights: Once your base colors are in place, add finer details and highlights using lighter and brighter tones. This will give your artwork more dimension and realism.
  7. Finishing touches: Step back and assess your artwork. Make any necessary adjustments and add final touches to enhance the overall composition.
  8. Protect your artwork: Use fixative spray to protect your oil pastel drawing from smudging or smearing. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.

Remember, practice is key to mastering oil pastel techniques. Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun with your artwork!

Benefits of Crayons

Crayons are a beloved art medium for children and artists alike, offering a plethora of benefits and creative opportunities.

Affordability and Ease of Use

One of the key advantages of crayons is their affordability. They are readily available and come in a wide range of options to suit different budgets. Whether you opt for a basic set or a larger pack with various shades and hues, crayons offer a cost-effective way to explore artistic expression.

In addition to being affordable, crayons are incredibly easy to use. The simple design, with their familiar cylindrical shape and pointed tips, makes them accessible to children of all ages. The smooth, waxy texture of crayons glides effortlessly across paper, allowing young artists to effortlessly create colorful masterpieces.

Safety for Children

Crayons are a safe art medium for children. They are non-toxic and made from materials that are safe for little ones to handle. Parents can have peace of mind knowing that their children can experiment with colors and drawing without the worry of harmful substances.

Versatility for Sketching

While crayons are often associated with children’s art activities, they are also popular among artists for sketching. The pointed tips of crayons allow for precise lines and detailed drawings. Unlike other art mediums, crayons have a firm texture that enables them to stand alone without smudging or smearing, making them ideal for sketching on-the-go.

See also
Oil Pastel on Canvas Guide: Tips & Techniques

Whether it’s quick doodles, intricate details, or bold strokes, crayons offer artists the versatility to bring their creative visions to life.

Visual Appeal and Vibrant Colors

Crayons are known for their vibrant colors and visual appeal. The rich and creamy texture of crayons allows for smooth color application, resulting in eye-catching artwork. The vivid hues of crayons can captivate the imagination and evoke a sense of joy and playfulness.

Encourages Creativity and Self-Expression

Crayons stimulate creativity and self-expression in children and artists alike. The wide range of colors available encourages exploration and experimentation. Children can create their own unique worlds and stories, while artists can use crayons to convey emotions and evoke specific moods in their artwork.

“Crayons offer a world of possibilities, where imagination knows no bounds.”

In conclusion, crayons offer a multitude of benefits – they are affordable, easy to use, safe for children, versatile for sketching, visually appealing, and encourage creativity and self-expression. Whether you’re a parent looking for a fun activity for your child or an artist seeking a versatile art medium, crayons are a fantastic choice that brings color and joy into our lives.

Differences in Drawing Effects

When it comes to creating art, the drawing effects of different mediums can play a significant role in the overall outcome of your artwork. In this section, we will explore the distinct drawing effects offered by oil pastels and crayons.

Oil pastels provide a unique drawing experience with their creamy and opaque texture. Their rich pigments allow for vibrant and expressive colors, making them an excellent choice for artists who want to create eye-catching and dynamic artworks. The creamy consistency of oil pastels enables smooth blending and layering, which can result in beautiful gradients and realistic color combinations.

“Oil pastels offer a creamy and opaque drawing effect, allowing for blending, layering, and the creation of realistic color combinations.”

On the other hand, crayons offer a different drawing effect due to their harder texture and composition. While they may not offer the same level of color vibrancy as oil pastels, crayons have their own charm. They are perfect for simple drawings and color recordings, giving your artwork a more playful and whimsical look.

In summary, the drawing effects of oil pastels and crayons differ significantly. Oil pastels provide creamy, opaque, and vibrant colors, which allow for blending and layering to achieve realistic and textured artworks. Crayons, on the other hand, offer a harder texture and less vibrant colors, making them better suited for simple drawings and color recording.

Oil Pastels Crayons
Creamy and opaque texture Harder texture
High color vibrancy Less vibrant colors
Blending and layering capabilities Not as effective in blending
Realistic color combinations Great for simple drawings

Tools for Working with Oil Pastels

When working with oil pastels, you have a variety of tools at your disposal to enhance your artistic expression. These tools can help you achieve different effects and techniques, allowing you to unleash your creativity. Here are some essential tools for working with oil pastels:


One of the most accessible tools you have for working with oil pastels is your fingers. By using your fingers, you can blend colors directly on the canvas or paper, creating smooth transitions and soft edges. It gives you greater control and a hands-on connection with your artwork.

Palette Knives

Palette knives are versatile tools that can be used to apply and spread oil pastels onto your working surface. Their flat, flexible blades allow for precise application and can create interesting textures. You can use palette knives to mix and blend colors, scrape layers, or create unique effects.

Blending Stumps and Tortillions

Blending stumps and tortillions are cylindrical drawing tools made of tightly rolled paper or felt. They are commonly used for blending and smoothing oil pastel colors. With the help of these tools, you can achieve seamless transitions and soft gradients in your artwork. Blending stumps work well for larger areas, while tortillions are ideal for more detailed blending.

Paper Towels

Paper towels are handy for cleaning your hands or removing excess oil pastel from your artwork. They can be used to create textural effects by blotting or dabbing the pastel, or even to lift color partially or completely. Paper towels also allow for easy clean-up during your creative process.

Other tools that can enhance your experience with oil pastels include:

  • Brushes: Brushes can be used for blending, smudging, or applying linseed oil or fixative spray to your oil pastel artwork.
  • Linseed Oil: Linseed oil can be used to add fluidity and transparency to your oil pastel colors, as well as to create glazing effects.
  • Fixative Spray: Fixative spray helps to protect and preserve your finished oil pastel artwork. It prevents smudging and provides a layer of protection.
  • Washi Tape: Washi tape can be used to create neat edges or borders in your artwork. It is easy to remove and leaves minimal residue.

Experimenting with different tools can open up new possibilities and allow you to explore various techniques when working with oil pastels. Remember to have fun and let your creativity flow!

Are Oil Pastels Crayons?

While oil pastels and crayons may appear similar at first glance, they are actually quite different in terms of composition, hardness, and drawing effects. Oil pastels offer a greater level of versatility and vibrant colors compared to crayons, allowing artists to create stunning artworks with oil paint-like effects. Moreover, oil pastels are distinct from colored pencils, which have their own unique composition and texture.

Oil pastels, such as Sakura Cray-Pas, Holbein, and Sennelier, are composed of a pigment mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder, giving them a creamy consistency and intense color saturation. On the other hand, crayons are typically made from paraffin wax or soy wax, making them harder and less vibrant in comparison.

“Oil pastels offer a greater level of versatility and vibrant colors compared to crayons, allowing artists to create stunning artworks with oil paint-like effects.”

When it comes to drawing effects, oil pastels excel in creating rich and opaque color blends. Their unique composition allows for seamless blending, layering, and the creation of realistic textures. In contrast, crayons have a harder texture and produce less vibrant colors, making them more suitable for simple drawings and color recording.

See also
Discover How Pastels Are Made | Artistic Insights

Here’s a comparison table highlighting the differences between oil pastels and crayons:

Features Oil Pastels Crayons
Composition Pigment mixed with non-drying oil and wax binder Paraffin wax or soy wax
Hardness Soft and creamy Hard
Drawing Effects Rich, opaque color blends; similar to oil paints Simpler, less vibrant colors
Versatility Can be used on various surfaces; compatible with oils and solvents for different effects Primarily used on paper; may struggle to adhere to other surfaces

It’s important to note that oil pastels and crayons serve different purposes for artists. Oil pastels offer more possibilities for creating textured and layered artworks, while crayons are often favored by children and for detailed drawings. Ultimately, the choice between oil pastels and crayons depends on an artist’s preferences and the desired effect in their artwork.

Next, let’s explore some of the differences and benefits of using colored pencils in comparison to oil pastels.

Best Oil Pastels for Artists

When it comes to creating stunning artwork with oil pastels, having high-quality materials is essential. Whether you’re a professional artist or a passionate hobbyist, investing in the best oil pastels will elevate your artistic creations. Here are some recommended oil pastel brands that are widely regarded for their exceptional quality and performance:

Brand Description
Sakura Cray-Pas Sakura Cray-Pas oil pastels are known for their smooth and creamy texture, allowing for effortless blending and layering. These professional-grade pastels offer a wide range of vibrant colors that deliver excellent color saturation.
Holbein Holbein oil pastels are renowned for their intense pigmentation and buttery consistency. These artist-grade pastels offer exceptional lightfastness, ensuring that your artwork retains its brilliance over time.
Sennelier Sennelier oil pastels are considered one of the finest brands available. These extra-soft pastels offer rich, vibrant colors and are made with high-quality pigments and pure safflower oil for superior blending capabilities.

Professional oil pastels are often softer and more expensive compared to student-grade options. However, the investment is worthwhile as they allow for smoother blending and enhanced color saturation, enabling you to achieve stunning effects in your artwork.

In addition to investing in a set of oil pastels, many artists also purchase individual boxes or sticks of specific colors to supplement their existing collection. This allows for greater color selection and customization, ensuring that you have the perfect shades to bring your artistic visions to life.

Remember, the best oil pastels for you will ultimately depend on your personal preferences and artistic style. Experimenting with different brands and colors will help you discover the perfect combination that allows you to unleash your creativity to the fullest.

So, whether you’re creating vibrant landscapes, detailed portraits, or abstract masterpieces, using the best oil pastels will elevate your artistic expression to new heights.


In conclusion, when it comes to oil pastels vs. crayons, both mediums offer unique qualities and applications in the art world. Oil pastels are favored by many artists for their vibrant colors, superior blending capabilities, and versatility. With oil pastels, you can create stunning works of art that exhibit depth, texture, and a wide range of effects.

On the other hand, crayons have their own strengths, particularly in children’s art activities and detailed drawings. Crayons are affordable, easy to use, and safe for young artists. They provide a solid, opaque color that can be applied with precision, making them perfect for detailed artwork.

Ultimately, the choice between oil pastels and crayons depends on your preferences as an artist and the desired effect you want to achieve in your artwork. If you’re looking for vibrant colors, the ability to blend seamlessly, and versatility across different surfaces, oil pastels are the way to go. However, if you’re working with children or focusing on detailed drawings, crayons may be the better option for you.

Whether you’re experimenting with oil pastels or exploring the world of crayons, both mediums offer exciting opportunities for artistic expression. So go ahead, pick up your preferred medium, and unleash your creativity on the canvas!


Are oil pastels and crayons the same?

No, oil pastels and crayons are not the same. They have different compositions, drawing effects, and uses.

What are the main differences between oil pastels and crayons?

Oil pastels are made from a pigment mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder, while crayons are typically made from paraffin wax or soy wax. Oil pastels have higher color saturation and offer more vibrant colors compared to crayons.

Can I blend colors with oil pastels?

Yes, oil pastels can be blended together to create seamless color transitions. They can also be layered on top of each other for added depth and texture in artwork.

What surfaces can oil pastels be used on?

Oil pastels can be used on a variety of surfaces such as paper, cardboard, masonite board, canvas, and wood.

What techniques can be done with oil pastels?

Oil pastels offer a wide range of techniques including blending, stippling, scumbling, cross-hatching, and sgraffito. These techniques allow artists to create unique textures and effects in their artwork.

What are the benefits of crayons?

Crayons are affordable, easy to use, and safe, making them a popular choice for children’s art activities. They are also great for quick sketches and detailed drawings due to their pointed tips and ability to stand alone without smudging.

How do oil pastels and crayons differ in terms of drawing effects?

Oil pastels offer a creamy and opaque drawing effect, allowing for blending, layering, and the creation of realistic color combinations. Crayons have a harder texture and offer less vibrant colors, making them more suitable for simple drawings and color recording.

What tools can be used with oil pastels?

When working with oil pastels, artists can use their fingers, palette knives, paper towels, tortillions, blending stumps, brushes, linseed oil, fixative spray, and washi tape to achieve different effects and techniques.

Are oil pastels and crayons the same as colored pencils?

No, oil pastels and crayons are different from colored pencils in terms of composition and texture.

What are some recommended oil pastel brands for artists?

Some recommended oil pastel brands for artists include Sakura Cray-Pas, Holbein, and Sennelier. These professional-grade oil pastels tend to be softer and more expensive, allowing for better blending and color saturation.