View Full Version : Choosing a brand of OP's

04-20-2004, 03:24 AM
At the moment I am struggling with a choice, and a choice within a choice :confused:
I've finally located a 30 set of Schmincke soft pastels at a really good price, tho still expensive! on-line, here in Oz. Very tempted.
I've also sourced some OP's, that I can buy on-line too.
Very tempted again.
But my budget dictates I can't have both. :(

The op's are Cray-Pas Specialist, Sennelier, and Caran D'ache (the last being the most expensive). I thought to try a 24 set of 2 of these brands. But it will be sight unseen, not having a chance to try them first.
I would like to hear from Op'ers who have used these brands - your comments (quality, texture, user-friendliness), whether you have found they need something 'extra' to make them work for you, even to which support recieves them best. I realize that all offerings will be personal opinions only, and I will look for a general concensus.

Thanks for any help.


04-20-2004, 07:54 AM
Of those two OP brands, I prefer the Sennelier and Caran D'Ache. The Specialists are too hard for my liking. I also found them difficult to blend.

Have fun!


Kathryn Wilson
04-20-2004, 08:27 AM
Hi CJ! Sooo, you are wanting to try OP's? I feel I must say something here that may bring down the wrath of other OP'ers on me (or not - :) ) - but if you are thinking that using OP's is similar to working with soft pastels, think again. It is like learning a totally different medium. It will take time, experimenting, practice and patience. I've been at it over a year - using all the brands of pastels you mention and more - using different surfaces, different techniques, and have just now figured out what is best for me.

That being said, for my money the Caran d'ache would be the best to start with. Senneliers are wonderful, but difficult to learn to use. Specialists are like the medium to hard pastels and are good for a first try and much less expensive - I found them very satisfying to use.

As to paper and supports, my best results have been on a smooth gesso board. I have used Sennelier's oil pastel paper with limited success (it is pure white), illustration board (good to use) - I don't care for Canson. I have not tried sanded papers for OP's.

Hope this helps!

04-20-2004, 10:00 AM
Hmmmm....I know what a quandary you're in! How about this? Get the Specialist to tinker with and take the savings to either buy the Schmincke set or some open stock Schminckes you know you need for regular pastel work? I'm finding that the problem with "sets" is that they often lack the colors I really wanted...up to 50% in a set may be colors I'll rarely, if ever, use. The OPs seem a bit better about this than the soft sets.

But, as Kyle has pointed out, OPs are a whole different kettle of fish from soft pastels. I've actually got all three of the sets you've mentioned plus some Holbeins and I'm hangin' in there, trudging along, trying to come to terms with OP limitations AND possibilies, but the learning curve seems to be a good deal steeper with OPs, than with the dusties. You might do better to buy the cheaper OP set to begin...they aren't bad quality-wise...and fill in your Schminckes a bit too. (I just re-ordered some of my fave Schmincke colors...ones I simply can't live without...they're pricey, but worth it!)

All that being said, I'd also go with the Caran d'Ache set...very rich colors and fairly blendable. The Senneliers are beautiful, but a good deal more transparent.

Whichever you choose, have fun!

04-20-2004, 01:49 PM
Ah...well, i love my OPs....and you do wonderful work with the softies. I wonder why you are contemplating the OPs. They seem to work differently for each of us...I adore the Holbeins, but they are 4 times the cost of the Caran d'Ache....which would be second best for me. Senneliers are like trying to work with greased pigs...fat, slick and wanna lay grease everywhere but where you planned. Cheap OPs are like cheap softies...you get what you pay for. I think to be honest, that if you're happy with your softies then you should go ahead and get your Schminkes. Save the experimenting for another time. I spent a lot of money getting the Senneliers, then the Caran, before I got to the Holbeins and I could easily never touch the first two sets again. OPs are a whole different ballgame, they are wonderful for layering and blending if you have the right supports...I like Art Spectrum colorfix and I also make my own marble gesso boards that are great. But seriously, unless you are unhappy with the softies, that's where I'd put my money...instead of starting over learning again you can just up the quality of what you are already doing. Then, someday, try to get just a few of the good quality OPs and see if you even like them before investing too much.

04-20-2004, 03:49 PM
Caran D'Ache are the superior o.p.s on that list, by far. But if you haven't done o.p.s yet, get a fifteen dollar box of Cray-Pas Expressionists or the student-grade Holbeins first to see if you like them.
Some Sennelliers are wonderful, but they differ in quality and characteristics from one color to the next. I would have loved my Specialists if I hadn't tried Holbeins and Caran D'Ache before them.
Funny, here CDs and Holbeins are not all that different in price.
I prefer the sanded or at least gessoed papers.

04-20-2004, 05:45 PM
I checked out your website, cj, and your work is lovley! You do such beautiful work with the softies, but it is always fun to try a new medium. I think I work differently with the ops than most people. I blend them with a tortillon (paper stump) until there is no paper showing. For this technique, the Holbeins don't work well. I'm saving my set of 50 for my daughters when they get older. (Luckily I bought them for only a dollar a stick on ebay). I love Sue's description of the Senneliers! :D Greased pigs, lol!!! But these and the Caran D'ache are actually my favorites. They work very well with the way I use the ops. I've never used anything but Canson, simply because I've liked it since I first tried it and saw no reason to go anywhere else. I think Sooz has a good idea about starting out with a cheaper set to get a feel for them. That worked for me anyway. You can always upgrade from there if you like them.

04-20-2004, 08:19 PM
Thanks everyone for your input - I found it all very interesting reading, and you've all given me food for thought.

The idea of using OP's comes from my hubby, who has developed bad hay-fever over the last few weeks, and I'm not sure if the softies may be aggravating it. I don't think they are the cause but they can't be helping :confused:

I have tried OP's before, just some cheap Micadors, and another type that didn't even have the brand name on the sticks (needless to say they were rubbish). So I understand how different they are. My style does not call for much blending, just laying downs layers/strokes fairly loosely. Would this be a challange with the OP's? Or is it just the blending that becomes an issue with the different qualities?
Unfortunately, I have not been able to source the Holbiens here, so they are not in my considerations. :(

Senneliers are like trying to work with greased pigs...fat, slick and wanna lay grease everywhere but where you planned.
>> :D :D :D <<<
I have visions of you Sue, frowning deeply, with colours dripping from the ceiling and the end of your nose!! :D

I will ponder this some more.

I think Sooz, you are right about buying pastels in a set - many colours never get used. And I'd hate to have half a set of Schmincke's sitting unused :( . Maybe I'll just indulge in my favourite colours initially.

A small set of Cray Pas Specialists are not expensive, so the outlay won't be too disappointing if they don't suit me. Then perhaps I will work my way up to the better brands once I get the technique sorted. Just small sets each time - mmmmm - Mother's Day is coming up soon ... :angel: ...then birthday.... :D


04-20-2004, 08:46 PM
teehee...accurate picture!!! ah, the softies will aggravate...very fine particles and why I went to OPs to begin with. The Caran would be best for the way you want to lay them, shame on the Holbeins, they're closest to softies in my mind, not nice of them not to share with everyone. Yep...if it weren't for lovely gift giving holidays I wouldn't have my lovely sets! I think it definately wise to try the Craypas first...I started with a $6 set of OPs and still wanted to persue them.

04-20-2004, 09:28 PM
My experience with Op's.... I love my Caran D'ache, I'm learning to love Senneliers,(used to hate them) unfortunately I cannot say anything about Holbeins as there are not available in this country, years ago (about 30) I used Craypas when I went back to painting, I still have those pastels, and have to say they are still pretty good, the difference between the student quality and the artist quality is big.... the artist quality op's have more oil content, the students quality more wax content which makes them harder and more difficult to blend.
Caran D'ache to me are the all rounder, easy to use and blend. Senneliers are creamier and oilier, more like an oil stick, which I personally love, having painted in oils (which I'm still doing) I can use the Sennelier's like oil paints mixed with a medium such as Liquin or turps, The colour range of Senneliers for me are terrific, I can use them for glazes far better than any other OP.....but can also obtain very similar effects with Caran D'ache, I like to use a blending medium with the OP's, that's my style, it gives me more satisfaction and more control over what I want from them, I'm forever experimenting and can only say that I'm so very glad I went back to Op's..... I loved the soft pastels and regretted having to stop using them, I still have all my softies, as I still like to use them now and then. As for comparison, you can achieve similar results with op's as you would soft pastels, it's all to do with application, op's are more saturated with colour so you may have to dull the colours down to achieve a soft pastel look.
If you need any more help, let me know.

04-20-2004, 09:40 PM
Mo, thanks so much your input.
I'm intrigued by the glazing. How do you achieve this? I know in acrylics (which I sometimes use), a glaze is like a very thin wash over areas that are generally already dry. Or you can glaze/thin wash your support right in the beginning stages, as you could with OP's. But I'm puzzled how this can be done with OP's in the later stages or does glazing mean something else - a different process altogether??
And when you say you have to dull down the intense colours sometimes - is this done by layering ie. complimentary colour over the top?

Appreciate your help.


Michele Nemier
04-22-2010, 04:24 PM

Regarding choices of oil pastels. If you can manage it, try to buy a few colors of each brand you are considering, warm and/or cool primaries and a black and white. ( Holbein usually sells a sample set of red, blue, yellow, black and white; check their website. Erangi was offering a sample pack through ASW Express here in the US.) Anyway, mix them, layer them, play around the color wheel. I don't know what your options are for purchasing oil pastels where you are, but if you go to the web and go to Dakota Pastels here in the US you can get an idea of the better brands of oil pastels and you can get info on their working qualities. If you are planning to work in oil pastel it would make it an easier decision on a brand to buy if you can purchase open stock colors. Nothing like running out of a color and not being able to get another stick without having to buy a whole set.
I like many different brands but for different reasons. I'm used to working in soft pastels so I try to use a harder (waxier) brand of oil pastel under the softer or more oily brands to extend and capitalize on layering. Craypas , Erengi, Van Goghs', Pentel Artists (if you can find them), tend to be harder and waxier. Sennelier is the softest and oiliest followed by Neopastels (waxy but soft) and Holbeins (unique feel). I also find that the opacity varies from brand to brand. The Senneliers are transparent to opaque depending on the pigment used (think traditional oil paint pallette) , Neopastels seem to be the most opaque, and Holbiens are mostly opaque. Sakura Craypas Specialist tend toward semitransparent to transparent as well as Van Gogh and Erengi Art inspirer. These can look a little blotchy and are a little difficult to work with if you want a opaque, flat passage. I think my biggest issue with oil pastels is color availability. I want to get to the finish, without having to do a ton of blending for tints and shades and neutrals. It seems to me the more blending you have to do the easier it is to muck up the work, so I would rather use a direct approach and get where I need to go as simply as possible. This is where Holbeins excel with 45 base colors and 4 tints of each color ( Unfortunately it is rumored that they are going down to 1 base color and 2 tints, still more choice then most other brands. Last time I looked I still saw the full wood box set of 225 available. But the set is expensive compared to other brands, if I had more cash I buy it in a heartbeat.) I think Holbeins' palette of color is exceptional, easy to work with, and just makes alot of sense. Being square rather then round allows more edge control for details. About the only complaint I have I have with Holbein is that their pure hues aren't always as saturated as I would like. For me, Sennelier has nice pure, saturated colors, as well as a nice selection of metallics.
I think that you would probably be pleased with the Neopastels, as they are fairly uniformly opaque, mix and layer well with each other. The palette is pretty well rounded, and more unique then most. They are actually pretty easy to get detail with and control well on edge, even though they are round. The color saturation is pretty good. The white is pretty clean and tints well. They aren't too oily but are soft and responsive, and will work over just about any other oil pastel and other mediums and work with different supports even slick ones. The only drawbacks in my experience with them is the inability to glaze or get transparent passages, and some of their colors seem a little dull to me.
Another brand that isn't too pricey and so far I like the ones I've bought is Maimeris' Classico out of Italy. They are nice and fat, med softness, not as sticky-waxey as the cheapies and would most likely make a good starter set. Holbein also made a student grade oil pastel that I wouldn't have any reservations about trying if I were new to the medium. I believe Art Spectrum artists materials is made in Australia but I don't know if they offer oil pastels, I suppose you could check with them, at the least they may be able to direct you to a local supplier for whatever product you want to look for.

04-25-2010, 05:02 PM
Hi CJ. By glazing in oil pastels we're referring to the glass, plexiglas, or acetate protection over your matted oil pastel. I don't mat but use spacers between my glass and and the painting. I like my images to be full framed rather than matted.

There are serious archival questions about varnished oil pastels, hence most of us frame under glass or acetate etc...(glazing).

04-27-2010, 11:39 AM
Hal - good to see you on line - we have missed you!

Holly :wave:

04-30-2010, 10:44 PM
Hello . . . well, I have a set of Senneliers, CrayPas Specialist, Holbiens and Caran d'ache. By far my favs are the Caran d'ache. . . I just keep going back to them over and over even when I try to use another set on a work.

04-30-2010, 11:08 PM
Email Jerry's Artarama and/or Dick Blick for samples of the artist grade OPs. Both outlets are very good about sending samples. I'd go for the Caran d'Ache Neopastels, they are my favorites of all those mentioned. Specialists are good but hard, and Senneliers are almost too soft, more paintlike. I do use all three though. If you're getting two of the 24 color sets, then Neopastel and Sennelier would be my suggestion.

You can put Sennelier over anything else, just like in softies you can put Schminke over anything else. They are very useful that way! Also Sennelier "sets up" overnight to make a firmer paint film, so that's pretty cool for layering. If it gets too mingled, you can always let it set up before adding more.

I've described all of these in much more detail on my oil pastels site, in my signature line.

04-30-2010, 11:10 PM
Hal - good to see you on line - we have missed you!

Holly :wave:

Hi Holly, just passing through and felt I might be able to contribute.

08-08-2011, 06:30 AM
Can anybody please guide me about which artist oil pastel brand is available in India??

08-10-2011, 07:09 AM
Can anyone tell me how are supra fine oilpastel colors of camel brand for oil painting?

Pat Isaac
08-13-2011, 02:21 PM
I don't know that brand, but if you post this in the talk forum, you will get lots of feedback.


05-09-2013, 11:27 PM
There is no doubt in my mind that I am allergic to the softies (everytime I was around them my face started itching, my nose ran and I got congestion), and honestly I'm not fond of working with a medium that can just be wiped off with a swipe of the hand. Fragility is not a concern I want to have. I know this doesn't directly provide an answer for the OP OP. :D