Oil pastels are many artists’ go to medium for quick sketching, painting and techniques such as impasto and scraping. They are particularly beginners’ favorite because of their effortless workability, beautiful oil paint-like results, and affordability.
If you are unfamiliar with oil pastels, they are an art medium that bear a close resemblance to crayons but with a creamy consistency that fingers can spread. They have a non-drying oil in their binder formula that yields vivid colors and “lipsticky” smoothness different from the stiffer crayons.
Oil pastels provide the same color intensity and similar textural effects as oil paints. Only that, you can take them straight out of the box onto your paper or canvas and create a masterpiece without palettes, thinners, paint brushes, or other supplies.
If you are looking to get started, you must be wondering:
What are the best oil pastels for beginners? The best oil pastels for beginners have a butter-smooth consistency, rich pigments in a variety of colors, blend easily, and are reasonably priced for your budget.
The absolute best oil pastels are a matter of personal choice depending on budget, style, and other preferences. However, we get you closer to that decision by recommending the top brands to choose from. But first, here is what to consider when choosing oil pastels.
What To Look For When Shopping For Oil Pastels
As a beginner navigating the murky waters of art supplies is harder without any direction. This applies to oil pastels too.
The market has a lot of variety to offer, so you must go in with well-thought-out selection criteria. Here are some of the factors to consider when choosing oil pastels as a novice:
Oil pastels, like most media, can be broadly categorized into two groups: student-grade and professional-grade. Student-grade oil pastels are the best for artists dipping their feet into this type of medium for the first time.
Since student-grade pastels are way cheaper than professional-grade brands, they are great for practice. You get to introduce yourself to oil pastels and experiment widely without spending too much in the early stages of learning.
The quality of professional-grade oil pastels is a few notches higher. They are loaded with more pigment, have better binders, and are archival, thus expensive.
You can by all means start out with the best materials, but to save on expense, you may wish to save these for when you master your beginner oil pastel techniques.
Just be sure to avoid pastels of such poor quality that they are only suitable for a child’s toy box. True art student-quality pastels will be good enough for practicing techniques, but something resembling a child’s crayon will not perform any better than a crayon; you won’t be able to explore the medium properly with one.
Oil pastels do not have the same consistency across brands. You’ll stumble upon those that are buttery soft and others that tend to be thicker and more rigid.
Creamier options spread effortlessly and are thus easier to work with and blend. But being too smooth can be tricky and messy as well.
Firmer alternatives are cleaner and produce good results with precision in details and line work. If you want to pull off fine and defined edges, harder oil pastels will execute it flawlessly.
If you are transitioning from ink sketches or other media which produce crisp lines, you may also prefer firmer oil pastels as they may seem more familiar.
It is evident that these varying degrees of consistency are essential for the different forms of art, and none is better than the other. Your choice is tied to your application.
When selecting an oil pastel set, you want to consider the colors in it. Oil pastel sets come in 6, 12, 24, 48 colors, and so on.
Some manufacturers sell individual colors alongside different sets of oil pastels. Others do not. Colors like white, black, and flesh tones – as well as any colors you gravitate toward naturally – get used up quickly; ordering replacements is often helpful.
This is something you want to think about before making a choice if you care about mixing brands.
Secondly, more shades of colors allow for a less obvious, softer kind of blending. But if you are good at mixing colors, an artist can always utilize what colors they have to perfect the transition.
And if you’re after an impressionistic symphony of color spots, you may not care at all about smooth transitions.
Naturally, your preferred subject matter influences your ideal color set. If you are more into portraits, you want to pick oil pastels with more flesh tones, as opposed to someone doing landscapes who may prefer a variety of blues, greens, and browns.
With the few pointers in mind, let’s hop on to the favorite part of the article for reviews of the best oil pastels for those getting started.
5 Oil Pastels That Are Best For Beginners
You might already be familiar with some of the industry benchmarks for oil pastels, but those are not necessarily newbie-friendly. We’ve carefully researched the brands that meet the creative needs of a beginner with oil pastels. The following are our five best picks:
|1.||Mungyo Gallery Soft Oil Pastels||Outstanding opacity|
|2.||Pentel Arts Oil Pastels||ACMI certified non-toxic|
|3.||Sakura Cray-Pas Expressionist Oil Pastel Set||Available in individual colors|
|4.||Faber-Castell Creative Studio Oil Pastel Crayons||Unique colors|
|5.||Crayola Portfolio Series Oil Pastels||Water-soluble|
Let’s look at each one more closely, shall we?
1. Mungyo Gallery Soft Oil Pastels (Set of 48)
Smooth oil pastels are what every beginner needs, and that’s precisely what you get with Mungyo. The sticks go on so creamy like a professional quality oil pastel.
The set comes in 48 colors, which is a vast enough collection for a beginner. There’s a satisfactory assortment of shades for the different colors making this set pretty versatile.
The pigment load offers adequate saturation and outstanding opacity for gallery-worthy results. They blend incredibly well too.
Oil pastels typically smell of oil but not with Mungyo. You’ll enjoy using these oil pastels without the odor, which is a benefit if the smell is not your favorite (though not all mind).
Unfortunately, there’s no information nor certification for non-toxicity. The formulating ingredients are not listed either. Most artists are accustomed to this risk; the best art materials are sometimes toxic. But if you are concerned, you can always wear gloves and keep your art space well ventilated.
Other than that, these are superior quality oil pastels for beginners. They are perfect for newbies and are good enough to take you through to the intermediate and professional stages too.
2. Pentel Arts Oil Pastels (50 Color Set)
Pentel brand has been around us for years. If you’ve never gotten the chance to try any of its products from childhood, here’s an opportunity for oil pastels.
This set comes with 50 assorted colors that go on paper or canvas so vivid and bright.
The oil pastels are not creamy like Mingyo but soft enough to glide on smoothly. Given some time to warm up in your hands, the sticks melt and will smear and blend a lot better.
Pentel oil pastels are ACMI certified non-toxic. This makes them absolutely safe for use even by young beginner artists.
These are great oil pastels to test the waters with and are offered at an unbeatable price. If you are on a low budget but high on expectation, these are the best oil pastels for you.
3. Sakura Cray-Pas Expressionist Oil Pastel Set (50 Colors)
Sakura Expressionist is not the creamiest oil pastel set out there. Nothing gooey or messy. Just soft enough to smudge but thick enough to give texture.
There is a great selection of colors, 48 in total with 2 blenders. Each color is chock full of pigment resulting in excellent coverage and vibrancy.
In addition to quality, the Expressionist is also a winner for quantity. You get more volume per stick than any other oil pastels reviewed here, making it a great value set.
It bears the necessary safety certification marks from CE and AP, which clear it as a non-toxic medium.
The one thing you’ll absolutely love about Sakura is that they offer their oil pastels as individual colors. So anytime you run out of white, black, or whichever colors you utilize the most, you need not buy an entirely new set to replenish them.
4. Faber-Castell Creative Studio Oil Pastel Crayons (36 Colors)
Faber-Castell is the maker of fine-quality products. You can only expect these oil pastels to be up to scratch.
The 36 color collection is so beautiful and versatile enough to convey whichever image. Some of its colors you only find in premium oil pastels like the various shades of cadmium, fuchsia, teal, turquoise, and an array of skin tones.
Each colored stick is dense with pigment showing bright and lively coverage. Its blending abilities are ok for a beginner or the occasional hobbyist.
The oil pastels have a medium-firm consistency, not too soft nor too hard. They perform best on smooth surfaces and can be a little flakey with textured paper.
Faber-Castell oil pastels are certified non-toxic so you can concentrate on being creative without worrying about safety.
5. Crayola Portfolio Series Oil Pastels (24 Count)
The Crayola brand needs no introduction. Although associated with kid’s art supplies, this set performs beyond and above student-grade oil pastels, making it surprisingly ideal for beginner adults.
The compact box contains 24 colors: white, yellow, red-orange, red, pink, violet, true blue (light blue), blue, yellow-green, green, rust, black, moss, cerulean, blue-green, slate gray, orange, golden brown, medium brown, gray, yellow-orange, red-violet, peach, and blue-violet.
The oil pastels have a fantastic pigment load keeping the artwork looking brilliant. The sticks are super smooth and lay down with minimum effort.
Blending Crayola Portfolio oil pastels is such a breeze thanks to their consistency. You can mix them and create new colors as well as a seamless gradation.
Being water-soluble oil pastels makes them a versatile choice. They interact well with watercolors, acrylic paints, and markers. This particular feature makes it easy to wash off hands and surfaces without leaving a sticky residue.
Crayola oil pastels conform to ASTM-D 4236 safety standards, and the AP/ACMI logo on the package shows they are certified as non-toxic.
Though small, this Crayola set is a little performer. It is seriously good at doing what oil pastels are supposed to do and is a great oil pastel starter set for amateurs.
Once you’ve found the right oil pastels for you, check out this awesome tutorial by Tom Quigley Art of YouTube. He shows some of his tips and techniques for painting with oil pastels. Happy painting!
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