Most artists know how important it is to use the best tools. Cheap and generic brand items may work well at first but they can make you feel like a complete amateur. You might think that you’re not talented or that your art isn’t any good and you should give up. The truth is that most of the time, it has nothing to do with your skills and has everything to do with the tools you’re using. Even the most renowned artists would have trouble with fragile, low-grade tools.
Pastel sticks can be used on their own even without any special brushes or sponges. Still, they can be quite tricky and messy to use especially for those who are less experienced. It is in your best interest to snag a high-quality set.
What to Look for When Buying Best Oil Pastels
This section will answer some questions you may have and help you even further in deciding as to which pastel set will be the best fit for you.
Oil Pastels vs. Soft Pastels
These two are often lumped together but they have some key differences. Both oil pastels and soft pastels are sold as either rectangular or round sticks but they do not have the same textures and compositions. Oil pastels are mostly made of oil, pigment, and wax. On the other hand, soft pastels contain pigment, chalk, and an ingredient called gum arabic to bind them together. Soft pastels tend to be a bit drier and have a matte finish while oil pastels are very wet. Oil pastels don’t smudge or crumble as much because of the wax. Though oil pastels are usually more vibrant, soft pastels can still be used to create gorgeous whimsical paintings.
Artist-Grade and Student-Grade
The quality of pastels varies depending on if they are tailor-made for artists or students. Of course, this isn’t an absolute rule that must be followed. Students can use artist-grade pastels and vice versa, but both have different characteristics.
Needless to say, artist quality pastels are usually pricier because they are made with better ingredients. They are more pigmented, more vibrant, and more opaque. Student-grade pastels are cheaper and also have less color selection. Keep this in mind and determine what your needs are. Do you want to save money? Do you want something in the middle, or would you lie to invest in higher-end materials?
Buying Individual Pastels or a Set
You have the option of buying an entire set or individual sticks. A set is usually the best option for students and beginners as this will contain all the basic colors that are needed. Buying individual sticks works for color replacements or if you only need specific colors. Some artists also like to mix and match brands if they already have favorites.
Lightfastness is an important factor to consider when shopping for paints and pastels. It’s a property that is used to determine the degree of fade resistance of dyes or pigments. Colorants like pigments are very sensitive to light and could be altered when exposed.
The lightfastness ratings of oil pastels are different for each brand. A general rule is that certain colors are more susceptible to fading rapidly. These colors are usually the pinks and the purples. Some brands like the Cray-Pas have the lightfastness ratings on the labels of each pastel. To avoid fading, keep all your oil pastels away from direct sunlight as much as possible.
Toxicity of Pastels
Most pastels on the market today are non-toxic and very safe to use. However, just like with oil paints, it is a good practice to avoid inhaling pastels and keep them away from sensitive areas such as the eyes. If you get stains on your skin, they can be easily removed with soap and water. For extra precautions, you may wear protective equipment like face masks, glasses or goggles, and gloves.
Best Oil Pastels on the Market
With hundreds of products to choose from, it can be overwhelming to compare, contrast, and weigh your options. That is why we have selected and reviewed five of the best oil pastels to make your life a lot easier! Here is a definitive guide on the top 5 oil pastels available online which will aid you in your decision-making. We chose these pastels based on their overall value in areas such as price, color pigment, texture, packaging, and ease of use.
|Sennelier Oil Pastels Set of 24||
Best for Beginners
|Mungyo Gallery Soft Oil Pastels (Set of 48)||
Best for Artists
|Caran D'ache Neopastel (Set of 96)||
|Cray-Pas Specialist Assorted Colors Oil Pastel Set||
|Daler Rowney Oil Pastel Set (24 Pieces)||
1. Sennelier Oil Pastels Set of 24 ‒ Best Quality Oil Pastels
Sennelier Oil Pastels are one of the go-to sets in the world of oil pastels. You might feel a bit uneasy about only receiving 24 colors considering how much money you have to fork over, but once you open the box, you’ll be mesmerized by how bright each pastel is.
There is a high concentration of pigment in each pastel which makes them a breeze to work with. The application is incredibly smooth and the texture of the sticks is buttery soft and a little glassy. It almost feels like you’re using lipstick to paint.
Blending and layering are quite convenient and the pastels also work well for creating glazing effects. Aside from that, it’s super easy to use them in combination with other media: acrylics paint, watercolors, or soft pastels. You could step up your creativity and use these to paint on other surfaces as well such as wood, glass, or metal.
The box features a minimalistic design on the cover giving it a simple yet classic feel. Inside, the sticks have their own slots in a black foam cushion to keep them safe.
Pros and Cons
Artists love the Sennelier oil pastels and with good reason. The quality is impeccable which makes them the crème de la crème of oil pastels. They would probably be a great investment for your collection.
2. Mungyo Gallery Soft Oil Pastels (Set of 48) – Best Soft Oil Pastels
Mungyo is an art and stationery brand based in South Korea that offers a variety of professional art tools. This set has 48 soft pastels with just a few shades for each of the primary colors. Since the color selection is not very extensive, this would probably make for a good starter pack for art students.
Their soft oil pastels are very thick and creamy, which truly makes the colors pop. The sticks glide smoothly on paper and this allows artists to have an uninterrupted and trouble-free work session.
The pastels are also on the shorter side, which may make them a bit easier to hold and prevent them from breaking off easily from continued use. The shorter length is not likely to affect their lastingness since they are more opaque than transparent. You will not have to use too much just to get a sufficient amount of color coverage on your canvas. Artists who want to conserve their tools as much as possible should probably consider the Mungyo pastels.
The set of oil pastels comes in a sleek, sturdy black box featuring a lovely painting on the front. It does not seem to be too heavy and the box is thin enough that it can easily fit in both medium and large bags. The round pastel sticks are neatly arranged in three rows inside the packaging.
Pros and Cons
Overall, these seem to be the best oil pastel kit for students who want to save without having to resort to cheap, badly-made pastels. The greens and blues in the Mungyo set will make for beautiful landscape paintings.
3. Caran D’ache Neopastel (Set of 96) – Best Oil Pastels for Artists
Caran D’ache is one of the leading brands of oil pastels in the art world. The Neopastels may be a bit heavy on the pocket for people who are on a budget. As such, these might be more suitable for advanced artists and people who have been practicing their craft for a long time. Artists who have already tried these say that they are well worth the premium price and the benefits justify the cost.
Colors-wise, this set is inclusive of iridescent and metallic shades which many oil pastel kits don’t have. There are quite a lot of blues and greens as well. One of the drawbacks is that there is only one white stick which may pose a problem since whites are used up the most quickly.
The sticks have a soft, velvety finish, yet they are also firm enough that they are less likely to split in half or have pieces broken off. The opacity is excellent and the colors show up brightly on dark or light paper and different textured papers even with only one stroke. They blend very easily as well.
The Caran D’ache Neopastels come in a metal box rather than just a plastic or paper box. This adds to its professional and modern feel, and the pastels may be safer and more protected from external elements. The box is also surprisingly lightweight, so you can bring it wherever you go.
Pros and Cons
We classified the Neopastels as the “best value oil pastels” because the quality, packaging, and the number of colors you get make this set an absolute steal. It could be difficult to find others with the same inclusions at this price.
4. Cray-Pas Specialist Assorted Colors Oil Pastel Set – Best for Students
The Sakura Cray-Pas Specialist oil pastels are classified as artist-grade, meaning they are better quality than pastels made for amateurs or students. You get a balanced selection of colors including some metallics which could be useful for experimentation and. There is a good amount of neutral tones as well.
The pastels feel nice and soft, with a hint of firmness. We would describe these as being a healthy middle between soft and firm. However, we experienced noticeably more crumbling with these compared to the others on the list.
As for the pigmentation, these pastels have great color coverage due to the large square shape of the sticks. You can make broad strokes and blend or layer them effortlessly with just your fingers.
The box is nothing to write home about. Other sets have much more attractive packaging but this may not be a big deal if you care more about the pastels rather than how they are presented.
Pros and Cons
It’s really useful that each stick has a lightfastness rating label, something that many brands fall short on. However, it’s somewhat disappointing that paintings made with these pastels do have a tendency to fade faster. Still, they are on the higher-end of the spectrum of artist-grade oil pastels and it probably wouldn’t hurt to try them out for yourself.
5. Daler Rowney Oil Pastel Set (24 Pieces) ‒ Best Oil Pastels for Beginners
The Daler Rowney Oil Pastels are the most affordable ones on this list. With only 24 colors, this set provides the fundamental colors that any newbie or aspiring artist needs to kickstart their creative journey.
There are only about three shades for each primary color, which may be constraining for advanced artists. However, even with a limited color selection, the pastels are quite opaque. The pastels flow smoothly on any surface whether it’s paper or canvas. If you want to attempt a mixed-media painting, these may work well for you. Daler-Rowney Oil Pastels can be used with other materials such as pencil, acrylic paints or inks, charcoal, and gouache paints.
The downside to this set is that it mentions nothing about lightfastness. If you want to know the lightfastness rating of each stick, you would probably have to reach out to Daler-Rowney or test them out for yourself.
The pastels come in a thin rectangular box and are positioned neatly in a tray. It’s not the most extravagant packaging but it’s simple and practical.
Pros and Cons
Daler Rowney pastels are reasonably priced and they met our expectations for a student-grade set. Basically, you get what you pay for.
This doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to create professional-looking artworks using these. If you’re skilled enough, these pastels might work wonders for you. Just remember that they are made with amateur painters in mind.