• 10 Best Oil Pastels for Beginners in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed) 1
  • 10 Best Oil Pastels for Beginners in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed) 2
  • 10 Best Oil Pastels for Beginners in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed) 3
  • 10 Best Oil Pastels for Beginners in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed) 4
  • 10 Best Oil Pastels for Beginners in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed) 5

10 Best Oil Pastels for Beginners in 2022 (Artist-Reviewed)

Oil pastels are fun and easy to use. You can blend them, layer colors and use scratching techniques, or mix them with oil to paint with them. They have bright and vibrant colors that you can use on many different surfaces. They're great for landscapes, flowers, or portraits, and are wonderful if you like a looser style that's more playful.

 
To help you get started practicing and learning more about oil pastels, we did our research and put together a list of the 10 best oil pastels for beginners. Right on top of our list is Pentel's Oil Pastel Set. We love that it comes with 16 colors that are smooth and easy to use. We also created a buying guide with oversight from an artist to give you more details on selecting the perfect set of oil pastels. 

Featured in this article

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
mybest US Editors
  • Last updated: 08-28-2022
Table of Contents

How to Choose Oil Pastels for Beginners - Buying Guide

There are several factors to consider when selecting the perfect oil pastels. Keep in mind the quality, the number of colors in each set, the opacity, and the texture of the pastels. 

Know the Difference Between Student and Professional Quality

Know the Difference Between Student and Professional Quality

Oil pastels generally come in two different qualities: student and professional grades. You should pick the quality based on your skill level. For beginners, we highly recommend student-grade oil pastels


Although student-grade oil pastels usually contain less pigment and more fillers and binders, they have more structure and won’t crumble as easily as professional-grade options. Student-grade pastels are enough for beginners to experiment with and feel out the medium. 


Once you’ve got the hang of working with oil pastels, you can start investing in professional ones that have better pigments and have higher permanence ratings. They usually have a buttery and smooth consistency, giving them a softer body. They are easy to blend, but can also crumble when used with a lot of force. 

Know the Difference Between Student and Professional Quality

If you're buying for young children, look for student-grade options certified as non-toxic by The Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI). This means that the oil pastels have been checked by a medical expert and found to be free of toxic substances. 


Oil pastels are only harmful if you ingest certain colors made with toxic pigments, like cadmium or cobalt. So, you don't have to worry too much about safety! All oil pastels are safe to hold; it's just a concern if your child tends to put things in their mouth. 

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

I personally think everyone except kids or those who need a lot of pastels for some huge project should look for professional-quality ones. They'll provide you with a reliable result and be more enjoyable to work with.


But, you can also consider buying more budget-friendly ones just for the color variety, and supplementing with professional-quality individual sticks for some colors. It's perfectly fine to mix brands of oil pastels.

Pick Between Individual Oil Pastels or a Set

Pick Between Individual Oil Pastels or a Set

Oil pastels come individually or as a set. As a beginner, we recommend going for a set with 10 to 12 colors. This will allow you to work on your skills and play around with different shades.


Some sets can also offer extensive color selections with up to 200 to 400 colors. These might be better if you have more experience with oil pastels. Having a wide range of colors can be challenging to work with as a beginner but helpful once you know how to use and work with more shades.


Some sets may have colors chosen for a certain subject, like landscapes, with more greens, or portrait sets with more browns, reds and yellows. These can be convenient to quickly get most of the colors you might need for your drawing.

Pick Between Individual Oil Pastels or a Set

With individually-sold pastels, you can build your own set or purchase multiple sticks of a color you need for a project to supplement your existing set.


Buying individual pastels is perfect if you have a certain image that you want to create. For instance, if you want to draw still lifes of flowers, you may want more purples than most sets have. You can consider getting a set plus individual sticks of colors you think you'll need more of.

Consider the Opacity and Ease of Blending

Consider the Opacity and Ease of Blending

You can easily layer oil pastels to achieve vibrant colors, but some are more opaque than others. While the description might state their opacity, we recommend checking the reviewer comments to check just how opaque they are.


You should also look for oil pastels that are easy to blend. These will allow you to play around with color, intensity, and shading. Oil pastels are made with wax and oil that make them water-resistant once they set. However, some are also water-soluble, allowing you to create a watercolor-like design. 

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Water-soluble oil pastels can be great to experiment with. You can lay down color and then brush water on top for a transparent watercolor effect. You can try acrylic medium for a more dense wash. You can also dip the oil pastel right in water or medium, and then draw. Prepare to get your hands dirty in a satisfying, fun way!

Decide Between a Soft or Hard Pastel Texture

Decide Between a Soft or Hard Pastel Texture

When buying oil pastels, you can opt between two textures: soft or rigid. Oil pastels with a soft, buttery texture are great if you want something easy to blend. These pastels tend to have fewer binders and a higher concentration of pigment. 


Try using harder pastels if you need to draw details or outlines. They will have more binders and less pigment, making the color less vibrant. Consider what you want to draw before purchasing the pastels so that you can plan accordingly. 

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Don't expect to be able to get super-fine details with oil pastels, no matter their texture! Even the stiffest ones can't be sharpened to a point like a pencil. They're best for achieving a more Expressionist or painterly style.


You can, however, dissolve your oil pastel in either oil or solvent, and dip a brush into the goopy end. Then you can paint some finer lines as you like.

10 Best Oil Pastels for Beginners

We chose these oil pastels with beginners in mind and made sure to include options with different qualities, number of colors, opacities, and textures.

Image
Pentel Oil Pastel Set 1

Pentel

Sakura Cray-Pas Expressionist  1

Sakura

Paul Rubens Oil Pastels 1

Paul Rubens

Doms Oil Pastels 1

Doms

Crayola Oil Pastels 1

Crayola

Mungyo Gallery Soft Oil Pastels 1

Mungyo

Faber-Castell Blendable Oil Pastels 1

Faber-Castell

Sennelier Oil Pastel Set 1

Sennelier

Crayola Portfolio Series Watersoluble Oil Pastels 1

Crayola

Caran d'Ache Neopastels 1

Caran d'Ache

Name

Oil Pastel Set

Cray-Pas Expressionist

Oil Pastels

Oil Pastels

Oil Pastels

Gallery Soft Oil Pastels

Blendable Oil Pastels

Oil Pastel Set

Portfolio Series Watersoluble Oil Pastels

Neopastels

Features

Best for a Standard Set of Colors

Best for Color Variety

Best Professional Quality Beginner Set

Best for Trying Sgraffito Scratch-Through Techniques

Best Oil Pastels for Kids

Best Soft Oil Pastels for Expressionist Styles

Best for the Travel-Friendly Case

Best Pastels for Portraits

Best for Blending With Water

Best Pastels Sold as Sets or Individual Sticks

Price$2.03$21.19$25.48$11.42$5.50$19.90$8.99$45.34$6.97$30.27
QualityStudentStudentProfessionalStudentStudentProfessionalStudentProfessionalStudentProfessional
Colors included1648, 2 extender sticks5050284824242412
Opacity ModerateModerateHighModerateHighHighModerateHighModerateHigh
TextureSoftRigidSoftSoftSoftSoftRigidSoftSoftSoft
Link
QualityStudent
Colors included16
Opacity Moderate
TextureSoft
QualityStudent
Colors included48, 2 extender sticks
OpacityModerate
TextureRigid
QualityProfessional
Colors included50
OpacityHigh
TextureSoft

DomsOil Pastels

$11.42

QualityStudent
Colors included50
OpacityModerate
TextureSoft
QualityStudent
Colors included28
Opacity High
TextureSoft
QualityProfessional
Colors included48
OpacityHigh
TextureSoft
QualityStudent
Colors included24
Opacity Moderate
TextureRigid
QualityProfessional
Colors included24
Opacity High
TextureSoft

CrayolaPortfolio Series Watersoluble Oil Pastels

$6.97

QualityStudent
Colors included24
Opacity Moderate
TextureSoft
QualityProfessional
Colors included12
OpacityHigh
TextureSoft

Frequently Asked Questions

In addition to reviewing our buying guide, Susan has also answered some commonly asked questions about watercolors.

What's the difference between oil pastel and chalk pastel?

"Oil pastels are made using oil and wax, while soft pastels are more similar to chalk (hence their other name.)," Susan says. "Soft pastels will behave a lot like chalk, which most of us are familiar with from using on blackboards and sidewalks. They can be smudged easily with your fingers and are rather dusty and crumbly, although high-quality ones are much nicer to work with than kids' or school chalk.


Oil pastels are sometimes compared to crayons, and other times, to oil paints. They're pretty unique. You can layer them and blend them, but the techniques for doing these are not immediately intuitive. They take a bit more experimentation to avoid getting muddy colors. But they can be incredibly vibrant and dimensional with some practice."

What are some good oil pastel techniques for beginners?

"If you've never used oil pastels before, or even if you just switched brands, I recommend doing some tests to see how each color behaves. Try just making swatches, using really light pressure and layering colors over each other. Then do the same with strong pressure, and see how the layers build and how the colors interact.


Once you have a feel for each stick, you can try a drawing. Many oil pastel artists like to use a style called stippling, where you use short strokes or almost dots to apply the pastels. This can give you an effect similar to a Monet painting.


Other fun things to experiment with are using oil to blend the colors. Dip a cotton swab or brush in linseed oil. Turpentine or odorless solvent can be used to dissolve the oil pastel a bit; like drawing with a melted crayon! Sgraffito is a technique like using a scratchboard; you layer colors and then scratch through to reveal the layers underneath."

More Art Materials for Beginners

Are you a beginner and interested in other forms of art? If you’re looking for more mediums you can use easily, here are some products to try. 

Amazon's Best Selling Drawing Pastels

If you'd like to read more user reviews or see which products are popular with shoppers, check out Amazon's best-selling drawing pastels, but note that some of these are soft pastels and not oils.

In Collaboration With Artist Susan Lucier-Ogawa

Susan Lucier-Ogawa
Oil Painter and Glassblower
Susan Lucier-Ogawa

This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary, as well as extra tips and advice. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.

Author: Janina Maddatu

Updated by: Andrew Simmons, 5/18/2022

  • Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more mybest recommendations! For questions or comments, leave us feedback via a Google Form on our Contact Us page.

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