View Full Version : Getting Started in Oil Pastels: Tools & Materials

08-14-2007, 08:54 PM
In this post, I’m going to introduce some tools and materials which you may find useful in painting with oil pastel. Pat will introduce a separate thread on techniques as soon as she gets her new studio operational. Please feel free to add your tips on materials and tools to this thread.

Oil pastels (OPs) are made from powdered pigments, wax, and non-drying mineral oil. The professional quality oil pastels are listed here, in order from softest and least waxy to hardest and most waxy. Note, though, that within a given line there is some variation in the softness between colours:

Sennelier: the line comes in two sizes, regular, and Grande which are good for doing larger works.

Holbein Artist: come in different values for the same hue. In their full set, the number of values is 5; when purchased individually, there are only 3 values available.

Caran d’Ache Neopastels

Cray-Pas Specialist

Student grade OPs are also available, made cheaper in price by reducing the pigment load and increasing the wax content. Their waxy nature makes them harder to work with, and the reduction in pigment means that they will not have the colour saturation of professional OPs. Please note, to avoid purchasing their student grade OPs by mistake: Holbein makes a student grade which are round in shape, and Cray-Pas makes a student grade called Expressionist. We recommend that, if you can afford it, you start with professional quality OPs – the difference in handling is quite noticeable. The professional quality OPs are available individually or in sets.


Once you have purchased your OPs, you need a way to store them ready to use. If you buy a set, you may get an appropriate box. But, if you have more than one brand, you may want to integrate them, or you may need a way to store individually-purchased OPs. My solution was to purchase ArtBin pastel trays (they come three to an ArtBin box), in which I have integrated my Sennelier and Holbein OPs. I keep an empty tray on my drawing table, and when I am painting, I transfer the particular OPs I am using for the piece to it for convenience. Pat used to use plastic storage containers with lids for her OPs, separated by colour, and while painting, placed her active OPs on little plates. She has recently changed her storage method and will post a picture of her new pastel box when she sets up her studio.



The choice of surface for your OPs is very important, as they behave differently on different surfaces. It pays to experiment with surfaces until you find ones you like. Some commonly used surfaces are:

Art Spectrum Colourfix paper, which is 300gsm hot press watercolour paper coated with Colourfix primer. It has a fine-toothed texture and comes in a variety of colours. The primer may be purchased separately as well, and you can then coat your choice of support with it.

Wallis sanded paper, which comes in white and Belgian mist (beige). This is available in professional and museum quality versions.

Strathmore Bristol Vellum paper, which is a smooth white surface.

Watercolour paper, available in hot press (smooth), cold press, and rough surfaces.

Canvas board, which has a cross-weave texture.

Masonite board, which has a smooth surface and should be gessoed.

Mat and illustration board. Here the surface texture will depend on the choice of board.

Smooth clayboard, which can be coated with Colourfix primer

Canson pastel paper, which I find too flimsy for blending and layering OPs.

Sennelier Oil Pastel Card, which I find has too marked a texture and don’t use.


Blending of your Ops can be achieved in two ways: mechanical blending, or the use of mediums. Addressing mechanical blending first, the tools that can be used are:

Colour shapers: I have several sizes of the Royal Sovereign firm (dark grey) colour shapers, which I use a lot. The light grey are too soft for this purpose. They can also be used to fill small areas if you scrape a bit of OP onto one corner and then transfer to your painting. I wipe my colour shapers with paper towels to keep them clean as I’m painting.

Tortillons: are tightly-rolled paper, shaped to a pointed end, and serve the same purpose as colour shapers. They can be found in various sizes.

Fingers: often the smoothest blend can be achieved by using your fingers, as the heat from your skin melts the OPs. To clean my fingers, I keep baby wipes handy. For large areas, I use a rubber finger available from a stationary store, to save wear and tear on my skin. Wallis sanded paper can abrade your skin if you’re not careful.

It is also possible to use vinyl erasers and folded paper towels to blend. One oil pastellist who has fibromyalgia has reported using an electric toothbrush to blend her OPs, so be inventive and experiment.


Using mediums to blend is more like traditional painting in that you use a brush to smooth the ops over the surface. Various oil painting mediums will work, including odourless mineral spirits, turpentine or turpenoid, Weber’s Res-N-Gel, and Zest It, a non-toxic product available on-line from England. Note that, when you use mediums, you must use a surface which is appropriate for oils, such as canvas board, or coated papers such as Wallis or Colourfix, or one which has been primed with gesso.

I usually apply the OPs first and then smooth and blend with a synthetic brush dipped in my medium of choice. To create an under-painting, you can brush your medium onto the surface first and work into that with your OPs, but this will thin the OP to a more washy consistency than the other method. A different way to use a medium, not involving a brush, is to dip your oil pastel into the medium before applying it to the surface. In all cases, there will be a waiting time for the medium to dry before you can proceed to add more OPs to the surface.


If you want to remove OPs from a surface, it can usually be done to a reasonable degree. In all cases, the best way to start is to scrape off the OP using a palette knife or single-sided razor blade. A kneaded eraser can then be used to pick up more of the OP. Finally, a Q-tip dipped in turpentine or odourless mineral spirits will help to remove most of the remaining OP. On a surface coated with acrylic gesso, I find that rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip will remove the OPs completely. Knifes and razor blades can also be used as painting tools when using the sgraffito technique to expose under-lying colours.


I use Walnut Hollow oil pencils (available at Michaels craft stores) and Pitt and Carbothello pastels pencils to add small details at the end of a painting. These can also be used for your initial drawing and, by choosing an appropriate colour, you can avoid any problem of them mixing with and mudding your OPs. I've also illustrated a pastel holder which is useful when your oil pastel is worn to just a nub. They come in different sizes for different pastels.


Since OPs contain a non-drying oil, they never completely dry, and can smudge and collect dust. To display your completed OP paintings, it is best to frame them under glass, using a mat or spacers to prevent the painting from touching the glass. To simply store them, you can apply Sennelier Oil Pastel fixative – I’ve found it requires three coats to prevent smudging. I didn’t notice any change in colour in the painting using this fixative, but it does make the surface quite shiny. You can also stack your OPs with wax paper or glassine paper between them. Marilynn Brandenburger is experimenting with framing her OPs like oils without glass. She applies four coats of Sennelier oil pastel fixative and then applies four coats of Golden varnish to protect her work. The longevity of this approach is still to be decided.


To finish, I thought I would mention sources of information on oil pastels. First and foremost is the Pastel Library here at Wet Canvas. Look for the thread “Oil Pastel index” on the first page and also check out the Oil Pastel Classrooms that have been done over time.

At this point, there are no videos or DVDs available. The most easily accessible book is Oil Pastel for the Serious Beginner by John Elliot. A good source which is now out of print is Oil Pastel Materials and Methods by Kenneth Leslie – it may be available used or through interlibrary loan. There is a short chapter on OPs in The Pastel Book by Bill Creevy. There is a very introductory book by Jacqueline Black in the Learn to Paint series which I personally would not recommend.

Hope this is useful. Jane

Pat Isaac
08-15-2007, 08:01 AM
This looks great, Jane.


Andi Rebirth
08-16-2007, 07:07 AM
I am new to wet canvas. I have been been building my portfolio of florals, my main passion. To tell you how long ago I started oil pastel, I still have a set of small grumbacher's. I love senn. op's but don't really seem to get the greens I love, Pat, do you have any suggestions on greens, maybe holb. are better, truer hues or do you mix your own greens. I buy almost everything from ASW warehouse and they are out of alot but don't carry Holb. in ope stock. Any sugesstions welcome, greens are so important to my work. thanks, Andi

Pat Isaac
08-16-2007, 10:55 AM
Welcome to WC and the oil pastel forum, Andi.:wave: I do a lot of florals also and have found a combination of Senn greens and Holbeins seems to work well for me. Jerry's has open stock Holbeins. Here is a link http://www.jerrysartarama.com/art-supply-stores/online/1914.
I really like Senn #87 for some of the darks and I do add other colors into the darks, some reds, blues or purples, especially Senn #8.
Jane uses a lot of greens so maybe she can give you some advice too.


08-16-2007, 11:07 AM
Hi Andrea and welcome to the Oil Pastel forum. Although you addressed your question to Pat, I thought I'd respond as well. For my landscapes, I generally use Sennelier Sap Green and Green Yellow Light, and Holbein Sap Green #1 and #3, Olive Green #1, Oxide of Olive #1 and #3, and Permanent Green #1 and #3. I also use some of the Sennelier brown/green neutrals as needed. I find I don't use the blue greens or the brighter Holbein greens, such as May Green very often, but they are useful to have for certain circumstances. I don't do florals that often so I can't advise in that regard. I suspect you might want some of the brighter Holbein greens for them. You can buy individual Holbeins at Jerry's Artarama (which owns ASW apparently) or at Dick Blicks. Hope this is useful. Jane

Andi Rebirth
08-16-2007, 11:18 AM
Thank you very much. That is helpful. I like senn because I love to blend. Sometimes it is so daunting when looking at the numbers on hol but read on one of the threads how they worked, so thanks to all. I only asked Pat cause she had some florals on her site. I want to join the oil pastel society. I am so so excited that other artists are exploring this medium. I did not have any feedback for years! So great help. Thanks again. Andi

Andi Rebirth
08-16-2007, 11:24 AM
Thanks to pat too! Still learning my way to finding posts and replies...I know you are very busy right now, prayers for your family. Will try all the suggestions here. Late would like to explore underpainting techniques with different mediums for underpainting. I have learned alot just reading these threads. You guys are great... Hope to post my latest work soon for critique...As soon as i figure out how...Ha. blessing, Andi:wave:

08-16-2007, 04:08 PM
Andi: Welcome to WC! This is a wonderful place to be able to discuss issues with other OP artists - and there's not that many of us, at least not yet! I'll be looking forward to seeing the post of your work. :)

Jane: Whew! What an exhaustive list of OP tools and materials! Great job in assembling this and explaining it all. I'm impressed! :clap::clap: I've been meaning to post some photos I've got of tools, etc. that I use, but they're not too accessible at the moment, so I'll have to get them later.

For OP newbies: I think it's important to point out that one can start with no more than a box of OPs and a piece of paper; it's not at all necessary to amass all these different supplies before you can begin, and not all artists use all of them. And you can start with student grade materials, if that's all you can afford at the beginning. It's just that many of the student brands of OP are so hard that they don't offer the wonderful experience of working with creamy sticks of pure color that makes OP painting so much of a pleasure - and so addicting!

So don't feel overwhelmed by the length of the list. Most of my own tools have been purchased one at a time as I feel I need them. If your budget is limited, you could always purchase a relatively good student set of OPs for the time being, (Mungyo Gallerys might be one, or Holbein or Van Gogh Student grade - keep in mind these aren't necessarily archival, and they aren't as easy to work with as the artist grade brands, but some nice work can still be produced with them), and along with them a stick or two of an artist grade OP, too, so you can see what the difference is. Then you could start purchasing sticks of artist grade OPs a few at a time. The student grade ones then could be retired to be used just for underpaintings once you collect enough of the artist grade OPs.

Diane Greenhorn
08-16-2007, 08:56 PM
Thank you very much for the wonderful info. I am just going to start op's and am interested in which brand to purchase. Have you ever hear of Mungyo and are they any good? I am looking forward to your reply and any other further info you have.
Thanks again.

Andi Rebirth
08-16-2007, 09:09 PM
I think one of the other girls could tell you more but if you have no buget constraints, I would purchase senniliers or holbeins. If you are a starving artist like most of us, I found van gogh okay for student grade. They sell van gogh at dick blick.:clap:

Andi Rebirth
08-16-2007, 09:16 PM
Just an added thought. I started my daughter years ago with those and some regular school pencils with an eraser on the end for blending. I gave her some canson paper and let her go. Canson is reasonably priced too.
She loved it and had alot of exploration with them. I know the list they give seems large and unfamiliar but as you explore you will find new ways to use them. Glad you want to try, they are a wonderful medium. They are my main medium. I started when I was around 7 years old and never stoped1

08-16-2007, 09:51 PM
Di, welcome to the Oil Pastel forum. Mungyo are a student quality OP. Some people have managed to do OK with student brands, but I would personally recommend buying a small number of Senneliers to start. If you don't have a local source, you can order them on-line from Loomis Art Supply in Montreal, thereby avoiding cross-border issues. That's what I did (started with 19 Sennelier OPs) and became enamoured immediately. As soon as I could afford it, I bought more Senneliers and some Holbeins. The Island Blue on-line site (based in Vancouver ) carries Holbein Artist OPs. I have recently bought some Caran d'Ache which I also like, but I haven't found a Canadian source for these. Hope that helps. Jane

08-16-2007, 10:14 PM
Hi Di, and welcome to the OP Forum! :wave: I'm glad to hear of your interest in OPs and hope you'll come to love them as much as I do. About Mungyos and other student brands: I hesitated to make my earlier post, because there really is such an incredible difference between the student grades, such as Mungyos (also called Gallerys) and the artist brands. If you can at all afford to do so, I would definitely recommend that you begin with any of the four artist brands that Jane mentioned in the first post of this thread: Sennelier, Holbein (the square ones), Caran d'Ache or Sakura Specialists. They're just so much easier to work with, and they're easier to layer too; chances are you'll be far more pleased with the results.

But if money is a significant issue, try a student brand, and then start plotting and planning for ways to afford the good ones. :) Mungyo tends to be pretty hard, but has a pretty good color selection for a student brand. Some softer student brands than Mungyo are Van Goghs (they tend to be on the waxy side, but they offer tints (lighter values) and tones (darker values) of their basic colors, which is helpful), Holbeins (they also offer tints, and may offer tones), and Cray-Pas Expressionist (one of the softer student brands). I'd advise staying away from Pentel, Niji and the other super cheap sets. I offer this info because even with the less satisfactory student brands one can begin to get a feel for OPs, and do some OP painting. Even with the less-than-perfect materials, you'll probably fall in love with OPs, as most of us here have, and want to move up to the artist brands as quickly as possible.

The danger with starting with a student brand though, is that you may find them so difficult to handle that you'll decide you don't like OPs, so that's why I suggested buying one or two sticks of an artist brand in open stock, so that you can see what OPs are really capable of.

I cross posted here with Jane, who offers a good strategy - a very small Sennelier set would be preferable to a student set if you can afford it - watch for sales!

Diane Greenhorn
08-17-2007, 02:00 AM
AnnieA: Thank you for your quick reply. I am going to pick up a few of the artist brand in open stock and give them a whirl. I am really looking forward to trying them out. I am a soft pastellist ready, and willing to give another medium a go. Wish me luck.
Thanks again.

Pat Isaac
08-17-2007, 08:17 AM
Wishing you luck and that is definitely the wway to go.


Sandy K
08-17-2007, 08:39 AM
Thank you Jane, Annie and Pat for all the info. I have been hiatus from the art world. As Pat knows, I was recovering from stent surgery, then my husband surprised me with the purchase of a log cabin on a lake. He bought a fishing boat and a pedal boat also...............so..............been spending all my time there. The cabin was in rough shape so I have been cleaning, painting, etc., with a little fishing worked in.

Anyway, thank you for all the info. I usually peruse the forum once a day and I was pleased to see this. When winter approaches and my strength has fully come back, I plan on blazing thru some OP's and some other things. I miss my P&I also.

Pat Isaac
08-17-2007, 09:36 AM
Glad to hear you are doing well, Sandy and what a nice surprise. You'll have to put some pics in the Gusher. There will be lots more info forthcoming so stay tuned.


08-17-2007, 11:09 AM
Sandy, I'm glad you found the information useful. I'm happy to hear you are recovering and I hope you are enjoying your new cabin, despite all the work it needed. We live in a log house and there is a certain amount of ongoing maintenance required. Hope to see lots of OPs from you come the cold weather. Jane

Sandy K
08-17-2007, 04:28 PM
lol Jane........this log cabin is 50 years old...........outside is pretty nasty looking but with some landscaping should improve it......the inside is so perfect. I can't believe the difference between the inside and outside. We bought it because of the water frontage (330 feet) and 2 1/2 acres of land. The housing market is down now so we got a steal.

When the housing market improves, we plan on selling our current house and building our dream home on the water and tearing down the cabin (I know what a shame). My husband retires in 2 years and we are so looking forward to a life of fun in the sun.....lol.......(of course, lots of sunscreen). Our house now is 3200 square feet and the one we will be building will be like 1500 square feet........don't want a big house anymore (too much time cleaning it); just enough space so my grandsons can stay over (I have 4 grandsons...no granddaughters (sad)..........but I am happy with my grandsons being healthy.

Take care everyone and I will be looking forward to the much more Pat. I really do appreciate the time and effort you gals put in. I loved the melon WIP of Pat's......very well done and comprehensive.

08-17-2007, 04:44 PM
Di: I'm happy that the info was helpful, and enjoy those new OPs! I hope we'll see a painting from you soon! :)

Sandy: Glad to hear you're doing well. The cabin sounds like a lot of work, but how fun to have a log cabin. Could you keep it as a guest house when you build your new house on the property? Or incorporate it into the new house? I hope you'll be back painting and posting soon.

08-20-2007, 03:08 AM
Hi Everyone!

I am brand new to Oil Pastels! This was the perfect thread for me to begin with and I've come back to it a couple times now.

I've finally purchased my first set - decided on Sennelier after reading the other thread comparing them all... I think it will fit what I will want to do - we'll see.

I'm a watercolorist and really love it. I started watercolor because my health didn't allow for long clean up sessions and over the last few years I have really enjoyed developing my new found skills there.

But there are things I really want to do that I can't do with watercolor. Then It occurred to me that oil pastels might be the very thing to try!!!

I have to agree with several of you who said that starting with student grade pastels might be a bit discouraging. When I started watercolor - I was very discouraged because I started with student grade paints and paper. I was amazed at the difference once I got my artist quality paints and paper! So - I've been saving up and waiting so I could start with the Sennelier OP's.

So... I hope I'll have some things to show and lots of questions as soon as they arrive and I get started playing with them!

I hope to do florals and landscapes - but also possibly some abstracts.

Nice to meet you all!

08-20-2007, 10:46 AM
Melanie, welcome to the Oil Pastel forum. Glad you found the information helpful, and I'm sure you'll enjoy your new Senneliers. I started painting in watercolours, but was never able to master the medium. I, too, like the ease of use of certain mediums, and oil pastel certainly is great in that regard. There is no cleanup and you can immediately begin to paint with no colour mixing involved. Oil pastel provides texture and a richness of colour which watercolours cannot achieve. You might consider using your watercolours for underpainting on occasion. I have used acrylic and watersoluble oils in this way, with some success. As with watercolours, the surface you use makes quite a difference with OPs, so experiment until you find ones you like. Looking forward to seeing your OP paintings. Jane

08-21-2007, 02:10 PM
Thanks Jane! Great idea about watercolor as an underpainting!!!

I love your landscapes!

Pat Isaac
08-21-2007, 05:12 PM
Welcome, Melanie. I'm glad you found this helpful and hope to see some of your efforts soon. I am posting my new arrangement of OPs. I find this works well for me now as I have been doing demos and workshops lately and this is easy to cart around. In my studio I still use the little plates with the colors that I am currently using on a painting, then return them to the case when I am done with them.


08-21-2007, 07:11 PM
Pat, that looks like a great way to transport your OPs and store them as well, although it might be hard to keep them arranged as neatly as you have. Jane

Pat Isaac
08-21-2007, 07:34 PM
Not too much of a problem. I only take w=out what I need for the current painting and maybe a few more for other things and then I put them back when I am finished with that and start again.


08-28-2007, 01:02 AM
Thanks so much for this information for us beginners! I'm going shopping now, love the internet!
I know that I will want to use a brush and some kind of medium for underpainting, has any one tried Winsor and Newman's Liquin?
Or those citrus oil substitutes for turps?
Thanks for any input!

Pat Isaac
08-28-2007, 08:26 AM
Welcome, Stephanie:wave: I used liquin a few times and found it took a long time to dry. The substitue turps worked fine. Depending on the substrate that I use my favoitie underpaintings are watercolor or a thin oil paint glaze.


08-28-2007, 10:40 AM
Stephanie, welcome to the Oil Pastel forum. Turpenoid will work, but there have been reports that Turpenoid Natural will not. Zest-it is a citrus-based product which I have used successfully, but you have to order it from England. With mixed media, I have used acrylics and oils for underpainting. Have fun and experiment. Jane

09-01-2007, 02:35 AM
If you find this thread helpful, be sure to rate it. Just a reminder.

09-01-2007, 01:55 PM
Great info, Jane! Thank you!

p.s. I recently bought a small set of Sennelier and wow they are so much nicer than the student OPs I had used previously. Addictive for sure! I've used up several colours and need to hit the art store soon :)

09-01-2007, 03:43 PM
Thanks Bob and EP for the comments. Senneliers and Holbein Artists are my favorites for sure, although I'm also beggining to use my new Caran d'Aches more. Jane

09-01-2007, 10:28 PM
Jane, you wrote a wonderful summary of tools!

09-02-2007, 12:46 AM
Thanks for your input on Liquin, I'll just get a teeny tiny jar of turps, then. I had Liquin in my hand at the store the other day, but something told me to "ask" first!
I ordered a set of OP's from Dick Blick, unfortunately, I got the Specialists mixed up with the Expressionists, and got the "lesser" grade (from what I've read with the online reviews). Oh well, my budget is very limited, I'll follow Tim Gunn's advice and "make it work" and save up for a small set of Sennelier or Holbein down the line.
I also bought a jar of Golden's Micaceous Iron Oxide heavy body paint, in the book Acrylic Revolution it is used as an alternative ground for pastels... I couldn't resist picking it up. But I am looking forward to also trying Colorfix and Wallis paper.
Hopefully I'll have enough nerve to post my first OP! I've only been a member of WC for less than a week, but most of the forums I have visited have been very friendly.

09-02-2007, 10:38 AM
Stephanie, I wish that the Cray-Pas people had chosen different names for their lines - it's easy to get them confused. I should mention, though, that I bought a small set of the Specialist (professional level) back in June, but find I don't use them. The colours are too bright and the sticks too waxy for my liking. I also bought a Caran d'Ache set at that time, to go with my Senneliers and Holbein Artists, and find that I am using these, particularly their dark colours and greys. Hope you will enjoy your OPs and do post your painting! Jane

09-02-2007, 05:16 PM
Stephanie, I wish that the Cray-Pas people had chosen different names for their lines - it's easy to get them confused. I should mention, though, that I bought a small set of the Specialist (professional level) back in June, but find I don't use them. The colours are too bright and the sticks too waxy for my liking. I also bought a Caran d'Ache set at that time, to go with my Senneliers and Holbein Artists, and find that I am using these, particularly their dark colours and greys. Hope you will enjoy your OPs and do post your painting! Jane

I do like the loosk of the Caran d'Ache colors as well, compared to the others, and I'm coveting the "new" color set by Sennelier! Thanks for letting me know how you are liking the respective brands and colors.

09-03-2007, 10:00 AM
HI Jane :)

I'm new here and very new to oil pastels. I just tried out my kids' oil pastels for a project and liked them very much. I'm really looking forward to trying one of the professional grade oil pastels. I found your info here extremely helpful! Thanks so much!!


09-03-2007, 10:31 AM
Lady-j, welcome to the OPs forum. Glad you found the information useful, and I hope you'll enjoy your professional grade OPs. Post a painting in the forum when you get them.

Stephanie, I started with a small collection of Senneliers and loved them. I then added some Holbeins and over time built up my collection of both of these brands. Only lately have I added the Caran a'Ache, but I find they fit in nicely with the other two brands. Jane

09-03-2007, 08:28 PM
<Jane wrote on the 28th.:- Turpenoid will work, but there have been reports that Turpenoid Natural will not. Zest-it is a citrus-based product which I have used successfully, but you have to order it from England. With mixed media, I have used acrylics and oils for underpainting. Have fun and experiment. Jane>

Hi Jane and Everyone - loverly summer day here in Greenwood B.C.! Learnt more from your posts - thanks everyone. I have slightly different issues, as follows:

O.T.: I have moved in Dec.'05, from Toronto, the largest city in Canada - to Greenwood the smallest city in Canada! I love it here, clear air, clear head, friendly people; few artists in town, but I need to network more. (Not being used to small towns tho', I have learnt to keep my mouth shut! Gossip spreads like wildfires!).

On.T.Again: Started again doing artwork only a year ago after a long dark & wasted time in my life; I have my drawing studio set up w/4ft. drafting table and began doing mixed media work about a year ago; on Canson & Grumbacher w/colour paper 140lb. using coloured pencils - Koh-I-Nor Progresso pencil sticks (woodless) which are quite oily & thick pencils - Derwent 7200 Chinese White pencils & others for lightening & blending, art STIX, pen & ink, markers. In the process of setting up an acrylic painting studio in my good sized spare bedroom to get back to painting in the Fall.

Not since recently have I used oil pastels on top of all this in certain areas to achieve certain effects. I like the combination, but would appreciate any suggestions re. mediums/mixtures to over-paint lightly, semi-dry brush, the OP's and move & blend them, without buckling the paper.

After a month or so, the oil in the mediums have bled well into the paper and I have experimented with various fixatives, including Krylon Clears & Damar varnish. I figure I should fix 'em 'cause I later frame them with a mat and under plexiglass. Being on a very limited budget, I only use Ikea RAM frames, only $4. to $8.Can or so each, from Victoria B.C.. That way I could buy 30 in 3 diff. sizes without going bankcrupt & figured (if I ever sell!) that the buyer could always have it re-framed if they wished to.

Sorry to go on so long . . . =;o)> but would like more advice re. the semi-dry brush overpainting & a medium solution which would work well with my techniques. Presently all i have is Grumbacher's Grumtine, Linseed Oil and QuckDry mediums - should I try a combo of these or with pure Turps, or Turpenoid, Liquin or with another mixed medium? Any thoughts or tips on this would be greatly appreciated. Thanx - hope you are all enjoying the long weekend in Canada and - esp. B.C.'rs! cheers, vincent b.

09-04-2007, 01:22 PM
Vincent, you mention the problem of the oil bleeding into the paper. That's a problem - the acidity of the oil mediums will rot the paper eventually. No surface fixing will correct this. You need to start with a paper suitable for oil media, such as Artspectrum Colourfix or Wallis, or you need to coat your paper first with an acrylic gesso. I wouldn't sell any works where an oil medium has bled into the paper. As far as using a medium for semi-dry brush, I can't help. I only use mediums to blend background or base coats. I think you'll have to experiment yourself to discover what works for you. Jane

09-13-2007, 01:24 AM
Hi Jane and All!
I have been lurking here on the OP forum for awhile reading everything and I bought a set of sennelier ops the other day. I usually work in sp, and I and making a mess with these. I have always worked dark to light and in op I am making mud, should I be working light to dark instead? Any help would be appreciated.
And if I ever get my pic looking decent, I'll post it for c&c:)

09-13-2007, 10:47 AM
Hi Reisa, and welcome to the Oil Pastel forum :wave:. I find that I will omit the darkest colours, especially black, until the last, to avoid accidental contamination with lighter colours. But my approach is not quite as straightforward as light to dark or vice versa. With regard to layering, it's not easy to cover a lighter OP with a darker one without loosing the depth of value you might want. Yellows tend to be somewhat transparent, so trying to cover a dark with a yellow won't work very well. But Sennelier white is quite opaque and will cover quite well, especially if you scrape out any unwanted colour beneath it. Also, if you wait for the OPs to set up over night, you can add a layer without mixing into the lower layer. That's good for optical blending, letting some of the lower colour show through. Hope this helps somewhat. Jane

09-13-2007, 01:57 PM
Thanks, Jane!
I think my problems have been with the lightest colors, including the whites, but I have been keeping my pic covered and not letting it dry or set up, so it is staying really soft and moist, almost too soft. Maybe I need to let it air out a little bit! I'll try it again! Thanks! :)

09-21-2007, 12:20 AM
Hi , This thread is helpful to me , I'm off to the big city this weekend and will be visiting the big[real] art store and I have been thinking about getting into some oil pastels , but I want to start small and simple but with the best professional stuff , so my questions are; can I start with just the primary colors + b&w and be able to mix / blend them ?[for other colors] and I want to use water color paper [ hot press] do I HAVE TO use a primer ? I want to work with the paper surface and not primer surface , actually because I want to work with other media / mediums , What will happen if I do not use a primer ?
Thanks for setting up this info .

09-21-2007, 10:33 AM
Hi Stillbill, glad you found this helpful. You certainly can blend OPs, but I would be inclined to get just a couple more. I'd get two of each of the primaries: eg. in Senneliers, Yellow ochre and Golden yellow, Ash blue and Prussian or Ultramarine blue, Permanent Intense red and Burnt Sienna. These vary in value and chroma and so give a wider range of mixes. I would also add Sap green, a good dark natural green for landscapes. Depending on your subject matter, you might not need black, it's quite opaque. Sennelier white is terrific and I use it for both blending and for covering. You don't have to use primer on watercolour paper if you don't use any medium with them. The oil in oil pastels is inert, and should not adversely effect good quality watercolour paper. But an oil medium used for blending (eg. Res-N-Gel, odourless mineral spirits, etc.), will seep into the paper and cause it to rot eventually. With mediums, you need to use a paper designed for that ie. coated, such as Artspectrum Colourfix or Wallis, or coat your watercolour paper with gesso or Artspectrum Colourfix primer. Hope this helps. Jane

09-22-2007, 03:37 AM
Yes , thanks Jane , this will be helpful , when I stand before the bedazzling array [ as I did once before ] in the pastel section of the store , and decide on what to get .:)

09-24-2007, 10:23 PM
Oh, Jane!!! Wonderful thread!!!! I found everything in here extremely useful. Thank you for getting this together in one nice spot and so well organized! You've answered many of my questions about supports.

09-29-2007, 03:56 AM
I have a set of 12 Rembrandt Oil Pastels, some Gesso for pastel, and a sheet of Masonite. I'm thinking of dividing it up into rectangles and just doing a series, seeing if I improve from first to last. I'm used to colored pencil, which stays put and doesn't smear...this is new territory.

Pat Isaac
09-29-2007, 08:28 AM
That would certainly be a great way to start and watch your progress.


09-29-2007, 10:27 AM
Hi, and welcome to the Oil Pastel forum. That sounds like a good plan. You will find that the techniques are somewhat different. Even though you are using student-grade OPs which are waxier and harder than professional grade, they will be more likely to blend than your CPs. You won't be able to be as precise in your work, but you will get richer colour and a more impasto surface. You can use your pencils for adding detail. Have fun and experiment. When you're done, start a New Thread in the forum to show us your work. Jane

09-29-2007, 02:23 PM
Thanks, I'll share my progress!


10-01-2007, 01:03 PM
Being somewhat of a newbie to OP's, I have a question.
Living in the SW, where temperatures reach 115-120 on a regular basis in the summer and can be over 100 for 6 months out of the year, I have been somewhat hesitant to buy the more expensive OP's for fear of melting.
I am not just worried about the OP's themselves, but when we have our local art shows and our paintings are displayed out of doors, can they melt or soften? They are after all under glass. Even with the shade of a canopy there are always one or two paintings that have the sun on them at any given time.
Does anyone else have experience with this sort of thing? So, far the OP's I've been using which are Cray-Pas Specialists and Expressionists. Now, I understand that they are waxier, so would this be more of a problem? But, if holbein and Sennelier are softer would they be more suseptible to melting?
Its just with the added expense, of the softer brands, I am curious if it would be a wise move on my part? I did get a few Sennelier and they are doing ok.
Granted they are not exposed to these temperatures all the time. But, there are times when we are gone and the air is off, so it is a concern. Haven't had any of the others melt in several years, though.

10-01-2007, 02:07 PM
IBPaintin', most comments I have seen about melting have been associated with the oil pastels themselves melting - either painting outdoors with the oil pastels sitting in hot sunlight, or leaving them in a hot car. But here's a thread dealing with oil pastel paintings and heat:


Hope this helps. Jane

Pat Isaac
10-01-2007, 04:54 PM
I do know that on really hot days here 90 - 100 degrees I have trouble working with my Senns and Holbeins. They don't move well as they do get soft in the heat. I've not had any problem with art work that is finished. Some plein air artists carry their OPs in a cooler on very hot days.


01-18-2008, 06:19 PM
I don't know whether this is of interest to anybody here, but just in case there are some more guys out there that prefer working with the harder OPs (neopastels or specialists) rather than with the soft ones and also have some troubles using Colour Shapers: try using Clay Shapers instead.
They are produced by the same company as the original Colour Shapers and come in the same five shapes (flat chisel, taper point, etc. ) and in two sizes. Their tips are black and "extra firm". I bought a set of these some weeks ago and like them very much.

01-18-2008, 07:46 PM
Silvia, I have heard those mentioned once before, but I haven't found any locally. Where did you get yours? The clay tools I've found are just metal loops etc. for excising clay, not the shapers. I sometimes wish I had an extra firm one when I'm working with a harder OP. Some of the Senns and Holbein Artists can be harder, too, and I could use a bit more stiffness to move them around. Jane

01-19-2008, 08:46 AM
Jane, I bought mine at the local art store (they have a huge pottery section there), but I think they can be ordered online, too.
Yes! I just searched the dickblick site and they carry them, too : clay shaper (http://www.dickblick.com/zz303/03/)
Hope you will like them as much as I do ... :wave:

Pat Isaac
01-19-2008, 09:02 AM
Thanks for the info, Silvia. There are times that I might like a firmer one, but thought I had the firmest one...I'll try my art store first.


01-19-2008, 12:17 PM
Thanks for the link, Silvia. It's too bad they don't have them available separately. I'd like to get the chisel tip in both sizes, but to do that I have to buy both sets. That gets pretty expensive with duty and shipping added on. I'll have to think about it, but I would like to have them. Jane

01-19-2008, 02:34 PM
Don't forget popsicle sticks, and you can put a round wooden chop stick in your pencil sharpener and then carve the end as you want it. A good chop with your large kitchen knife should make a chisel shape. You could probably use the square chop sticks in the electric pencil sharpener also.

Creative Mark's Angular brushes have a clear plastic handle which is shaped at an angle and is useful for pushing around OP. Check your kitchen drawers for good objects that would move pastels, and the tool box has screwdrivers in many shapes, including chisel. Don't forget the tools in your sewing kit - must be something there that would be useful if you look with a different eye at it.

Last, for now, but not least, the inexpensive (cheap) utensils that are given with take out sometimes include a small plastic knife that not only is useful at each end for moving harder pastels, but has a little bit of a serrated edge for texture when dragged along the grass you are painting. Check your summer picnic basket. Don't forget the nut pick which is rounded and pointed at the end. A toothpick or two would be handy some times.

Why buy it if you can make it up yourself? Save your money for art supplies, not tools you may already have on hand.

Happy smushing with oil coated fingers.


01-19-2008, 03:04 PM
Paula, creative thinking. I did nab a nut pick when we had to buy a new nutcracker for Christmas, with the idea it would be good for sgraffito. (Of course, I'm no good at sgraffito techniques - I can't seem to paint negative space.) Thanks for suggesting lots of sources for possible tools. Jane

07-15-2008, 05:37 AM
Hi Folks, this is a most useful thread, especially when it comes to using what you have in the kitchen rather than spending money where it is not necessary. Special thanks to Paula for you inventiveness. Will keep my eye onthis thread, I have a lot to learn. Regards to all, Bars

07-15-2008, 05:43 PM
Bars, Thanks for bringing everyone's attention to this useful thread. I have a link to it in my siggie line because it is one I regularly try to recommend new users that are just starting with OP take a look at since it answers lots of the basic questions. Thanks also to Jane for initiating this thread and her excellent summary of OP materials and tools in the first post.

Hope your painting is going well, Bars! Have a good summer.


07-16-2008, 04:35 AM
Hi everyone, does anyone know whether the Sennelier Oil Pastel that Dick Blick sells http://www.dickblick.com/zz200/38a/ is regular or Grande size?

07-16-2008, 08:24 AM
Hi everyone, does anyone know whether the Sennelier Oil Pastel that Dick Blick sells http://www.dickblick.com/zz200/38a/ is regular or Grande size?

Cookies, Welcome to the OP forum!:wave:

The link you provided appears lead to open stock or sets of Sennelier regular sized OP.

For some odd reason Blicks calls the Senn Grande line as "Sennelier Giant Oil Pastels" and can be found here:


Generally speaking, the open stock price for the Grande size tends to be over 6$ and regular size about $2+or-.

Hope to see you around the forum!


07-16-2008, 08:41 AM
Hey Bill, thanks for the info:D

Pat Isaac
07-16-2008, 10:24 AM
Welcome to the forum, Cookies. bill is right about Blick Senns. Are you purchasing some? Hope you'll show us your work.


truck driver
08-17-2008, 05:57 AM
for all those that have been perusing this, theres been much talk about senneliers vs the cheaper oil pastels and why to spend the extra money. I spent about a year using cray pas expressionists, then managed to get a full set of senneliers. I have come to the conclusion that those who use the senns, are flat out cheating, everthing is easier colors blend much better, they actually layer, the transperant colors are actually transperant. and the opaque are really opaque.. allowing me to do things that were either very hard to do or nearly impossible, with the craypas to get multiple layers I had to use expensive paper, now i can do the same with my regular sketchpad. and the expensive papers take even more layers.. and I do mean lots of layers... hope this helps..


Pat Isaac
08-17-2008, 12:20 PM
Thanks, RG. Nice to have a first hand review of the OPs. Good materials do make the results easier...


10-01-2008, 09:44 PM
I am new to oil pastels. I have Sennelier and Holbein oil pastels. I would like to know where to buy Sennelier or Caran d'Arche oil pastels fixatives. I found no place in Canada and only Dickblick in the US. Is it the best place?

Thank you

Pat Isaac
10-02-2008, 08:38 AM
Welcome to the OP forum, Sucho..:wave: I don't know of a place in Canada, but hopefully some of our Canadian members will see this. I think Jerry's in the states also ship to Canada.
Would love to have you post some of your work.


10-20-2008, 07:40 AM
Hi, folks.

I should've found this thread first and didn't. I'm not new to art or even completely new to oil pastels, but I've never used anything better than Loew Cornell or the student grade Mont Martes and Gallery ones that I have right now. I did some pretty spectacular pieces on illustration board in Loew Cornell including a big dragon, and liked how those handled. But they're scholastic grade and probably miserably fugitive.

I thought of oil pastels as that ludicrously cheap way to do real oil paintings by thinning with turpentine and painting glazes on canvas boards. I sold a few of those in New Orleans as a street artist at appropriately low prices for cheap street art with dimestore supplies. Later I started using them dry and enjoying them for bold, colorful impressionist looking pieces done with only one or two layers.

I liked having a big range for that approach and liked their opacity.

I'm now moving up to Senneliers, and later on adding Neopastels and eventually some Holbeins. I'm starting to take this seriously and love the idea that the Senneliers are softer and will blend well. I've done a lot of art in colored pencils, much more than with oil pastels, so I'm used to translucence, layering and getting detail.

I came to this forum and saw beautiful realism being done with these brands. I've seen the color charts for everything and have been debating on which set to try first, leaning back and forth between Neopastel which might be more like the ones I'm used to (more opaque) and Senneliers which are softer.

I'm not sure it's a big deal because I'm trying all of them anyway in the next few months. I posted one piece done with my Mont Marte ones on Colourfix and was very annoyed at how crumbly they got on sanded paper. They performed much better on vellum bristol.

I'm also considering starting with Cretacolor AquaStics, because I've had good success with the student grade Portfolios and I could afford the full range of that set on this order, then expand later.

Nice meeting everyone here. I rated the thread highly, because I found a number of tips here that are helping me put together the order I'm doing next month to get started on good artist grade oil pastels!


Pat Isaac
10-20-2008, 08:49 AM
Glad you found this thread Robert and found it helpful. I am also happy that you will be using oil pastel as one of your media. Looking forward to your posts soon. Let us know whane you get your OPs and what you think.


03-24-2009, 05:57 PM
Thank you all for your warm welcome here! I have just now finished reading the posts (whewwwwwww lol...sure lots of pple who know what they are talking about here and it is so valuable for us newbies so thank you! I have a set of pastels here....umm...24...and they were given to me by an retired art teacher...brand name probably generic and relatively unknown due to school budgets? lol Demco is the name and I have been playing with them this morning and I love them! But to do a whole picture with them? I don't know YET but I will soon as I will be hard at it this afternoon with them and my cold press water color paper. So far I love their creaminess and they seem to blend well beneath my hot wee fingers. And thank you again. I will be investing in the artist quality when I wear these down to nubs...or my fingers as I find that the budget for watercolors broke me for this month ...well worth it tho as I eye my paintings. Lord I wish I knew of this WetCanvas years ago! Bless you all and keep painting. If you only knew what your colors do for another's soul!

Pat Isaac
03-24-2009, 06:13 PM
Welcome again, Stephie. I sent you a pm that I had moved your first thread to the talk forum. You will get lots of help and info there. I've not heard of that brand, but there are many out there. So glad you like them.


03-23-2010, 07:45 PM
I too am new to this forum and new to OPs. I am a water-colorist and am fascinated with the prospect of learning to paint with OPs.
I am so impressed with everyone's willingness to help "newbies", so I got my courage up to ask a couple of questions:
1. Can you use a watercolor wash upon which to build an OP painting? (Of course, no use of mediums...).
2. Are Some OPs toxic? If so, does anyone know which are?

Thank you all so much for the wonderful advice and extensive knowledge you share so freely!:wave:

Pat Isaac
03-23-2010, 08:09 PM
Hi Marlies,
Yes you can use watercolor as an underpainig for OPs and welcome to the forum..:wave: As far as I know most OPs are non toxic. You might post this question in the talk forum where you will get many replies. I can't move this as it is part of another thread. Looking forward to some of your posts.


05-05-2010, 03:37 PM
I have just started with oil pastels and found that it's well worth saving for the Senneliers, if only you can start off with the basic colours first.

Pat Isaac
05-22-2010, 06:24 PM
hooray, really hope you like them.


06-30-2011, 01:41 AM
I'm quite confused here... The Sakura Specialist is suppose to be proffessional right? but Blick listed them as student grade as I am currently browsing through the DickBlick... lol wut?

Blick Art Materials
07-05-2011, 06:35 PM
Hi Crystal,
I am sorry for the confusion that our website has caused you. The Sakura Specialists were placed in the wrong category, they are considered a Professional Quality. Our web staff is currently in the process of getting the Specialists moved up to the other Oil Pastels that are consdiered Artists Grade or high Studio Grade. Thank you for point this out.


07-07-2011, 02:30 AM
Oh!! Ok, so it was just a little slight mistake. No biggie then. :)

By the way, my order from your guys website came today and as usual, I am in ecstacy when an order from Dick Blick comes. I tested out my Sakura Cray-Pas Specialists and my one stick of Holbein, and I am truly happy with my purchase and shall be creating works with these oil pastels soon. Your guys store rocks! <3

color culprit
02-03-2013, 02:43 PM
Hi Folks,

color culprit
02-03-2013, 02:58 PM
Hi Folks,
I got a wood boxed set of 72 Mungyo oil pastels to play with as they were a great deal from Jerry's. I am still trying to find a ground that I like for these. So far I have tried watercolor paper, gessoed watercolor paper and mat board and canvas.

As far as the Mungyo's, out of the 72 pastels they do not have much of a range of light colors. There is a gray that is light and, of course, white, but every other one is way darker than I need for landscapes.

I usually work in oils, water-color and colored pencil. But everytime I try some new medium, I learn something! I am sure that, just like every other painting medium, the professional grades are much better than student grades.

I gotta go paint!

Pat Isaac
02-03-2013, 03:15 PM
This is definitely true. I have also found that the student grades do not have a nice variety of muted tones. They are all very bright.


Emma L
06-05-2013, 11:20 PM
What a wonderful thread; this is fantastic information for a beginner. Thank you everyone!

I have been using a terribly cheap set of 12 scholastic grade pastels for the last month or so. They are horrible and don't blend well at all, but even so I've realized I absolutely love working with OPs.

Just ordered a set of 24 Caran d'Ache Neopastels, plus a bunch of accessories, and I'm so excited, I don't know how I'm going to wait three days for delivery!

Pat Isaac
06-06-2013, 08:26 AM
Wonderful choice. You are going to find a big difference. Enjoy!


06-10-2013, 01:34 PM
Hi Emma, so glad on you order! We all look forward to seeing your paintings, please feel free to post your oil pastel paintings in the oil pastel studio section of this forum so the many OP artists can see your pieces.

Welcome to Oil Pastel forum and WetCanvas!

07-23-2013, 03:39 AM
Whatever happened to LJW? It makes me sad to see that people have been gone for so long. Did she pass away?

Pat Isaac
07-23-2013, 09:05 AM
No Tom, she was once our guide, but ultimately left WC to do other things.


a. ladd
11-24-2014, 12:29 AM
Indispensable - #16 grey Taper Point Color Shaper, like having an extra bare finger, but the firm, fine point can do very fine detail.

Golden Soft Gel Matte - fixes layers without changing the sheen whatsoever. Maybe dilute with water and-or flow medium to flatten brushstrokes. Better yet, apply or tap with fine sponge to give a nice textured ground. Can use as a final varnish or sealant, but Golden doesn't recommend it as a final varnish. It is also somewhat soft compared to other acrylic mediums and finishes, so your final surface may be more vulnerable. But again, the color shift is in-perceivable compared to all the gloss or satin sprays.

12-08-2014, 05:40 PM
This is an amazing thread, lots of great info.

I recently ordered a set of Sennelier's from Jerry's Artarama as they had a fabulous sale on, with the ultimate price including delivery and U.S./Can exchange still being much lower than I would pay here in Canada.

Should have them in hand in a few days, I can hardly wait! Woo hoo! :clap:

I wish I had bought them first, instead of the multiple boxes of student grades when I first tried OP's. :rolleyes:

11-09-2017, 10:11 AM
:confused: I am overwhelmed!! I'm an amateur artist. I've dabbled in oil painting and acrylic, but not very satisfying. I want to try oil pastels and, of course, I need all the materials. BUT, I can't afford to spend a fortune. Can somebody offer some help....please?

11-10-2017, 12:29 AM
Welcome to the oil pastel forum Ron!As there are different grades of op's at very varying prices, you might try some of the harder cheaper brands like Pentel, making sure they are artist grade. A set of 24 should work perfectly for a start. Tortillions can be handmade. Further additions are oil based cp for subtle shading, solvent like mineral turpentine if you want to use solvent.
Looking forward to seeing your art work!

11-10-2017, 08:40 AM
Welcome to the oil pastel forum Ron!As there are different grades of op's at very varying prices, you might try some of the harder cheaper brands like Pentel, making sure they are artist grade. A set of 24 should work perfectly for a start. Tortillions can be handmade. Further additions are oil based cp for subtle shading, solvent like mineral turpentine if you want to use solvent.
Looking forward to seeing your art work! Thanks Christel,
I appreciate your response. I got a little anxious after posting and ordered a few things from Blick. I hope I'm on the right track. I ordered Van Gogh OP (set of 24) and Faber Castel Polychromo cp (set of 12) and Fabriano Tiziano paper (12 sheets). Please tell me if I'm on the right track. Thank you! :confused:

11-10-2017, 12:00 PM
Maybe this will help:
Polychromos colored pencils are oil-based.
I have no problem with any of my polychromos if I use the right papers ('hard' papers).

http://www.fabercastell.com/service/FAQs#polychromos (call to manufacture)
What are the Polychromos Color Pencils made of?
The Polychromos Color Pencils are comprised of vegetable oil, wax and the highest quality pigments with superior lightfastness characteristics and brilliance. There are minimal amounts of wax used so that there is no waxy bloom produced
from polychromas customer service: The oil used is not walnut, safflower, linseed or soy.
I'm not quite sure I understand the question - It does not remain wet if that's what you're asking.

They are permanent and lightfast when used on paper, no fixing is required, there's no waxy bloom. We do have artist consumer who use the Polychromos to sketch out their work and then apply oil paint over it. But there is no dry time involved with Polychromos. If you are looking to use them over oil paint - they were not designed for that, so it would be necessary to test them.
The vegetable oil used in the base is Palm oil.

they have a contact page, and google the customer service phone number 1 (800) 311-8684

Apparently the paper does make a difference.

11-10-2017, 01:02 PM
Thanks for the information. I was hoping to use the OP, then provide more of a hard edge with the Ploy CP. It seems like that won't happen.....any suggestions to achieve what I want?:crossfingers:

11-10-2017, 11:34 PM
The poly chromos are fine as you'll be working with op's and not oils.

11-11-2017, 08:42 AM
Thanks again Christel! I'm anxious to try OP.

02-25-2018, 08:38 AM
Hi all,
Awesome thread, thank you to the author.
Is it fine to draw what you wish to colour in with pastels in a very light grey lead pencil?

02-25-2018, 11:18 PM
Yes, that'll work well. It might be prudent though, to lift most of the graphite off just before using op's when using the lightest colors.

02-26-2018, 08:13 AM
Yes, that'll work well. It might be prudent though, to lift most of the graphite off just before using op's when using the lightest colors.

Thank you :thumbsup: