5 Tips and Tricks for Beginning With Oil Pastels

Oil pastels are a great medium for beginners since it’s a quick and easy way for making great artwork. Since there’s no need for setting all kinds of solutions and brushes in the same way as watercolor, acrylic, or oils, all you really need to start is a sheet of paper.

To get a better grasp on the medium, here are a few tips you can keep in mind:

1. Prepare for the mess.
Be sure to prepare paper towels in advance before proceeding with oil pastels, since they can stick to your skin and clothes. Alternatively, you can wear rubber gloves or keep around an old rag that you can use to clean any smudges.

It’s also a good idea to keep your pastels clean, especially when you plan on blending and mixing your colors.

2. Go for artist quality over student quality.
While student quality oil pastels seem cheaper, artist quality pastels are a better investment in the long term because of the difference in color. Compared to the former, professional-quality sticks are appear more vibrant and richer, and blend into each other more easily.

3. Start your piece with light sketches on the subject.
When starting on your piece, start only with light sketches at first. Since the details aren’t important at this stage, you can add them later once you have the general shapes and outlines laid out on the paper.

The reason for doing this is because oil pastels can get messy easily, and without having a guideline, you might make mistakes that can be difficult to correct.

4. Experiment with the colors.
Oil pastels are more than crayons. There are a few ways to blend colors with pastels you can use to instantly improve the way your pieces will look:

• Heavy- vs. light-pressure blending – Layering colors on top of one another creates a rich, blended look depending on how light or how heavy they are. For shadowing and highlighting, you can even try experimenting with white or black pastels.
• Using oil – You can also use oil pastels similar to watercolor pencils, but instead of water, you can swab your smudges with a cotton swab dipped in baby oil and let them dry overnight.
• Stippling – Create a stippled effect using small, choppy strokes. After this, you can layer more colors to add depth.
• Sgraffito – Thick layers of different pastel colors can be scratched or scraped using a paperclip or a wooden stylus to reveal the resulting layer of color beneath them.

When you finish your oil pastels, remember to glaze them with a finish – while they do harden after some time, the paint can still be smeared when dusted.

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