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How To Blend Oil Pastels? 9 Oil Pastel Blending Techniques for Beginners in 2022

How To Blend Oil Pastels? 9 Oil Pastel Blending Techniques for Beginners in 2022

Source: Choose Marker

Oil pastels are an incredible artistic medium that will ignite your creative spark and make remarkable artworks. You can use oil pastel on canvas, and paper, among others. Each drawing surface is a special chance to use the oil pastel techniques effectively. In this guide, let me walk you through the preferable practices for oil pastel blending. By understanding how to blend oil pastels, you will achieve the desired hues and transform any work.

What to prepare

Should you desire to draw using a medium that does not require many tools like brushes and palettes, you cannot go wrong with using oil pastels. Considering the oily texture of these colors, blending them is simple. Can you use oil pastels on canvas? Absolutely. They are popular for use on this surface aside from paper. 

Before you begin working with the vivid colors, decide on your piece’s prime color. By doing so, you can determine the tonality of the work. Follow up with choosing the mid-value colors. These will be the secondary role players in your drawing. Further, you had better opt for the highlight color that will enable your piece to have a clear outline. 

Remember, the quality of your oil pastels would play a significant part in your oil pastel drawing’s outcome. Old, cheap, and low-quality ones are usually hard to work with. There is a high possibility that they will break off your mid-blending and cause a final patchy piece. Attaining darker colors with layers of old pastels is difficult as well. That is why instead of doing easy blending, you may have to go above and beyond to gain perfection when using these. Meanwhile, decent pastels tend to be ideal for achieving smooth coverage on the surface. It is likewise worth noting, best practice is to appropriately prep canvas with gesso for use on your canvas. With these, the drawing will not get eroded over time. Pure pigment with quality filler will make your oil pastels blending vivid. Better yet, quality pastels aid in your achievement of transition between colors compared to mediocre ones. 

What are the best oil pastels for beginners?

Sennelier Oil Pastel Sky Blue

As mentioned right above, as you practice how to blend oil pastels, the selection of the pastels plays a key role in the outcome of your artwork. In my experience, creamy smooth, gorgeous Sennelier ticks all the boxes. Being in a class of their own, they boast a great texture just about the same as lipsticks and practically glide onto the drawing surface. With these, you will achieve a virtually painterly effect in a breeze. I do recommend using them for your creative oil pastel drawing ideas to work out the desired way. While Sennelier has great colors in their ranges that some other brands do not, there are 3 beautiful color options that I find irresistible:

Sennelier Oil Pastel White:

  • Pigment: PW6
  • Lightfastness: ***
  • Opacity: Opaque


Sky Blue:

  • Pigments: PW 4 PB 29 PB 15:3
  • Lightfastness ***
  • Opacity: Transparent


Rose Ochre:

  • Pigment: PW 6 PR 101
  • Lightfastness: ***
  • Opacity: Transparent/ Opaque 


How to blend oil pastels: 9 oil pastel blending techniques

1: Blend using a solvent

You can use a Q-tip to support this method. (Source: WikiHow)

For artists looking for a waxy color flow, I suggest using oil. The oil that helps gain a blending perfection can be linseed oil, mineral oil, or baby oil. The steps to follow are simple. Just dip a decent Q-tip in the oil of your choice. Ensure that it is adequately moist instead of dripping wet, which assists in wetting the dark shade. Follow up with rubbing this on your pigmented pastel and beginning to work on the piece. The pastel is somewhat liquefied with the oil, and the colors get evenly spread across your canvas.  It is worth mentioning that instead of making the surface super oily and soggy, the oil dries off via absorption or evaporation. In other words, your piece of art will not wind up an oil-based mess. 

The Important things to note: Whatever solvent you rely on, ensure it is not overly thick. The reason is that it likely stays on the surface and mucks up its texture. Use lighter oils to assist in blending oil pastels and not spoil the surface simultaneously.

2: Overlay the pastels

Blend with light pressure. (Source: WikiHow)

Overlaying oil pastels means layering them right on your canvas. Specifically, how to use oil pastels this way? Paint a generous coat of pastel on the surface. Then, apply another layer of another color. Add extra layers and color mix until you get the expected hue. Advisably, you blend more sizable areas of color rather than small ones that need fine detail work. It results in super-rich tones. 

The Important things to note: Blend with light pressure. For the best outcome, use the least possible pressure to paint thin layers of pastels to the surface instead of layering thick pastel applications.

3: Scumble 

Take one color and start making controlled scribble marks on the surface. Bring over the other colors you chose and repeat the process, which overlaps the colors at multiple random points. (Source: WikiHow)

Thanks to this technique, you can develop texture and value smoothly in your pieces. To implement the method, you pick two pastel colors or more. Take one color and start making controlled scribble marks on the surface. Bring over the other colors you chose and repeat the process, which overlaps the colors at multiple random points. Stop layering the scribbled colors when getting the hue and look you desire.

Important things to note: The physical texture of the surface plays a significant part in the overall effect attained in this method. Scumbling is better in pieces finished on surfaces like this Hahnemühle paper. With this paper, you scumble colors over others after putting the colors down where you wish them to be the first time. 

4: Cross-hatch for oil pastel blending

When using the cross-hatching technique, you create overlapping lines in 2 different directions to blend colors. (Source: WikiHow)

When using the cross-hatching technique, you create overlapping lines in 2 different directions to blend colors. More specifically, decide on the 2 directions of the lines. Use one color to make lines go in a direction. Create the 2nd range of lines with the 2nd color going in another direction. Keep drawing lines to fill in the area and stop when you get the desired effect

The Important things to note: You can pick a dark and a light shade for the oil pastel colors used in this method. Also, sketch the area you intend to crosshatch with light pressure.

5: Apply the sgraffito technique

Here, you scratch through pastel layers to add fine details or make a design. (Source: WikiHow)

Sgraffito is indeed a term originating from the Italian word “Graffiare.” It means the scratching technique. Here, you scratch through pastel layers to add fine details or make a design. Start by drawing a series of layers of pastels in distinctive colors to the surface. The final layer is usually a dark color. Next, choose a sharp item, for example, a comb and a paperclip. Scratch away the pastel layers with this object, which should result in an intricate design.

One thing to note: Other objects that can be a fantastic scraping tool include a scraper at the end of your watercolor brushes, nail cleaning knives, and toothpicks. For example, the scraper does a good job as a chisel, enabling straight and fine lines created (even somehow curved ones).

6: Use your fingers

Mastering this method is simple, even for newbies. (Source: WikiHow)

Another creative, effective oil pastel blending tool is your fingers! Mastering this method is simple, even for newbies. To begin with, you draw the 1st color that needs blending on the surface. Follow up with applying the 2nd color. Then, rub these pastel combinations together lightly using the finger pad. After the successful blending process, you can wipe the colors from your fingers with wet wipes.

The Important things to note: The fingers are not super precise compared to other tools, but they are perfect for blending colors for larger area coverage. Blending with the fingers is likewise faster than it is to bring over a tool. You may want to put on finger cots or gloves that should help protect your fingers and keep your hands clean.

7: Use tortillons to blend

Tortillons are tightly wound paper rolls whose end is pointed. (Source: WikiHow)

Also referred to as stumps, tortillons are tightly wound paper rolls whose end is pointed. Having the same shape as pencils and coming in various sizes (large, medium, and small), these affordable tools are great for generating sharp edges and fine details. 

The Important thing to note: When the tip of your tortillon turns dirty, just get a new, dirt-free tip by unwrapping the wound paper.

8: Blend with a chamois

This soft piece of leather is super-duper versatile. (Source: WikiHow)

This soft piece of leather is super-duper versatile. You have the choice to rub or wipe most of the chamois over the drawing surface to blend sizable areas of pastels. Or wrap a part of it around the finger to blend colors in less sizable areas.

The Important thing to note: I suggest machine washing or hand washing your chamois to clean it. 

9: Use a kneaded rubber

You have the option to form and reform this tool into various shapes to cater to your particular needs. (Source: WikiHow)

A decent kneaded rubber is also helpful for blending oil pastels. You have the option to form and reform this tool into various shapes to cater to your particular needs. Generally speaking, it is a pliable version of erasers that are great for smooth blending. 

The Important thing to note: When you use this oil pastel blending tool, see to it that you use a light pressure to rub the colors to attain a distinct, desired hue. If you rub them overly hard, you may lose color and encounter fading problems instead of appropriate blending.


Related Questions

1. Oil pastels vs soft pastels: What differences between them do I need to know?

Understanding these 4 crucial differences is critical when you enter the pastel world and want to improve your skills and achieve the desired outcomes. 

2. Other practical tools for oil pastel blending?

Aside from the tools mentioned earlier in this oil pastel tutorial, you can benefit from using pastel shapers or pastel brushes made particularly for oil pastels, paper towels, cloths, or cotton balls.

For example, the shapers feature a flat or tapered end. Talking about flat-ended pastel shapers, I hope you know that they are ideal for blending large areas of colors. Meanwhile, tapered ones blend smaller areas on the surface. You can likewise consider getting a dual-purpose tool that contains a shaper on one end and a decent brush on another. 

3. Can I blend the pastels with a brush and boiled linseed oil?

Yes, you can use just about any oil product. That said, remember that some do a better job than others. Boiled linseed oil is fantastic for aiding in an enhancement of the drying time and the pastel hardness. On the other hand, it takes longer for unboiled oils to dry. 

Speaking of the brush, you have the choice to use a small one to work on small areas and increase the size of your brush to blend more sizable areas. Do not forget to rely on a paint thinner or mineral spirit to clean the brush - otherwise, certain oil or pigment likely stays on the brush and impacts your next art project.

4. Why can't I blend my oil pastel with ease?

Your oil pastel colors fail to blend easily if you apply a thick layer over another thick one. To blend effortlessly on a surface, you are recommended to let the base color coat be lighter. This enables room for colors and the canvas teeth to hold together, allowing for an even pastel blending process.

5. Can I only use water for oil pastel blending?

No, you cannot blend oil pastel colors using only water. Oil is not water-soluble. Considering there is oil in oil pastels, it gives them an ultimate thick and creamy texture.

6. Do I need to spray a fixative on oil pastel drawings? I was told that fixatives might change the color and be bad for my health?

Yes, if you do not wish your piece to get destroyed. Be it soft or oil pastel, any contact with the unfixed one - say contact through plastic bags you seal your work in, will smudge it. The good news is that a quality professional-grade fixative tends to leave behind little to no color changes to your art piece and not cause any health problems. Make sure you look at this ultimate guide for a proper understanding of fixatives (including when to and not to use them). The advisable practice for pastel paintings is to frame properly with a thick double mat or mat and spacer with glass or plexiglass.