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Can You Use Oil Pastels on Canvas?


Can you use oil pastels on canvas? Beginning the journey to becoming an artist can be quite a struggle. This is especially true for those who have yet to master any painting medium. One of the most forgiving media is a set of oil pastels. Molded-in sticks, oil pastels are made from oils, pigments, and wax.

Quite adaptable, oil pastels can be used to draw on a surface like a crayon or as oil paint when mixed with a small amount of oil such as turpentine. Oil pastels are handy. Not only do they wonderfully complement other art media, but they also produce such a smooth texture as they beautifully coat any surface and give rise to dynamic colors having blended perfectly.

This amazing art medium works well with any surface; it can be applied to bond paper, rocks, wood, and even glass. This means that, yes, oil pastels can be used on canvas. The question is: How? Let’s dive into it below.

Guide to Working with Oil Pastels on Canvas

Here are some nifty tips on how you can use your oil pastels to create a masterpiece on canvas.

Bring Forth a Gradient Effect by Layering the Colors

For those who don’t know, a sleek transition of different hues in an artwork is called a gradient. Usually used as a background, this captivating effect can spotlight your subject.

Oil pastels are the perfect medium to make gradient effects. Spread light and dark shades next to one another; then dip a cotton bud into a baby oil. Brush the colors together until they’re blended.

Create Outlines Using Markers, Pens, or Pencils

To begin with, grab a practice sheet. Draw a rough draft of your potential masterpiece using the most suitable marker you have. Label the colors for each part of your artwork.

When you’re ready, sketch outlines of your work on your chosen canvas. Use very little pressure while applying light shades to your sketches. Have the sketch outlines guide you while you paint; this makes it so that fine details are not needed to be drawn. An important tip is not to use dark colors, such as black when outlining as it will make a mess of your creation.

Guide to Blending Pastels on Canvas

Finding it hard to blend? We put together a guide to make it easier for you to combine your oil pastels.


A great way to merge colors is to pre-blend your oil pastels; this technique is done by mixing the colors before applying them to the canvas. To do this, snap off small pieces of the oil pastels you want to mix. Put them in a palette then use a knife to mix until the consistency of the paint is achieved. Use your fingers when applying to your canvas.

Directly Blending on the Canvas

This incredible technique is done by using the oil pastel to draw on the canvas, like how crayons are used. To start, select one oil pastel and use it to draw on your canvas. Apply a different color next to your first layer. Use cotton balls, tissue, fingers, or cotton buds dipped in baby oil to blend the colors.

If possible, use gloves when using your finger for this technique; you can also wrap the tape around the finger you intend to use. Remember to wipe your fingers especially if you plan to use your bare fingers. This prevents accidental color-mixing which could mess up the painting.

Mixing Oil Pastels with Other Painting Media

The versatile oil pastel is compatible with many other painting media; however, it cannot mix with certain painting media such as acrylic paint. If you want to use both, remember to apply the acrylic paint, and let it dry before layering oil pastel over it. Because of the oily quality of oil pastels, the topmost layer should be oil pastels.

Creating the Background Before the Foreground

Begin with the background of your creation; apply a fair amount of pressure when doing so. When you’re done, add the detailed elements. Keep in mind to let up on the pressure if you want to create the backdrop at another time; the pastel colors you use should be dense.

Overlapping Then Scratching Off

For this technique, continuously layer different shades and colors to create an effect. Apply a darker shade on top of lighter ones then scrape off the topmost layer for the effect to be seen.

Note that you should take time when doing this as each layer should settle before applying on top of it. This is to prevent damaging your painting.

Using Blending Tools

There are a lot of blending tools you could use when making your artwork. Pastel brushes, tortillions, blending stumps, and pastel shapers are great for when you want to come away with the best precision and control.

Pastel shapers are suitable for blending larger areas while the others are suited for smaller areas.

Making Use of Different Shades When Sketching Elements

This can be done by picking at least 3 shades to use of an element. The middle color would be used for the outline while the darker color would be applied to one side and the lighter to the other. Layer the middle color with the other shades for more details.

The color should be blended around; to do so, you can use your fingertips or opt for a tissue.

Employing Advanced Blending Techniques

The following are for adventurous artists who want to challenge themselves with trickier methods.

Scumbling Technique

This method is done using 2 or more shades. Set about by scrawling around the canvas with one color; once you’re done, do the same with the other colors. Keep scrawling around the canvas, overlap different colors up till you get your desired consistency.

Making Drop-out Images

Create a stencil by drawing a design on a piece of paper then cutting out the said design. Smear oil pastel on the outline of your stencil with great pressure. Put the stencil on the canvas, then rub off its color from the edges onto the canvas. This will create drop-out images of your design.


A great technique for when you want to have fantastic depth, stippling lets you create a stroke that is quite small and uneven. The layering this creates is the reason for this method’s depth.

Cross-hatch Technique

This one should be done with a light and a dark color. Select a direction for each color; it does not matter if it’s diagonal up, diagonal down, vertical, or horizontal. One-color should go in one direction while the other goes in the other direction. Redo over and over until you’re satisfied.

Sgraffito Technique

Smear a dark color all over your canvas then layer a light color above it. Repeat this step about 5 times, making sure that the topmost layer is a dark color. Carve out a design using a pin, toothpick, or any other fine object you deem acceptable.


Blending is a great skill to perfect; it takes practice to get it right when making your artwork. Trying out a variety of techniques will help you come up with your blending preference. This makes it even more important to use a simple yet adaptable art medium and the oil pastel fits the bill. Get your oil pastels and canvas, try out these tips, and let us know what you think!

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