How to Make Special Effects with Oil Pastels


One of the most recent mediums in art, invented in Japan in post World War I, is oil pastels. Oil pastels are different then other paints. They are more like crayons than the usual paints in that they are used in dry form. Yet, like most paints, you can use assorted techniques to make some of the most unique and interesting special effects in the art world. Here are a few techniques to try.

Things You'll Need

  • Oil pastels
  • Canvas or oil pastel paper
  • Vegetable oil
  • Assorted paint brushes
  • Small craft knife
  • Paper "stump"
  • Clean palette knife
  • Imagination
  • Choose the material you will paint on. The choice of material you apply your pastels on can make a big difference. Besides the usual pastel paper, try experimenting on surfaces such as canvas, metal ,wood, marble, glass ,even masonite. Each one will produce a different effect when used.

  • Create an impasto effect with oil pastels. The word "impasto" is a painting term that means to apply the paint thickly. Using more pressure, apply the oil pastels to cover your entire canvas or material thickly. Once that is finished, dip a paint brush in vegetable oil and squeeze off excess. You can now use this brush to manipulate the thick layer of oil pastels. This causes a nice effect that also can be used for staining the canvas so that you can make less oil pastel paint go over a greater area, therefore saving paint and money.

  • Mix or blend colors together. There are a couple of ways to do this. Either roll papers into a tight tube or buy a "paper stump" at a craft store. Use the tip of the stump to mix the colors on the canvas. The other way is to use one color of oil pastels first. Then wait a few seconds because as you draw across your canvas with the oil pastel, it creates a small amount of heat. It's nothing you can feel yourself but if you apply another color too soon it won't blend with the first color; rather it will just lay on top of the original color.

  • Carve oil pastels to a point with a craft knife. Now you can draw and add intricate details to your painting. Cut a oil pastel lengthwise and you can paint in broad strokes to fill more area for things like the sky or other background.

  • Add another bit of color across your original oil pastel block of color. Suppose you are painting something like an apple. Most of the oil pastel used for the apple was red tones. You'd like to add just a touch of another color, perhaps a bit of yellow or green to capture the subtle shading of an apple. Carefully lay the painting horizontal on a flat surface. Take a yellow oil pastel and the clean palette knife and very lightly flick small flecks of yellow onto the apple in your painting. This technique is a special effect called dusting. Once the flecks of yellow have fallen across the base red color in the apple, then press them lightly with the flat side of the palette knife.

  • Imagine the possibilities. These are a few of the ways to enhance your oil pastel paintings. Since it is a relatively new medium , new ways can be discovered with experimentation so using your imagination is the best tool of all.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are on a budget and using a more inexpensive set of lighter oil pastels, you should invest at the least in a professional grade better quality of yellow and white. These will be needed for highlighting and to do touch ups.
  • Oil pastels do not dry completely like other paint mediums. The best way to store your painting is to place it in acid free tissue paper or matted and framed.

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