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 which pastel set will be the best fit for you.
Soft pastels vs. oil 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 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.
Best Quality Oil Pastels
|Sennelier Oil Pastels (Set of 72)
Best for Artists
|Caran D'ache Neopastel (Set of 96)
Best Soft Oil Pastels
|Mungyo Gallery Soft Oil Pastels (Set of 48)
|Cray-Pas Specialist Assorted Colors Oil Pastel Set
|Daler Rowney Oil Pastel Set (24 Pieces)
1. Sennelier Oil Pastels Set of 72 ‒ Best Quality Oil Pastels
Unpacking and First Impressions
Sennelier Oil Pastels is the best oil pastel brand in the world of go-to oil pastel sets. Once you open the box, you’ll be mesmerized by how bright each pastel is. In fact, this set contains some of the finest colors available on the market today!
The Sennelier Oil Pastels comes 72-piece package. It contains earth colors, crimson colors, flesh tones, and blues and greens.
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. There’s a label for each color for easy identification and a little pictured leaflet in the package.
This is a professional oil pastel set and can be a little expensive for some people. However, you do get what you pay for in terms of quality and performance.
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. The pastels do have a bit of a scent.
When you’re using them, make sure you don’t push too hard because they do break very quickly. They’re very crumbly and soft. So if you want to keep them in a stick form, make sure you just use them like gliding on the paper.
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: acrylic 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.
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. Caran D’ache Neopastel (Set of 96) – Best Oil Pastels for Artists
Unpacking and First Impressions
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.
The Caran D’ache Neopastel set comes in a whopping 96 colors, making it one of the most comprehensive sets that we have seen. This gives artists a lot of flexibility when it comes to color choice.
The set is packaged in an attractive tin 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 slim and lightweight, so you can bring it wherever you go.
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 pastels are super smooth and consistent in color with intense pigment concentration. They glide on the paper effortlessly and spread out quickly without disrupting each other. The colors mix well together to give artists varied hues that they can create anything from subtle shadings to bold accent marks. The Neopastels are perfect for realism, abstract art, and even portraits.
The pastels also work well with other media so you can create versatile pieces with ease. The quality seems to be very consistent so they would probably last you a long time too.
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.
3. Mungyo Gallery Soft Oil Pastels (Set of 48) – Best Soft Oil Pastels
Unpacking and First Impressions
Mungyo is an art and stationery brand based in South Korea that offers a variety of professional art tools.
The packaging is nothing too special but it does the job. The set 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. The downside is that there’s no protection for the tips so they can get easily damaged.
This set has 48 soft pastels with just a few shades for each of the primary colors. The colors are arranged in rainbow order and look incredibly vibrant.
Since the color selection is not very extensive, this would probably make for a good starter pack for art students.
Mungyo oil pastels feel amazing in your hands! They’re squishy, buttery, and smooth with a delicate texture that makes blending and layering a total breeze. The colors are also highly pigmented so you don’t need to layer them as much for better coverage. However, when you start drawing with them, you notice that it layers a little too well. It may take time for you to get used to them.
The application is smooth and even without lumps, gaps, or streaks. Sticks feature soft colors with a matte finish to give the drawing a nice tactile feel.
Blending and layering are satisfying, but the top layer might get rubbed off sometimes if you’re not careful enough. They are well-suited for contemporary artwork which requires bright colors that pop out at the viewer.
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 quite opaque. 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.
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.
Sennelier VS Mungyo Oil Pastel Comparison
Sennelier is very well pigmented and rich in tone. Mungyo is also nicely pigmented. We were surprised the first time we used Mungyo because the colors were very opaque, creamy, and well pigmented. But we did notice that some colors in the Mungyo set looked dull and bland when compared to Sennelier, especially the reds which looked more like pinks.
With Sennelier it’s a little bit tricky because these pastels are super creamy. If you try to apply too many layers on top of each other without giving enough time for each layer to harden, you’re going to end up in a bit of a mess. You don’t get this effect that much with Mungyo because these pastels are less creamy and more easily workable in layers.
Sinhalese is definitely softer and creamier, but we have no complaints about Mungyo either. Both apply very smoothly and evenly on the paper. Both have a very soft feel to them and they deposit pigment very easily. However, Mungyo is a little bit crumbly and they tend to break. This is because it has been created with more binders.
You might know that oil pastels may dry out and harden with time. Mungyos have a shorter shelf life than the Sennelier. Again, this is because they contain more binders and will probably dry out faster.
Lightfastness means that the paintings done using this medium can last a long time without losing their original quality. Sennelier is definitely lightfast. We have had paintings done by these pastels that have been sitting on an open shelf for years without fading or losing their quality.
It is said that Mungyo is also lightfast, but they haven’t made any claims about the lightfastness of their pastels.
Range of Colors
Sennelier offers 120 different colors whereas Mungyo only goes up to 72 so Sennelier definitely gives you a wider range of colors.
If you take even the smallest set, you will notice that Senneliers are well protected. They won’t move around, even if you tilt the box so it’s perfect for traveling. Mungyo, on the other hand, comes in a flimsy cardboard box.
That this is not a very fair comparison, because Sennelier is a very high-end pricier brand. The purpose of this article is to see whether it’s worth spending on Sennelier when you can get close to the same quality using Mungyo. And our conclusion is yes, Sennelier is probably the best your money can buy.
But if you are a hobbyist or a student who starts to play around with the pastels, or you just don’t want to spend that much on a pastels box, or you just don’t like Sennelier because they’re too creamy and they don’t lay well then Mungyo is probably the best in the mid-range on pastels market.
4. Cray-Pas Specialist Assorted Colors Oil Pastel Set – Best for Students
Unpacking and First Impressions
The Sakura Cray-Pas Specialist oil pastels are classified as artist-grade, meaning they are of 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.
These oil pastels come neatly packed into a sturdy box. 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. The sticks are arranged in two rows and are about the same length as regular crayons. It’s really useful that each stick has a lightfastness rating label, something that many brands fall short on.
The colors are not as vibrant as other brands, but they can create a nice and pleasing pastel color. The set is perfect for students because it has a large variety of colors to choose from and all 50 sticks can be used at once for larger drawings. The pack also features an assortment of neutrals, so this would be good for portraits 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. The colors show up brightly on different papers. You can make broad strokes and blend or layer them effortlessly with just your fingers. The downside is that the pastels are not as smooth as some of the more expensive brands.
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.
Pros and Cons
The Cray-Pas Specialist Assorted Colors oil pastel set is our best pick for students. The price is quite affordable and the quality is good enough to produce decent works of art. However, more experienced artists may find the colors too basic and not varied enough.
5. Daler Rowney Oil Pastel Set (24 Pieces) ‒ Best Oil Pastels for Beginners
Unpacking and First Impressions
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. It also includes some dark shades which you would not expect from a beginner’s set.
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 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.
The pastels flow smoothly on any surface whether it’s paper or canvas. They also blend very easily with each other which makes them suitable for beginners.
Daler-Rowney Oil Pastels can be used with other materials such as pencil, acrylic paints or inks, charcoal, and gouache paints. If you want to attempt a mixed-media painting, these may work well for you.
We liked how smoothly these pastels glide on the paper, but we did notice that they do not cover as well as we expected them to. Some colors are too light and soft while others leave some white patches instead of covering properly.
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.
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.
People Also Ask
What are the best oil pastels?
The best oil pastels will vary depending on an artist's personal preferences and needs. However, some brands that are generally considered high-quality and popular among artists include Sennelier, Caran D’ache, Mungyo, and Daler Rowney. These brands are known for their smooth texture, high pigmentation, excellent blending capabilities, and good lightfastness. It's important to note that oil pastels come in different levels of quality and price, so it's important to consider how much you're willing to spend. High-quality and more pigmented pastels tend to be more expensive, but they can also provide more vibrant and long-lasting colors. Additionally, the quality of the surface you use will significantly impact the outcome of your work, so it's important to choose high-quality paper or canvas and test them out to find the one that works best for your style and needs.
What type of surface is best for oil pastels?
Oil pastels work well on a variety of surfaces including paper, canvas, and board. However, a surface with a slightly rough texture such as a pastel paper or sanded paper will provide more tooth for the pastels to grip onto, resulting in better color layering and blending.
How do I store oil pastels?
Oil pastels should be stored in a dry place at room temperature. They can be stored in a box or container designed for pastels, or in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. It's important to keep them away from moisture and extreme temperatures to prevent them from melting or becoming too hard to use.