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Using Oil Pastel as a Gateway to Oil Painting

Updated on October 19, 2020
Oil Sticks, Cra Pas,or Oil Pastel
Oil Sticks, Cra Pas,or Oil Pastel

In this mini-project, I wanted to offer some ideas and suggestions for older children or adults that want to try something different.

Cray-Pas," which means ”Cray” conveying the application ease of Crayon and “Pas” standing for dry Pastels' depth and brightness of color", is a great way to introduce oil painting without the cost of oils.

Some benefits of cray pas,a.k.a oil sticks or oil pastels, are affordability (they are one of the cheapest art supplies), portability, adaptability, and messiness factor is minimal. That makes them ideal for older children or adults who want to experiment with oil painting techniques without the commitment to price. I would recommend the age for children to be10+.

supply samples:pencils,art stump,oil sticks,canvas paper,pencils, sharpener
supply samples:pencils,art stump,oil sticks,canvas paper,pencils, sharpener
Blending stump(stick)
Blending stump(stick)

Supplies Needed:

  • · Cray Pas ,Oil Sticks or Oil Pastels (all are the same medium),small box
  • · Brushes : to keep cost down I would use hog bristle brushes. (See my other hub How Much is That Art Paper in the Window? Art Materials Terminology ).
  • · Illustration Board or Canvas Board : You can use poster board but I would not recommend if you want to do more than just experiment. The paint thinner usually leaves an oily residue stain.
  • · Pencils to draw subject matter
  • · Eraser and sharpener
  • · Art stump aka blending stick
  • · Paint thinner , mineral spites, or turpentine.
  • · Optional: small glass container with lid to put paint thinner in.

You will need a well ventilated area to work in, some place with a window you can open or air circulating through it; if you can go outside even better. Even though paint thinner or mineral says odorless it does not mean that there is not a smell to it or that it is not harmful. It stills gives off fumes, have common sense when working with this, such as ventilation, wash hands if skin comes in contact with it, don’t put it in your mouth etc.

Boats Closeup
Boats Closeup

I chose to use a reference photo of a carnival boat ride. I used illustration board which I had on hand.

The first thing I do is block in my drawing with pencil. See photos at right. Now here is where the fun part comes in. The oil stick dries more quickly than regular oil paints but you can build up layers of paint like oil paints. With oil pastels you can lay down the color by drawing or coloring in the area directly, blend the medium with a  blending stick,  and use an under painting technique to add interest. The paint thinner will melt the graphic from the pencil and create an added color dimension to your drawing. You can scratch into the paint and remove the medium to create a highlights or texture. Another added benefit of oil sticks is that you can erase them. In the finished picture, I used all these techniques. I will give some examples and further explain the techniques below.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Finished drawingcloseup of layering and under painting  techniquecloseup of scratching techniquecloseup of blending with blending stick
Finished drawing
Finished drawing
closeup of layering and under painting  technique
closeup of layering and under painting technique
closeup of scratching technique
closeup of scratching technique
closeup of blending with blending stick
closeup of blending with blending stick

Here are photos and explanationsof the techniques used in the finished picture.

Layering  and Under painting Technique:Step 1
Layering and Under painting Technique:Step 1
Layering  and Under painting Technique:Step 2
Layering and Under painting Technique:Step 2
Masking Technique
Masking Technique
Blending Technique
Blending Technique
Scratching Technique
Scratching Technique
All techniques on canvas paper
All techniques on canvas paper

Here all the techniques shown above except they are on canvas paper. As you see canvas paper has a rough texture than illustration board. Even though the technique and medium is the same the result is a little different.

  • 1-1a layered oil pastel
  • 2-2a oil pastel mixed with paint thinner and then more medium layer on top
  • 3 scratching technique
  • 4-4a masking technique
  • 5-5b blending with blending sticks (5a) and then with paint thinner

I would suggest that you play with the materials before deciding on a paper or subject matter. Once you know what the materials can do, it will help in the decision of your subject matter. I would choose a simple subject for your first piece. I also would start with a small drawing too get your feet wet. I hope this gives you some ideas about a material that you may have never used or have not used since you were a kid.


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