So you’ve purchased a pack of oil pastels or stumbled upon some old ones lying around in your drawer, and now you’re unsure of what to draw with them, how to use them, and how to blend them. Well, you’ve come to the right place, as in this post, I will teach you how to blend oil pastels and address common questions related to this topic. This post will encompass various methods and tips for effectively blending oil pastels.
If you want to learn all of the different oil pastel techniques read this post.
Understanding Oil Pastels
Before delving into blending techniques, let’s review some fundamental aspects of oil pastels. An oil pastel is a stick typically composed of pigments, a binding medium and wax.
Naturally, oil pastels possess an oily texture, making them particularly adept at blending. However, the blending capacity can vary based on the brand of oil pastels you’re using. If you opt for the cheapest oil pastels on the market, blending may pose more of a challenge. These budget-friendly options often contain a higher proportion of wax, resulting in a firmer texture and increased difficulty in achieving smooth blends.
It’s not necessary to exclusively opt for premium choices like the luxuriously creamy Sennelier oil pastels, especially if your budget is constrained. Fortunately, there are reasonably priced oil pastels of commendable quality available, such as the Mungyo Gallery or Paul Rubens Haiya oil pastels.
Here’s a list of oil pastel essentials I recommend
How Do You Blend Oil Pastels?
There are different ways and tools you can use to blend oil pastels. These blending techniques can be applied to specific subjects, such as landscapes, portraits, and abstract art. Below, we explore different techniques that empower you to achieve nice blends in your artwork.
For a straightforward and seamlessly smooth finish, utilizing your fingers is the most instinctive approach. This method is ideal if you aim to achieve a refined appearance in your paintings. Begin by applying oil pastel colors to your surface, then use your finger to blend and smudge the hues together.
To ensure cleanliness and safeguard against potentially toxic pigments, consider wearing gloves. Keep a paper towel or alcohol/baby wipes handy to intermittently cleanse your fingertips and prevent color muddying.
BLENDING WITH A TOOL
Should you prefer not to use your fingers, using a tortillon (blending stump), cotton swab, or a soft cloth provides an effective alternative. While this technique may demand a bit more time compared to finger blending, it allows you to achieve intricate detailing. Blending stumps and cotton swabs are particularly adept at refining finer aspects of your artwork.
BLENDING WITH OIL OR SOLVENT
A great way to blend oil pastels is by using a painting oil like linseed oil, combined with a brush. This technique imparts a painting-like feel to your oil pastel work.
Begin by applying the oil pastel to the paper, then dip your brush into linseed oil (or even opt for baby oil) to seamlessly blend the applied pastel. Alternatively, you can directly lift pigments from the pastel with your brush.
Should you prefer, solvents such as Gamsol can also be used for blending, but exercise caution and prioritize studio safety. It’s crucial to ensure your painting surface can withstand the oil/solvent, preferably employing a sturdy paper of at least 120g/m², or better yet, a paper specifically designed for oil mediums.
Beginner’s Guide To Painting with Oil Pastels
BLENDING THROUGH LAYERING
Another way to create a blended effect is by just layering colors over each other. This technique may result a slightly rougher appearance but it is my favorite way of blending because it allows the texture of the oil pastels to shine.
If you want smoother blends choose compatible colors. To avoid overworking the surface, gradually blend the colors by layering them over each other. It’s also helpful to keep extra paper handy for testing colors and blending techniques.
What Is The Best Blending Tool For Oil Pastels?
Now you might be wondering what the best blending tool for oil pastels is, and in the end this comes down to what effect you like and what tool is most comfortable for you to use.
To recap these are the different tools you can use to blend oil pastels:
- tissue paper/cloth
- cotton swabs
- tortillons/blending stumps
- painting oil or baby oil
- blending by layering
I recommend you try out all of these blending methods on a dedicated sheet of paper so you can see the different effects yourself and can get more familiar with them.
How To Blend Oil Pastels With Water?
If you want to blend oil pastels with water and a brush you will be disappointed. Oil naturally repels water so blending like this is not possible and you might end up just lifting the pigments of with your brush.
Dipping a cotton swab or a cloth/tissue in water and trying to blend with that will also not work. As you continue working with oil pastels, it’s crucial to bear in mind this characteristic interplay between oil and water. While water’s efficacy in blending certain mediums is undeniable, oil pastels defy its aqueous influence, thriving on techniques that harness their innate characteristics.
Now you know there are quite a few ways to blend oil pastels. As is the case with any artistic medium, achieving mastery demands dedication, practice, and a willingness to embrace the learning curve. Keep on practicing and you will naturally become better at using oil pastels and you’ll learn to blend intuitively.
However, I hope this post was helpful to get your oil pastel journey started. As always feel free to send me your questions or share your artwork with me.
If you want to learn more about oil pastels check out these posts: