View Full Version : Difference between soft and oil pastels

07-20-2004, 07:01 AM
may someone explain the difference between the soft pastels and the oil pastels. Not, of what they are made, but how they are used.
I am interested, which effect is different? And when use which one.
I know how soft pastels feels like, but have no idea about oil pastels. Can I mix them at the same painting?

Kathryn Wilson
07-20-2004, 08:19 AM
Hi Rita! Welcome to the Pastel Forum - you've got a good question here. Let me see if I can help since I work with both mediums.

I find working with oil pastels very different from soft pastels. In soft pastels you work from dark to light - oil pastels you want to lay in your light colors first as they do not lay over the darks that easily.

Oil pastels can range in intensity - from very delicate to very bold depending on the technique you use. There 3 major brands of OP's and each one of them have different properties - one is very buttery and much like oil paint in a stick (Sennelier), one is more like soft pastels with a lot of pigment and more dry handling (Holbein), and one is somewhere inbetween (Caran d'Ache).

I hope that helps some - but you come on over to the oil pastel studio forum and look at what's being achieved with OP's.

07-20-2004, 10:03 AM
Thanks kyle,
I already visited the Oil pastel forum :) Wonderful work there!!!

Now you confus me. Somebody told me (www.ricsattler.com), he starts in the midtones and then add shadow and highlights.
Anther one (www.bradleygallery.com.uk who is painting with Pastel Pencils) mix the light ones and get darker -- adding light at the end. As far as I understand.

Now -- I guess there is no fixed rule to paint. Just experiment and see what happens?

Oil Pastels looks for me almost like (pasted) Oil-paintings -- well, a lot of them.

Thanks for helping me :D


Kathryn Wilson
07-20-2004, 10:18 AM
Just to clarify for you - the pastel pencils are a form of soft pastel - they are just in a harder form.

07-21-2004, 12:10 AM
Other than the consistency of the sticks themselves, another major difference is in the fragility of the finished work. Soft pastels can be ruined with a touch of the hand....or drop one unside down sometime. Even spraying with fixative won't make a soft pastel immune if smudged or brushed across :)...and be sure to keep it away from water!

With an oil pastel, the work can be touched and even dropped without much damage and water would not damage the surface. Oil pastels can also be worked on a lot of materials that you cannot use soft pastels on because of their properties.

I paint with both and there are some techniques that are similar with both, but they are not alike if you compare a medium to another medium. The word pastel comes from pastiche which means paste. Both the oil pastels and soft pastels are formed into a paste, then made into sticks. That's why they're both called pastels.

What I like best about both mediums is the feel of using the hands to do the painting. When I painted with a brush, I never felt that I could do what I wanted when painting....no matter the medium. When I started using soft pastels, I realized that what I loved about them was the immediate feel of the strokes across the surface :) I feel the same way about the OP's.

One big difference between the two is that oil pastels cause no dust!


07-21-2004, 03:28 AM
Thank you
and kyle
that helps me to understand it a little better.
Both called pastels - and both are so diffrent. This was the point which irritate me. So, thanks for your help.

07-24-2004, 06:27 PM
Would also like to add, that although the two are very different, some of the same techniques are used to create artwork.

Both can be layered, scumbled, blended, feathered, scraped back to a fresher surface, used to create a wash effect, and I'm sure other techniques that I can't think of at the moment. Toned surfaces and underpaintings can be used with both.

When I first began using the OP's, I used the same dry techniques to paint as I had used with the soft pastels. I think that's one reason they worked better for me this time, rather than when I first tried them years ago. I had the soft pastel experience to build on.

One big difference is the fact that I can still work plein air with the softies....even in 90 degree temps. But oil pastels would begin to melt on location at those temps....so they will have to wait until winter! :)