Soft Pastels vs Oil Pastels: A Detailed Comparison

In the art world, there are two main types of pastels: oil pastels and soft pastels. Oil Pastels vs Soft Pastels: What are the Differences? A Detailed Comparison is a guide to help you understand what each type of pastel offers, how they work differently, which one might be better for your needs, and more!

Soft Pastels vs Oil Pastels

There are benefits to both of these mediums, so it can be hard to know which one you should choose. Let’s explore the differences and similarities between oil and soft pastels so that you can make an informed decision on your own!

Key Differences Between Oil Pastels vs Soft Pastels


Oil pastels Soft pastels
Made with oil, wax and pigment Pigments mixed in an adhesive binder
High opacity Softer powdery pigment
Bright, vibrant color Less opaque
Better for covering large areas Ideal for creating detailed work
Better for beginners Smoother than oil-based paints/sticks
prices range from $30 to $300 prices range from $0.50 and $15

Similarities of Oil and Soft Pastels

  • Both have pigment that bound together with a binder
  • Both can be used on a variety of different surfaces such as canvas board paper wood glass plastic and metal to name just a few.

Soft Pastels

What Are Soft Pastels Made of?

Soft pastels are made up of pigments combined with a binder and fillers. The pigment gives color to the chalk, while the filler adds bulk or weight. Binders hold everything together within a chalk stick. Chalk sticks come in different sizes, but they’re typically around an inch long by half an inch wide (25mm x 13mm).

What are the properties of soft pastels?

    • Soft pastels offer a great range of opacity from light to very dark, depending on the pigment used. They’re also easy to blend and erase if needed – both essential properties for creating your own style or recreating another artist’s work. The nice thing about soft pastels is how forgiving they are – mistakes can be easily fixed with water or toned down by applying more paint over top (although this will ultimately change the color).
    • Soft pastel also comes with its own built-in protective layer which makes it far less likely that your artwork will be damaged by water, humidity, and other environmental factors. You can even take soft pastels outside if need be since they don’t lose their color easily as oil paints do!
    • Soft pastels are also available in different hardness levels, based on how tightly pressed they are against a surface when used. Harder chalk is ideal for more detailed work where softness would mean losing detail or making mistakes that can’t be easily corrected with water or an eraser because it’s too delicate. The opposite holds true for softer chalks – if you’re trying to create bold lines, then harder sticks will only get in your way; however, applying them requires more pressure which means there’s a greater chance of putting too much chalk down all at once (and that applies across the board regardless of whether you use oil or soft pastel). Soft chalk comes in many forms: square sticks like Derwent Academy Pastels or circular ones like Carbothello pastels.
Derwent Academy Pastels, Soft, 24 Pack Derwent Academy Pastels, Soft, 24 Pack
  • High-quality soft pastels
  • Soft texture
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Soft Pastel Techniques and Tips

Soft pastels give you the ability to blend and layer colors. This makes it easy for beginners to create soft, muted effects that can be used in a variety of different ways.
To get an even more refined look, use a paper stump or tortillion wrapped with tissue paper. The stumps are usually made from wood and will apply color like a breeze while allowing you full control over where the pigment goes on your painting surface. You may also want to try using erasers as this is another great way to achieve clean lines and balanced shapes/contours in your work!

Use spray fixative to help set the color. You can also try working on toned paper or even adding a powder pigment over your soft pastel work for added effect!

Oil Pastels

What Are Oil Pastels Made of?

Oil pastels are made from a mixture of oil and pigment. The most typical composition is two-thirds oil to one-third pigment, but the ratio can vary depending on whether it is for soft or hard use.

What Are the Properties of Oil Pastels?

Oil pastels are made from oil and pigment, so they behave like a crayon or wax-based product. This means that you can blend them together on the surface of your artwork to create new colors as well as smudge them around with your finger if desired – which is why this medium lends itself perfectly for creating soft-looking artwork where smoothly blended effects are required without using too many tools in order to achieve it. Because oils have such strong color intensity, they won’t fade over time, making them ideal for drawing outside or on big projects.

Oil Pastels Technique

Oil pastels can be used on their own or in conjunction with other art mediums. To get the best results, your oil painting techniques and tools should reflect how you want to use them.

  • Use oil pastel for creating backgrounds
  • Use oil pastel sticks in place of charcoal
  • Apply a fixative after applying color
  • Use oil pastel in place of acrylic paint

Oil vs Soft Pastels: Which is Best for Beginners?

Oil pastels are often easier for beginners to use. They give good control during application. Soft pastels may be difficult to use because of their consistency and intensity in color pigment. You should experiment with both types of pastels first so you can decide what is better for your projects or art materials collection.

Soft Pastels come with a variety of different colors already included, while oil pastels don’t always include color variations or may require additional resources for more pigment colors.

Our Recommendations

We hope that this post helped you to better understand the difference between oil pastels and soft pastels. If you are still having trouble deciding which one is best for your needs, you can read more about Best Soft Pastels and Best Oil Pastels in our detailed reviews.

Final Words

We hope this comparison of oil pastels vs. soft pastels has been helpful for you! As we’ve mentioned, there are many differences between the two types of art supplies that make each one better suited for certain situations and tasks. We always recommend experimenting with a variety of different materials until you find what works best for your individual needs because it’s all about finding your creative groove and becoming confident in techniques that work well to achieve desired results.

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