7 Distinct Techniques to Transform Your Oil Pastel Projects

Oil pastels are one of those mediums that you either love or hate. Sometimes, the mess of them smeared over every surface just outweighs the benefits of using them in your classroom.

Maybe you have always felt that you were demonstrating techniques incorrectly leading to your students’ work looking like they used plain ol’ crayons. Well, have no fear! Here are seven techniques to wow your students with the next time you dig out the oil pastels. Be sure to download the handy guide at the end of this article!

Oil Pastel Techniques

1. Heavy Pressure Blending
Generously add oil pastel in one direction onto your paper. Layer additional colors on top to create a rich, blended look. Experiment with black or white pastel for shadowing and highlighting effects. Here’s a quick lesson that uses this technique.

2. Light Pressure Blending
Lightly add oil pastels on paper with little pressure. Layer more colors to achieve various values or even different hues.

3. Color Mixing
Apply a rich layer of oil pastel then follow with another color applied on top (consider trying primaries first). Continue to blend/layer additional colors to achieve your desired hue. Students could practice this technique when creating nature drawings.

4. Stippling
Using small, choppy strokes, create a stippled effect on your paper. Layer additional colors for depth within your technique.

5. Scumbling
Apply controlled, scribbled marks of oil pastel. Build up with additional layers of various colors to reach desired value and texture.

6. Sgraffito
Overlap two thick layers of different oil pastel colors on paper. Using a paper clip or wooden stylus, scratch or scrape away line designs revealing the color underneath.

7. Oil
Using a cotton swab soaked in baby oil, smooth the oil pastel to create blended color or your paper. Let dry overnight.

Try these techniques the next time you are considering using oil pastels in your classroom. You and your students will be surprised at the flexibility of this adaptable material. For additional reference, I’ve created a guide for all the techniques mentioned available for download below!

OilPastelTechniques

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Students in our Instructional Strategies class regularly share ideas just like these. If you need PD hours and want to take a relevant course, Instructional Strategies is a slam dunk. The collaboration and participation between class participants is amazing. You’ll walk away with lessons, technical strategies and fixes for your most common materials issues. You can’t leave the course uninspired!

What is your favorite way to create with oil pastels?

What oil pastel techniques do you regularly show students?

Tracy Hare

Tracy is a middle school art teacher from central MN who strives to create rich, meaningful content and resources through her Art Ed PRO Director role at AOE.

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  • Mr. Post

    I just finished up with oil pastels last week – I don’t think my art room floor will ever be the same. I have no idea how kids can manage to drop and step on so many oil pastels in two week’s time. Thank goodness they strip and rewax the floor over the summer.

    • Phyllis Bloxson

      Been there, done that!

    • JAS

      I agree… I think kids see those bright and colorful nubs on the floor and somehow mysteriously HAVE to step on them subconsciously ;)

    • Jessica

      My school they just sweep and then put more wax on, but my room was once an auto shop classroom. I like the extra added colors each year.

  • Emily Valenza

    i never give black or gray oil pastels to students- i have them use deep cool colors for dark tones- it keeps the color from getting muddy and gives a good opportunity to introduce warm and cool shading!

    • Tracy Hare

      Great tip! Thanks for sharing Emily!

  • JAS

    This is great! Most of the points I already knew and have tried, like the heavy blending and the stippling, but I have never tried baby oil to blend and mix. I saw someone use oil solvent to smooth out colored pencils and it looked like paint! I will definitely be experimenting with oil pastels (one of my least favorite mediums, by the way….) and baby oil this summer to see how I can bring back an oil pastel project in to my classes (I have sooooo many that need used, haha). Thanks.

  • Elaine

    we use white spirit to blend, though not ideal with kids and you need a well ventilated room!

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