Oil Pastel on Canvas Guide: Tips & Techniques

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Time to read: 15 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.

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on using oil pastels on canvas. In this article, we will explore the various techniques, best practices, and tips for creating stunning oil pastel art on canvas. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and inspiration to elevate your oil pastel creations to new heights.

Oil pastels are a cost-effective option for artists, offering vibrant colors and a range of possibilities. They can be used to create oil paintings by thinning them with oil mediums. When using oil pastels on canvas, they can be applied wet or dry and blended on the surface or on a palette, allowing for beautiful blending effects and rich texture. It is important to use the right tools, such as Color Shapers, for detailed work and to create sgraffito effects.

Many artists wonder if oil pastels can be used on canvas. The answer is yes! Oil pastels can be used on a variety of surfaces, including canvas. When used on canvas, they provide a unique and expressive result that adds depth and dimension to your artwork.

Key Takeaways:

Contents show
  • Oil pastels are a cost-effective option for artists.
  • They can be used to create oil paintings by thinning them with oil mediums.
  • When using oil pastels on canvas, they can be applied wet or dry and blended on the surface or on a palette.
  • It is important to use the right tools, such as Color Shapers, for detailed work.
  • Oil pastels on canvas provide a unique and expressive result.

Why use oil pastels?

Oil pastels are a versatile and cost-effective medium for artists. While they may initially seem like children’s art supplies due to their low price, they offer a vibrant range of colors and can be a fun and rewarding medium to work with. Here are a few reasons why you should consider using oil pastels:

  1. Vibrant colors: Oil pastels provide rich and intense colors, allowing artists to create bold and expressive artworks.
  2. Easy to blend: Oil pastels can be easily blended together, allowing for the creation of smooth gradients and seamless transitions between colors.
  3. Wide range of application techniques: Whether you prefer to layer, stipple, stroke, or smudge, oil pastels offer a variety of application techniques to suit your artistic style.
  4. Flexible on various surfaces: Oil pastels can be used on a variety of surfaces, including canvas, paper, wood, and even glass. This versatility allows artists to explore different textures and experiment with mixed media techniques.
  5. Durable and long-lasting: Oil pastel artworks are known for their durability. Once dry, they resist smudging and cracking, ensuring that your artworks stand the test of time.

“Oil pastels are a fantastic medium for artists of all levels. Their versatility, vibrant colors, and ability to blend make them a joy to work with, whether you’re an experienced artist or just starting out.” – Sarah Thompson, professional artist

To give you a better idea of the range of colors available in oil pastels, take a look at the table below:

Brand Color Range
Cray-Pas 48 colors
Sennelier 120 colors
Caran d’Ache Neopastel 96 colors
Van Gogh 48 colors

Tips and techniques for using oil pastels

When it comes to using oil pastels, there are several tips and techniques that can help you achieve stunning results. From selecting the right hardness to exploring different blending methods, mastering these techniques will enhance your oil pastel artworks. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:

Select the Right Hardness

Oil pastels come in different hardness levels, ranging from firm to soft. Firm brands are ideal for early layers and fine details, allowing for precise control over your artwork. On the other hand, softer pastels are perfect for blending over heavy layers, creating smooth transitions and vibrant colors.

Experiment with Wet and Dry Techniques

Oil pastels can be used both wet and dry, offering versatile options for creating unique effects. When using them wet, you can apply the pastel directly on the canvas and then blend the colors with a brush or a color shaper. This technique allows for easier color mixing and creating subtle gradients.

If you prefer a dry technique, simply use the pastels directly on your canvas. You can blend the colors by layering and smudging them on the surface. This method gives you more control over each stroke and enables you to achieve bold and textured effects.

See also
Creative Spaces for Oil Pastel Artistry

Utilize Different Blending Tools

Exploring different blending tools can take your oil pastel artworks to the next level. Consider using Color Shapers, which have flexible silicone tips that are great for pushing the color around and applying small details. They come in various shapes and sizes, allowing for precise control over your strokes.

Create Thin Washes with Temperature Variation

Temperature can affect the firmness of oil pastels. When exposed to heat, they become softer and more malleable, making them perfect for creating thin washes. Laying down a light layer of pastel and then blending it with a brush or a solvent can help you achieve a transparent and translucent effect.

Explore Water-Soluble Oil Pastels

For those interested in creating partial-wash effects, there are specific brands of water-soluble oil pastels available. These pastels can be mixed with water to create washes and achieve interesting textures. They are a great option for artists looking to experiment with different techniques and styles.

Recommended Resources for Learning

“Oil Pastel for the Serious Beginner” by John Elliot
“Oil Pastel: Materials and Techniques for Today’s Artist” by Kenneth D. Leslie

Incorporating these tips and techniques into your oil pastel practice can help you unlock the full potential of this versatile medium. Remember to experiment, have fun, and let your creativity shine through!

Glazing oil pastel paintings

When you’ve completed an oil pastel painting, it’s essential to apply a layer of glaze to protect the surface and ensure the longevity of your artwork. Glazing not only enhances the vibrancy of colors but also provides a protective barrier against dust, moisture, and UV light that can potentially damage the painting over time.

To achieve the best results when glazing oil pastel paintings, you’ll need the right fixative specifically formulated for oil pastels. Two recommended brands are Sennelier D’Artigny Oil Pastel Fixative and Caran d’Ache Protector Fixative. These fixatives help to seal the oil pastels and prevent smudging or smearing.

In terms of the surface, traditional pastel papers and supports work well for oil pastels. It’s recommended to choose a paper with extra tooth, as this texture allows for more layering and depth in your artwork. The additional tooth provides better adherence of the oil pastels to the surface, resulting in rich, vibrant colors.

Recommended glazing process for oil pastel paintings:

  1. Ensure that your oil pastel painting is completely dry. Wait at least 24 hours before applying the glaze.
  2. Choose a well-ventilated area to work in, as fixatives can be strong-smelling. Protect your work area with a drop cloth or newspaper.
  3. Hold the fixative can approximately 12-18 inches away from the painting and spray a light, even coat across the entire surface. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific fixative you’re using.
  4. Allow the first coat to dry completely. Additional coats may be necessary for optimal protection, depending on the desired level of glossiness and durability. Apply subsequent coats with light, even sprays, ensuring complete coverage.
  5. Once the glazing process is complete, let the painting dry thoroughly before handling or framing.

Using the appropriate fixative and following the recommended glazing process will help preserve the integrity of your oil pastel paintings for years to come, allowing you to enjoy their vibrant colors and intricate details.

Traveling with oil pastels

Oil pastels are not only a versatile and vibrant medium for creating art, but they are also convenient for artists on the go. Whether you’re heading to a workshop, plein air painting session, or an artistic retreat, oil pastels can easily accompany you on your travels. Here, we explore the benefits of traveling with oil pastels and provide some essential tips to ensure a stress-free journey.

Why Choose Oil Pastels for Traveling?

One of the main advantages of oil pastels for traveling is their portability. Compact and lightweight, they take up minimal space in your art supply bag or suitcase, allowing you to bring a wide range of colors without weighing you down. Additionally, unlike other mediums such as paints or charcoals, oil pastels are dustless, making them less messy and easier to clean up while on the go.

Tips for Traveling with Oil Pastels

  • When traveling by plane, it’s important to describe your oil pastels as “artist crayons” to customs. This ensures a smooth and hassle-free process, as some security officials might be unfamiliar with the term “oil pastels.”
  • While oil pastels are generally allowed in carry-on luggage, it’s advisable to check the specific regulations of the airline you’re traveling with. Some airlines may have size or content restrictions.
  • Leave mineral spirits or other solvents at home, as they may not be permitted in your carry-on bag. Instead, consider purchasing them at your destination if needed.
  • Pack your oil pastels in a sturdy case or box to protect them from breaking during transit. It’s also a good idea to wrap individual sticks in tissue or bubble wrap for extra protection.
  • Remember to bring along a small sketchbook or paper pad to create color swatches or sketches while on the move. This allows you to capture inspiration wherever you are.

Unlock Your Creative Potential with Oil Pastels

Oil pastels offer a myriad of possibilities for artistic expression, whether you’re creating landscapes, portraits, or abstract artworks. Their creamy texture and vibrant colors make them a versatile choice for artists of all skill levels. With oil pastels in your travel kit, you can unleash your creativity and explore new techniques and subjects during your adventures.

Now that you’re equipped with knowledge on traveling with oil pastels, you can confidently embark on your artistic journeys without leaving this versatile medium behind. Let the vibrant colors and smooth application of oil pastels inspire you as you create art in new and exciting locations.

See also
Discover How to Color Oil Pastel Like a Pro

Oil pastel brands for sale today

When it comes to artist-grade oil pastels, there are several reputable brands available on the market. Each brand has its own unique formula and offers a range of vibrant colors and varying levels of hardness. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, choosing the right oil pastel brand can greatly impact your artwork.

Here are some of the top oil pastel brands that you can consider:

  • Cray-Pas
  • Cretacolor Aqua Stic
  • Erengi Art Aspirer
  • Caran d’Ache Neopastel
  • Holbein
  • Sennelier
  • Van Gogh

Each brand brings its own qualities and strengths to the table. Some brands may have a softer texture, ideal for blending and creating smooth transitions, while others offer a firmer consistency, perfect for detailed work and layering.

When it comes to purchasing oil pastels, it is crucial to keep in mind that prices are comparable to other art supplies like colored pencils or soft pastels. Additionally, most oil pastel brands use nontoxic pigments, ensuring that your artmaking process is safe and worry-free.

Take a look at the comparison table below for a quick overview of the different oil pastel brands:

Brand Pigment Type Hardness
Cray-Pas Nontoxic pigments Soft
Cretacolor Aqua Stic Nontoxic pigments Firm
Erengi Art Aspirer Nontoxic pigments Medium soft
Caran d’Ache Neopastel Nontoxic pigments Soft
Holbein Nontoxic pigments Firm
Sennelier Nontoxic pigments Soft
Van Gogh Nontoxic pigments Firm

Whether you prefer soft or firm oil pastels, this diverse selection of brands offers something for every artist. Explore different brands and experiment with their unique characteristics to discover which ones resonate with your artistic style.

Now that you have an idea of the available oil pastel brands, you can confidently make an informed choice when purchasing your next set. Remember, the right oil pastel brand can enhance your artistic abilities and open up new creative possibilities.

So go ahead, browse through the various oil pastel brands and start creating beautiful works of art.

What to buy when starting out

When you’re just starting out with oil pastels, it’s important to invest in high-quality artist-grade oil pastels to ensure the best results. One highly recommended brand is Sennelier, known for their vibrant colors and smooth application. However, you also have the option to mix individual sticks from different brands to create your own unique color palette.

Instead of purchasing a large set of oil pastels, which can be expensive, it’s often more cost-effective to start with a small set or choose your favorite colors from open stock. This way, you can gradually build your collection based on your preferences and artistic needs.

As you explore oil pastels, don’t be afraid to experiment with different surfaces. While canvas is a popular choice, you can also try using pastel papers, textured boards, or even unconventional surfaces like wood or metal. The key is to find the surface that allows you to achieve the desired effect and texture in your artwork.

Keeping your oil pastels and hands clean is essential. It’s a good practice to have paper towels or gloves handy to prevent smudging or mixing of colors. This will help you achieve cleaner and more precise results in your artwork.

High-Quality Artist-Grade Oil Pastels Recommended Brand: Sennelier
  • Vibrant colors
  • Smooth application
Starting Out
  • Begin with a small set
  • Choose favorite colors from open stock
  • Try different surfaces
  • Pastel papers, textured boards, wood, metal
  • Have paper towels or gloves on hand
  • Prevent smudging or color mixing

By selecting high-quality artist-grade oil pastels, experimenting with different surfaces, and ensuring cleanliness, you’ll be on your way to creating stunning oil pastel artwork that truly represents your unique style and creativity.

A short history of oil pastels

Professional-grade oil pastels have been available since 1949, revolutionizing the world of art. Developed by the Japanese company Sakura, these vibrant and versatile artistic tools quickly gained popularity among artists worldwide.

Initially, oil pastels were viewed as a drawing medium, combining the rich pigments of oil paint with the convenience and ease of use of traditional pastels. However, artists soon discovered that oil pastels could also be used to create detailed paintings, blending and layering colors to achieve stunning effects.

Oil pastels offer unique qualities and versatility compared to other art mediums. Their smooth and creamy texture allows for effortless mark-making, while their intense pigmentation provides vibrant colors that can rival those of oil paints.

Like their traditional pastel counterparts, oil pastels require practice and experimentation to fully understand their potential. Artists must learn to manipulate the medium, mastering techniques such as blending, layering, and creating texture. With time and dedication, artists can unlock the true expressive power of oil pastels.

Notable Milestones in the History of Oil Pastels:

Year Event
1949 Introduction of professional-grade oil pastels by Sakura
1953 Sakura’s oil pastels receive the Good Design Award in Japan
1972 Caran d’Ache introduces their line of oil pastels, expanding the range of available brands
1981 Van Gogh oil pastels are launched, offering an affordable option for artists
1990 Sennelier, a leading art supply manufacturer, releases an artist-quality line of oil pastels

Over the years, various art supply manufacturers have developed their own oil pastel offerings, each with its own unique characteristics and color ranges. Today, artists have a wide range of options to choose from, allowing them to find the perfect oil pastels that suit their individual style and creative vision.

“Oil pastels, with their brilliant colors and creamy consistency, offer artists a versatile medium for creating stunning artworks.”

As the history of oil pastels continues to evolve, artists around the world will continue to explore and push the boundaries of this remarkable medium.

Tips for using oil pastels

Using oil pastels can be a rewarding and creative experience. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, here are some valuable tips to enhance your use of oil pastels:

  1. Invest in high-quality artist-grade oil pastels: While it may be tempting to opt for cheaper options, investing in high-quality artist-grade oil pastels will greatly improve your results. They offer richer pigments, better blending capabilities, and superior lightfastness.
  2. Keep your oil pastel sticks clean: To prevent muddying your colors, keep your oil pastel sticks clean by wiping them with paper towels or rags. This ensures that you start each stroke with a fresh, vibrant color.
  3. Blend with various tools: Experiment with different blending tools to achieve different effects. You can blend with your fingers for a soft, seamless look, use tortillions or blending stumps for more precise blending, or try brushes or cloth for unique textures.
  4. Embrace experimentation: Oil pastels offer endless possibilities for artistic exploration. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques, surfaces, and color combinations. Play with layering, textures, and mark-making to discover your own unique style.
  5. Sketch compositions at a smaller scale: Before starting a larger oil pastel piece, sketch out your composition at a smaller scale. This allows you to plan your composition, test out color combinations, and make adjustments before committing to a larger canvas.
  6. Try different surfaces: Explore the effects of oil pastels on various surfaces. While canvas and specialized pastel papers are common choices, don’t limit yourself. Experiment with different textures, such as sandpaper, cardboard, or wood, to create distinct effects and enhance your artwork.
  7. Take breaks while working: Oil pastels can be an intense medium to work with. Take short breaks to step back and assess your progress. This helps you gain a fresh perspective and make conscious decisions about color placement, composition, and overall balance in your artwork.
See also
Exploring Pastels on Canvas: Tips & Techniques

By incorporating these tips into your oil pastel practice, you can unlock the full potential of this versatile medium and create vibrant, expressive artworks.


Using oil pastels on canvas offers artists a cost-effective and versatile medium to create stunning artworks. Whether you are an experienced artist or a beginner, oil pastels provide endless possibilities for artistic expression.

One of the key advantages of oil pastels is their ability to be used as a substitute for traditional oil paints. By thinning them with oil mediums, you can achieve the same luscious texture and vibrant colors that oil paintings are known for. The process of blending oil pastels on canvas, whether wet or dry, allows for seamless transitions and the creation of rich, layered effects.

When working with oil pastels, it is important to select the right hardness for each stick and experiment with different surfaces to achieve the desired results. Additionally, glazing and framing finished oil pastel paintings is recommended to preserve and protect the artwork over time.

There are several high-quality oil pastel brands available, such as Sennelier, Caran d’Ache, and Holbein, which offer a wide range of colors and consistencies. Investing in artist-grade oil pastels ensures that you are working with top-notch materials, which can greatly enhance the quality of your artwork.

In conclusion, oil pastels provide a unique and accessible artistic experience. Whether you are an aspiring artist or an experienced painter, using oil pastels on canvas opens up a world of creative possibilities, allowing you to express your imagination and create stunning artworks that will captivate viewers.


Does oil pastel work on canvas?

Yes, oil pastels can be used on canvas. They can be applied wet or dry and blended on the surface or on a palette.

What are some oil pastel techniques on canvas?

Some oil pastel techniques on canvas include blending, layering, sgraffito effects, and creating thin washes.

What are the best practices for using oil pastels on canvas?

The best practices for using oil pastels on canvas include using the right tools, such as Color Shapers, and selecting the appropriate firmness for each stick.

How can I blend oil pastels on canvas?

Oil pastels can be blended on canvas using your fingers, tortillions, brushes, or cloth.

Can you use oil pastels on canvas?

Yes, oil pastels can be used on canvas to create vibrant and colorful artworks.

Is there an oil pastel on canvas tutorial available?

Yes, there are tutorials available that provide step-by-step instructions on how to use oil pastels on canvas.

What is the difference between oil pastel and acrylic on canvas?

Oil pastels have a creamy texture and offer vibrant colors, while acrylics are water-based and dry to a plastic-like finish.

Do you have a beginner’s guide to oil pastels on canvas?

Yes, we have a beginner’s guide that provides tips and techniques for using oil pastels on canvas.

What is glazing in oil pastel paintings?

Glazing is the process of applying a thin, transparent layer of color over dried oil pastel paintings to enhance the depth and luminosity.

Can you travel with oil pastels?

Yes, oil pastels are portable and dustless, making them a convenient medium for traveling.

What are some recommended oil pastel brands for sale today?

Some recommended oil pastel brands include Cray-Pas, Cretacolor Aqua Stic, Erengi Art Aspirer, Caran d’Ache Neopastel, Holbein, Sennelier, and Van Gogh.

What should I buy when starting out with oil pastels?

It is recommended to purchase high-quality artist-grade oil pastels, such as Sennelier, and to experiment with different surfaces and tools.

What is the history of oil pastels?

Professional-grade oil pastels have been available since 1949, offering artists a unique and versatile medium for creating art.

What are some tips for using oil pastels?

Some tips for using oil pastels include not expecting immediate perfection, investing in high-quality artist-grade oil pastels, and experimenting with different techniques and surfaces.

Can you provide a conclusion about using oil pastels on canvas?

Oil pastels offer a cost-effective and versatile medium for creating art on canvas. With the right techniques and experimentation, artists can achieve stunning results and unleash their creativity.