Art & Craft Tutorials, Guides & Advice

Art Supply Junkie – Oil Pastels & Oil Bars


Watch the video below:

What are oil pastels?

Oil pastel (also called wax oil crayon) is a painting and drawing medium with characteristics similar to pastels and wax crayons. Unlike “soft” or “French” pastel sticks, which are made with a gum or methyl cellulose binder, oil pastels consist of pigment mixed with a non-drying oil and wax binder. The surface of an oil pastel painting is therefore less powdery, but more difficult to protect with a fixative. Oil pastels provide a harder edge than “soft” or “French” pastels but are more difficult to blend. – Wikipedia

The way I would describe them is like crayons in shape, but more like lipstick in substance. They are soft and creamy and heaven to blend with your fingers. The brand I have and would highly recommend are Sennelier. Expensive, but amazing to work with. I buy singles of the colours I know I’ll use rather than buy an expensive box with loads of colours I’ll never reach for.

The thing that is important to know about oil pastels, is that they are not water soluble. That means it’s not very easy to use them in conjunction with watersoluble media (such as acrylics or watercolours) as they will simply not ‘stick’ to the oily medium. As a general rule you can use oil pastels on top of watersoluble media, but not underneath.


What are oil bars?

Oil stick, oil bar, or oilstick, is an art medium. It is produced in a stick form similar to that of a crayon or oil pastel. It is distinguished from oil pastel, to which it may appear similar, in that the oil used is comparatively volatile, causing a skin to develop on exposed surfaces. – Wikipedia

The oil bar I have is made by Winsor Newton. It looks like a huge oil pastel and in terms of application it feels quite similar to oil pastels (although due to the size you have less precision). The way it differs is that it’s like oil paint in stick form. This means that it actually ‘dries’ after a few days by forming a film over it.


Why do I love them?

It’s creamy spreadable goodness in pastel form! I AM IN LOOOOOVE! I love blending these with my fingers. They blend really well with oil pastels and even with acrylics (you can watch a video here where I demonstrate this technique)

The amazing thing to me is their drying properties. If you mix them in with oil pastels they still dry to a film, so it’s a wonderful way of making sure your oil pastels dry without having to use a fixative.

You have to have patience with the drying process, it generally takes about 24 hours (depending on how thickly they’re applied) to no longer be creamy to the touch. It probably takes several days to a week to dry fully. When I use it in my art journals I leave the page open for a few days and if I do need to close the journal I put a protective blank page in between.



Things to try

  • Apply oil bar liberally and blend out with your fingers. Add shading/colours with oil pastels and blend into the oil bar.
  • Apply oil bar liberally and blend in fluid acrylics with your fingers.
  • Write over oily media with a Stabilo All pencil
  • Scratch into a layer of oil bar/pastel to create interesting texture
  • Use oil pastel in conjunction with beeswax. Oil pastels will work both under and over beeswax.
  • Melt your oil pastels and spread them around with a heat tool/quilting iron (best to use cheaper oil pastels for this).
  • Use oil pastels as a resist (apply oil pastels, leaving space around them, then apply a wash of watercolour over the top)

How do you use your oil pastels and oil bars? Leave a comment to let me know!

By Iris

Hi I'm Iris! I'm a mixed media artist from London, UK. I want to inspire everyone with a creative heart to make and do what they love!

2 replies on “Art Supply Junkie – Oil Pastels & Oil Bars”

I have to say I was never a huge fan of oil pastels … until I bought two Sennelier sticks last year. OMG! Those are awesome! I will definitely get more when I have the chance.
I have not heard of oil bars before but that sounds really interesting. Will have to look out for them.

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