Have you been wanting to experiment with oil pastels for your next project? Or are you already painting with oil pastels but are struggling to get the results you want? Working with oil pastels, especially when it comes to blending, can be really tricky. If you’re getting frustrated, I don’t blame you!
It doesn’t have to be this way. I’m here to help you learn how to blend oil pastels with detailed step-by-step instructions. You’ll be blending pastels like a pro in no time once you’re done reading this article. Creating whimsical oil pastel paintings will be a piece of cake, even if you’re just a beginner!
What you need to follow this tutorial
There are a couple of things you need to have before you can follow this tutorial. Luckily, these materials are readily available in most arts and craft stores. You can also order them online so you don’t have to leave your house.
Oil Pastel Set
Of course, you’re going to need your very own set of oil pastels. That’s the reason you’re reading this article, after all! Oil pastels come in many variations from round sticks or square-shaped pastels. They also come in different sizes and color schemes.
- Highly pigmented
- Sticks well on most surfaces
- High lightfastness rating
Before you go grab a set from your local crafts store, you should know the differences between oil pastels, soft pastels, and chalk crayons. Oil pastels have a different consistency and texture from the other two. The painting and blending techniques are also totally different.
The next thing you need is some kind of surface. This is what you will be painting on.
You could use an actual canvas for the best results. Primed canvas boards are very popular when it comes to oil pastel paintings. They are flat, sturdy, and the texture brings out the colors of the pastels. You can rub the pastels onto the board without worrying about breaking the canvas or the pastel sticks.
- 100 % pure cotton canvas
- Triple primed gesso
Other canvas boards like stretched canvas and roll canvas may not be the best options for oil pastel paintings. They’re a tad flimsy and not as solid as a primed canvas. If you use a stretched canvas board or roll canvas, you’ll have to be a bit more delicate. You want to avoid contorting its shape since you probably spent a fortune on the canvases alone. Also, having an easel that can stretch and hold the rolled canvas will make your life a lot easier.
For alternatives, there’s papers, cardboard, wood, metal, and more. Even with paper, you have a ton of different texture and color options. You could use sketching or drawing paper, watercolor paper, or sanded pastel paper that’s specifically made to use with soft pastels. For paper with canvas-like qualities, canva-paper will do the trick. Try not to use poster papers if you want your paintings to last for longer than a few months.
- 6 assorted tints
- 80lb or 118 g/m²
If you are going to be experimenting with non-traditional surfaces, just know that it’s going to be as easy. You should try painting on wood, metal, or glass once you’re more experienced. Otherwise, you’re just going to be frustrated and you might give up prematurely.
For wooden, glass, or metal panels, make sure you’re using a set of high-quality oil pastels. It might be harder for the colors to show up on these surfaces. Using pigmented and vibrant pastels will give you better results. Also, find out if you’ll need to use some sort of a primer or coat on the panel before you start painting.
Now, you’re also going to need something to blend the pastels with. You don’t have to limit yourself to just one tool. Experiment with each of the ones listed below and see which works best for you.
If you don’t want to use any fancy tools, your fingers will do just fine. It might even be a little easier this way. You might be a little messy after painting, but it’ll be worth it!
Q-Tip or Cotton Ball
If you don’t have any other tools but you don’t want to use your fingers either, these are effective alternatives. Most of us have extra Q-tips and cotton pads lying around in our bathrooms.
Organized Work Station
Every artist needs a dedicated space for their craft. This is where you store all of your materials, tools, and let your imagination run wild. An organized work station is even better as this will put your mind at ease. It will also get those creative juices flowing.
Determination and Creativity
These are not exactly tangible tools, but you’ll definitely need them when you start a new project. Creating art is not an easy task. If it were, everybody would be an artist. You might not get things right or get the results you want on the first try. Don’t let that stop you from trying again. You’re going to need a whole lot of determination to do your best work.
Creativity is a no-brainer for any artwork. You might not think you’re a creative person, but it’s in there somewhere. Just let your imagination run wild! There’s no specific formula and uniqueness is what makes art so great. Even if what you’re imagining sounds weird or unconventional, that’s all the more reason you should try it.
Basics of Oil Pastel Blending
So, are you ready to begin? In this tutorial, you will learn about the basics of oil pastel blending. I will also teach you different techniques such as blending with your fingers and blending with baby oil. Here are some basic principles you should follow when blending oil pastels.
1. Apply pastels with consistent pressure
You should apply the same amount of pressure when you’re working with oil pastels to make sure the thickness of the paint on the canvas is consistent. If you apply uneven pressure, this will leave blank, white spots where you used less pressure. This will be a problem when you try to blend the colors later on.
Pastels applied with consistent pressure look much more vibrant, the colors show up wonderfully on the canvas. Try to go over the spots where the paper or canvas is still showing, and cover it with color.
2. Put colors close together
If you are trying to create an ombre effect, put colors close together. They can even overlap a bit. This will make the colors easier to blend and there will a smoother transition between colors. Don’t worry about the colors looking weird because you can fix this once you start blending.
Applying the colors separately with space between them is okay if you actually intend to make harsh lines and distinctions. It all depends on what effect you’re trying to achieve.
3. Blend with small, circular motions
After you overlap two colors, go over the overlapping part again with a pastel stick. Use small, circular motions to blend them together. This will make the color transition look more seamless.
How to Blend Oil Pastels with Fingers
Using your fingers won’t result in very accurate blending, but it’s much easier and faster.
1. Make sure your fingers are dry
To successfully blend oil pastels with your fingers, make sure they are completely dry. Our fingers are actually quite oily, and this can mess up the colors of the pastels. Wet fingers will also affect the paper or canvas quality. You definitely don’t want a deformed canvas!
2. Wear gloves or finger clots
Rubber gloves and finger clots will not just keep your fingers clean, but protect them as well. Depending on the surface you are painting on, this could be very harsh on your skin. You might get a cut if you rub too harshly with your fingers.
3. Use different fingers for different colors
If you want a good color payoff, don’t use the same finger for multiple colors. This will alter the colors once you apply them to your canvas. You could also keep wet wipes or hand sanitizer nearby so you can clean your fingers when switching between colors.
How to Blend with a Knife
Painting knives are extremely useful if you’d like to blend the colors first before applying them to the canvas. Pre-blending will help you avoid mixing the wrong colors and making other mistakes.
1. Cut off pieces of oil pastels
The first step is to slice off small pieces of the colors you want to use. You can even blend more than two colors at a time if you’d like. Once you’ve cut the pieces, place them on your painting palette or any other surface you can use to blend the paint.
2. Crush the pastel pieces with your knife
Next, using the palette knife, crush the pieces of oil pastels until they turn into soft, thick paint.
3. Mix the colors together
You can now mix them together! Either blend them to get a nice ombre transition or mix them up to make new colors. You can either use the knife or your fingers to do this.
How to Blend on Canvas
Canvas is the most commonly used surface for artists who work with oil pastels. It’s the perfect texture, and most canvas boards are incredibly sturdy.
1. Prop your canvas on an easel or a flat surface
Although canvas boards are already sturdy, you need a solid work station as well. Easels are artists’ friends! This will keep your canvas at eye-level whether you’re sitting or standing, so you don’t have to hunch over while working.
If you don’t own an easel yet, a flat table or counter would work. Make sure the legs aren’t wobbling and that the table is clean. Try to avoid painting on a table that has bumps or exposed cracks and nails.
2. Hold the canvas while applying the oil pastels
You want to make sure you’re applying equal amounts of pressure. This will be a little hard to do if your canvas is constantly moving from side to side. Use your hand to hold tightly onto the canvas while you use your other hand to apply the pastel, especially when making large strokes. Some easels come with clamps for the canvas, so take advantage of that if you have one.
How to Blend with Baby Oil
Baby oil is a surprisingly great color enhancer. You can add some to your oil pastel paintings to make them look brighter and smoother. This technique is called oil blending.
1. Add a few drops onto the canvas
Put a few drops of baby oil onto your work canvas. Try to avoid pouring in too much, and only drop oil on the areas you want to blend.
2. Use a cotton ball to blend
Take a clean cotton ball and gently dab on the places you dropped baby oil on.
3. Blend with a Q-tip
Another option would be to use a Q-tip instead. Put a small amount of baby oil on the Q-tip, and go over any lines that need blending.
How to Blend With the Stippling and Scumbling Method
The stippling method is one of the simplest blending techniques out there. With this technique, you use small dots to create patterns and images.
1. Use a stippling brush or regular pastel stick
There are paintbrushes made specifically with the stippling method in mind. They are usually fluffy and have blunt bristles. The end of the brush is completely flat so you can make dots, but I prefer to use the stick itself.
2. Apply small strokes
Use small strokes to make sure you’re getting the stippling effect. The strokes should be choppy and uneven. People also usually use quick strokes to create additional color depth.
This blending technique is for artists who don’t play by the rules. It’s excellent for adding depth and texture to oil pastel paintings. You can also do this to make a “broken color” effect.
These methods seem to be extremely time-consuming to work with your oil pastels. I have seen large pieces of work done using these methods and they look outstanding, because they have a very unique textured effect, so it could be worth your time if you can conjure that much enthusiasm to do an entire painting just by applying little dots.
How to Blend Oil Pastels With the Cross-Hatch Method
Heavy pressure blending is one of the most common blending techniques. The cross-hatch method is used to blend overlapping lines that are pointing in different directions. Here’s how you can apply this method to your work:
1. Choose the colors you want to blend
First, choose which two colors you want to blend. It’s better if you choose a light and dark shade that complement each other.
2. Pick the directions of the lines
With the cross-hatch method, you’ll be making strokes in two different directions. Determine whether you want to make the lines parallel to, perpendicular to, or crossing one another in the shape of an X. Also, choose which color goes in which direction.
3. Draw a series of strokes
After you’ve assigned a color to a direction, draw multiple lines for each. You should do this until you have a rich block of color on your paper or canvas.
4. Blend the lines together
Once you’re done drawing a series of lines, it’s time to blend! You can either continue filling in the block with more cross-hatch strokes. Another option would be to combine this with other blending techniques, such as oil blending. Choose a technique that will result in your desired effect.
Before You Go
Did you enjoy that tutorial? I hope you learned something new and picked up some tips and tricks you can use for your next art project!
As you can probably tell by now, there are so many different techniques and tools you can use to blend oil pastels. It’s good to be aware of all of them so that you can experiment and choose the ones that suit your style the most.
What did you think of this article? Was it helpful? Let us know in the comments section below!