View Full Version : Oil Pastels vs. Pastels

03-18-2010, 07:59 PM
Hi there! This is Leslie from Sakura. People often ask us what the difference is between pastels and oil pastels. Since a lot of community members on WetCanvas are interested in or have used both types of pastels, I thought it might be useful to post a brief explanation here. I'll mostly talk about oil pastels.

Oil pastels and pastels are similar in that they both have pigments like a traditional oil paint, and they both come in a stick format. The difference is mainly in consistency. Oil pastels use wax and inert oils, and as a result they have a crayon-like texture. Hard and soft pastels are chalky or powdery in comparison.

Oil pastels offer a lot of benefits that stem from their adhesion characteristics, versatility, permanence and intense pigments. Oil pastels can be applied to multiple surfaces such as paper, board, canvas, metal and glass. They are also more permanent (adhesion) and offer more intense pigments than chalk pastels. However, due to their wax and oil content, oil pastels will never completely dry.

I hope that brief explanation helps a bit. Sakura invented oil pastels in 1925, and our brand, Cray-Pas, is synonymous with the term oil pastels. We currently produce three grades of Cray-Pas to meet the needs of young students, hobbyists, and professionals. (Cray-Pas Junior Artist, Expressionist, and Specialist respectively.) The differences between the grades come from the quality of the ingredients, the percentage of pigment in each stick, and the lightfast rating of each color.

Do you have any specific questions about oil pastels? Let us know!

04-06-2010, 02:42 PM
One of the great advantages of oil pastels over crayons is opacity. Artist grade oil pastels are often even more opaque than student grade ones because the greater pigment concentration makes them very strong.

Crayons drove me nuts as a child because of their transparency and that they crumbled so much. I couldn't put light over dark either with crayons or transparent watercolors. Oil pastels often let me put light colors over dark and if it's on a dark paper, they pop out beautifully.

Crumbling seems to be much more of a problem with children's oil pastels and student grade ones than artist grade, but I learned some tricks for managing it. One is something I picked up from soft pastelists -- turn the art upside down over the trash bin and snap my finger against it a couple of times. Unlike sweeping the art with my hand or blowing on it, the crumbs drop off instead of smearing across areas I don't want those colors.

Another is to carefully go back with a tool like an eraser or colour shaper and carefully press each crumb into the color area where it belongs. That can take a little time and I'll usually snap the art first, but it gives a beautiful smooth texture to oil pastels paintings.

One of the pleasanter surprises I had when testing various brands of oil pastels for my oil pastels site (linked in my signature) was how good the Sakura Junior Artist oil pastels are compared to other children's ones. They handle like good student grade ones. That's the set I actually gave my granddaughter when I was done testing it for the review, because children will get better results with better supplies and be more encouraged to continue drawing and painting.

The stronger color and smoother flat color areas for coloring and cartoons give her a lot of satisfaction, and they're cleaner than some of her other supplies. She doesn't worry about some of the things I did as a kid but she has her own very strong preferences and I'm glad they worked out so well for her.

05-01-2010, 09:46 AM
I just wish the highest grade Sakuras were available over here in the UK as i'd really like to try them after reading Robert's excellent reviews. :)

05-03-2010, 11:52 AM
Hello Murphe,

I am from Sakura of America, so unfortunately I can't help you find Cray-Pas Specialist oil pastels in Europe. If you'd like, please visit


Bruynzeel Sakura may be able to help you if you contact them directly. You might also be able to order this product from a retailer in the US such as Blick or ArtSuppliesOnline.com:


You can find more retailers online at http://www.sakuraofamerica.com/locatestores

06-13-2010, 09:14 AM
Thanks for that. I'll try contacting them. Ordering from the US can be a bit costly for us Brits as we get hit with high shipping costs, taxes on both the shipping and item, duty and courier handling fees.
Bruynzeel items are widely available in the UK either for some reason.

I have managed to pick up odds and ends from ebay, including some Hi-Cray-Pas deluxe oil pastels which are made in Japan. I don't know if these use the same formula as any of the ones sold in the US.

06-16-2010, 05:20 PM
Hi murphe,

The Cray-Pas sold by Sakura of America and Bruynzeel-Sakura come from Sakura Color Products in Japan. We are their overseas sales offices, so as long as the product name is the same, the product formula will be the same.

Hi-Cray-Pas Deluxe is a product that Sakura of America hasn't carried since about 1997. I believe Sakura of Japan no longer manufactures it, so if you'd like to find that exact product your best bet might be to contact the seller on ebay. Nowadays, the closest approximate product is Cray-Pas Expressionist.

06-17-2010, 11:56 AM
Thanks for the info, Leslie. There are some nice colours in the set like the sepia. I don't know how lightfast they are but for sketches they are fine. They do produce quite a lot of crumbs but they are very soft crumbs and are easily blended back in.

I also got a set of pearlescent carres as well. I believe these are also discontinued? I know the normal colours are/were advertised as lightfast but I don't know if that would hold true for the pearlescent ones.

06-17-2010, 05:55 PM
Hi murphe,

Sakura of America discontinued Carre pastels over 10 years ago, so unfortunately we don't have information about the lightfastness of the products you purchased online.

If you'd like to find out the lightfast rating of the Hi-Cray-Pas Deluxe and the Carre pastels, you may want to contact Sakura Color Products of Japan directly. Be sure to let them know the date you purchased the materials, where you got it, as well as any dates/lot numbers/etc. printed on the packaging. https://www.craypas.co.jp/global/contact/

truck driver
08-15-2010, 01:25 AM
Would it be to much to ask what wax and oils are used in creypas oil pastels?

The history of oil pastels is a bit misleading, it is true that creypas starting producing them in 1924, and sennelier after the infamous discussion with Picasso and company.

What is not talked about much is the experimentation with oil pastels in the mid to late 18th century.. As artists where looking for ways to fix the perceived deficiencies with dry pastel. One of these being namely a working fixative.

The thing that separates these from the modern oil pastel is the use of beeswax, and a siccative oil (drying). The modern ones as far as I have been able to ascertain are based mostly on oil based products, such as microcrystaline wax, and mineral oil.


08-27-2010, 04:51 PM
Hi RG,

I'm sorry, it is against company policy to disclose the formulation of ingredients in our art materials. I can talk about the pigments in our artist grade materials like Cray-Pas Specialist, if you are interested.

Thanks for the question!

truck driver
03-06-2011, 05:14 PM
Sorry I havent responded, I would be interested in hearing about the pigments used in the specialist line. Any information that you can give me at all about the materials used would be of great assistence.

For example one of the questions that I have been asked several times, is this one are oil pastels o.k. for vegans..

How do I answer that without knowledge of the wax and oil used...

I can but at that point refer the person asking the question to one of your competitors.. Who have let me know what basic materials they are using.


03-07-2011, 02:35 PM
Hello RG,

I can speak with you about the pigments used in the Cray-Pas Specialist oil pastel line, but I am not able to discuss the formulation of the oil pastels.

I am not sure if this is what you're asking, but we do not use beeswax to create Cray-Pas oil pastels. Does this help answer your question? I will also send you a private message to see if I can be of further assistance.