10 Clever Tips on How to Blend Oil Pastels

As an artist, picking the best medium for your creativity is crucial. Oil pastels work as an amazing medium that helps spark creativity while sending you through a journey comprised of originality and colors. They are an improved and new version of our very classic crayons.

Today, oil pastels have dominated the world of art given their ease of use and the possibility for provisioning new techniques.

Oil pastels are creatively assorted with fascinating hues and shades that help you move ahead of the trial and error phase and blend together some amazing masterpieces. They can be used on paper, canvas, cards, pastel paper, and even board. You get a unique texture that needs to be worked on accordingly with each surface.

So, how does one blend oil pastels the right way? Before we check out the blending techniques, let us learn more about the dos’ and don’ts of blending oil pastels by understanding the basics.

How to Blend Oil Pastels


If you wish to work using an artistic medium that doesn’t need multiple pieces of equipment such as palettes, brushes, or water, using oil pastels is an ideal move. These colors are easy to blend, given their oily texture. It is mostly used in canvas. However, it can also be used in other painting mediums, as explained above for oil pastel techniques.

Canvas and paper are the most common choices artists use to create masterpieces. The way you blend the oil pastels would vary depending on the surface you choose to work with.

Before you start working with the vibrant colors, finalize what the prime color of your painting is to be. Doing this will help you decide the tonality of the painting.

Next, select the mid-value colors. They will play a secondary role in the painting.

Finalize the highlight color that will give your painting a clear outline. Keep in mind that the age of your oil pastels would also play a significant role in the outcome of the painting.

Old oil pastels tend to be challenging to work with. Fresh pastels can be perfect for getting a smooth coverage on the canvas. Plus, acid-free pastels are better on your canvas and do not corrode the painting surface during the blending process.

Moreover, old oil pastel colors can also break off mid-blending and result in patchy work.

So, you might have to do more than simple blending to achieve perfection when using your old oil pastels. Also, it is harder to achieve darker colors with layers of old oil pastels.

Artist-quality pastels help you achieve easier transition between colors than student-grade oil pastels.

Different Ways to Blend Oil Pastels

How to Blend Oil Pastels

Method 1: Use Solvent to Blend

For artists in need of a waxy flow of color, the best way to blend perfectly is using baby oil for the purpose. So, how does this help your blending escapade with oil pastels? The solution is very simple.

Bring over a good-quality q-tip and dip it in the baby oil. Make sure it isn’t dripping wet, rather moist enough to help wet the dark shade and lighter colors.

Now, rub this on the pigmented oil pastel and start working on your painting. Using baby oil helps liquefy the oil pastel a bit and allows an even spread of colors throughout the canvas.

Now, you might assume that the oil would make your surface very soggy and oily. However, it only happens at the start of the process. As the colors start to dry off, so does the oil through evaporation or absorption. Either way, the painting doesn’t end up as an oil-based mess.

Alternatively, you can also use mineral oil, linseed oil, or olive oil to achieve a similar blending perfection.

Regardless of the solvent you use, make sure it isn’t too thick as it can stay on the canvas and corrode the same. Use light oils to help with the blending without affecting the texture of the surface in any way.

Method 2: Mix Colors Together

This particular method works perfectly if you are using old oil pastels. Start by cutting the colors that you plan on blending into small pieces. Now, using a lighter or even a candle, heat up the high-quality oil pastels and mix them until your desired color blend is achieved.

Alternatively, you can simply heat up the piece and color with the pieces on the canvas itself. The warm texture of the colors would allow you to blend with ease. Heating up the pastels gives them a paint-like buttery finish. Doing this makes them look similar to oil paints used for canvas pastel painting.

While you do this, make sure you don’t hold the color too close to the heating element, or it might start melting or become soft pastels that aren’t easy to work with. In this method, you might have to work fast enough before it starts to cool down. You can use some good-quality heating pads to ensure they remain warm for longer while you show your creativity on the canvas.

Method 3: Follow Overlay Technique

Overlay or color mixing technique is the process in which you layer the oil pastel colors directly onto the canvas. Artists use this method to blend large sections of the painting in a circular motion and not the smaller areas in need of fine detailing. This particular blending technique for a larger area in the canvas helps fasten the process without much scope for errors.

It also helps create vibrant color tones. To start with:

  1. Apply a generous oil pastel layer to the canvas.
  2. Layer it with an oil pastel of different colors.
  3. Keep adding additional layers and blend your pastels until a uniform hue is achieved on the canvas.

You can experiment with the light-pressure color blending technique instead of applying thick layers of the oil pastel colors. However, make sure you use minimum pressure to apply thin oil pastel coats on the canvas.

Method 4: Scumble Method

The scumbling method is used for pastels where the light yet opaque pastels are layered atop different picture sections. Try not to use this blending technique for darker colors or darker pastel sticks. These areas might have easily had a uniform pastel application. They might even be partly covered with colors.

Due to the scumbling process, optical mixing of color happens naturally. It happens when the colors positioned beside one another are visually mixed together to create a better or newer color perception.

In case the yellow oil pastel patches are placed right next to the blue marks, an artist will achieve green coverage post the blending process.

Moreover, the canvas or paper’s physical texture also plays a big role in the overall effect achieved through this process. Given that the scumbled marks with oil pastels are applied lightly, your canvas’ texture would pick up these colors in a spot where the surface is raised.

It would leave spaces for coloring under the recessed area of the canvas texture. Scumbling is most effective in drawings that have been finished on smooth surfaces. Although surface texture might not be the prime factor affecting the scumbling process, it sure needs to be considered in the color blending process.

Method 5: Cross-Hatch Trick

Cross-Hatch Trick

Now, there are two blending techniques involved here. The first is the hatching technique that requires the artists to create several parallel lines with colors applied one on another.

This process is called hatching until the marks run linearly in a similar direction. The resulting effect can vary depending on factors such as spacing between the parallel lines and volume of the hatches.

On the other hand, cross-hatch method refers to a similar linear-marking strategy. However, the exception here is the fact that each of the subsequent layers is applied in a bit different direction. The resulting effect would be similar to the pattern seen in woven threads.

Method 6: Try Sgraffito Method

Sgraffito is actually a word that is derived from “Graffiare,” which is an Italian word. It refers to the scratching method. You can obtain a subtle result by applying a single oil pastel layer and then scraping or scratching the color all the way back.

You can also achieve precise marks by rubbing a layer of oil pastel over the dried acrylic colors. You can use different types of pointed and stiff objects to scrap away the oil pastel lines to achieve the sgraffito effect. Objects such as plastic, wood, and even toothpicks can serve as a great scraping tool.

In addition, several artists use nail cleaning knives or pointed can opening tools present in the nail clippers. You can also opt for the scraper at the end of watercolor brushes. It functions as a chisel to give you fine and straight lines and even slightly curved ones.

Method 7: Use Your Fingers

The finger blending method for oil pastels is another creative method that is easy to master, even for beginner artists.

However, to blend the oil pastel colors using this technique, you need to start with applying your first color that needs to be blended on the canvas or paper.

Next, apply your second color. Use your finger pad to rub these combinations of oil pastels into one another gently. Once you are done with the blending process, you can use wet wipes to clean the colors from your fingers.

If you are tired of using your fingers, you can use color shapers or tortillons to blend the oil pastels. We will learn more about the tortillons in the next segment.

Method 8: Blend with Tortillons

Also known as stumps, tortillons are paper sheets that are tightly wound, similar to a pencil. Now, rub the tortillon’s end onto an area that must be blended.

Once the tortillon becomes too dirty, just unwind this paper and expose the fresh tip to start blending again.

Remember that a tortillon can be soft, so you must apply gentle pressure on the tool to blend without breaking the tool. These tools are available in 3 sizes: medium, small, and large.

Method 9: Paper Towel Also Works

Another great way to blend the oil pastel colors is to use paper towels. If you don’t want to dirty your hands, using paper towels works like magic. They are ideal for keeping the hands clean while achieving a similar effect as that of hand blending.

However, if you see splotches or dabs on the canvas with the paper towel blending technique, it is ideal to use your fingers. Alternatively, you can also use cotton balls to blend dark colors and light colors in oil pastel.

Method 10: Take Help of Kneaded Eraser

You can also blend your oil pastel colors with the help of a high-quality kneaded eraser. This oil-pastel blending tool can be formed and reformed into different shapes to adhere to the artist’s specific needs.

In simple words, kneaded rubbers are a pliable variant of erasers that are perfect for smooth blending. When using this eraser, make sure you rub the oil pastel colors lightly to achieve a distinct hue. Rubbing too hard might cause you to lose color and cause fading issues instead of proper blending.

Oil Pastel Blending Tools are Effective

Apart from all the methods mentioned above, you can also use tools such as pastel brushes, pastel shapers, or chamois.

Most artists use chamois for oil pastel blending needs as it is a flexible and soft leather piece that helps with easier blending. A chamois is perfect for blending larger canvas areas and is preferred by most professional artists that use artist-grade pastels.

You can also wrap your chamois around the finger to easily blend the pastels. A chamois can be reused after washing in the machine or post-hand washing.

You can also use high-quality pastel brushes or pastel shapers that are designed specifically for oil pastels.

While pastel brushes have hairs at one end, the shapers come with a tapered or flat rubber end. The flat-ended shapers are perfect for oil pastel blending of large colored areas.

On the other hand, tapered shapers blend minute areas on the canvas. You can also purchase a dual-purpose tool that houses a high-quality brush in one end with a shaper added to another.

Frequently Asked Some Questions (FAQs)


Q: Why is my oil pastel not blending easily?

Your oil pastel colors do not blend easily if you happen to layer a thick layer on top of another thick one. For easy blending on a drawing surface, the key is to allow the base color layer to be lighter. It allows room for teeth on the canvas and colors to hold together for an even blending process.

Q: What is the easiest way to blend oil pastels?

The best and easiest way to blend oil pastels is the friction method. Simply color the canvas as needed and start rubbing vigorously until a smooth and naturally flowing gradient is achieved with the painting.

Of course, this is done with your fingers. However, there are more methods to help you blend oil pastels with ease.

Q: How do you blend cheap oil pastels?

Certain cheap oil pastels tend to dry out quickly when not used for long. It happens with most oil pastels, but the process is faster in the cheaper ones. The key is to heat up the pastels or introduce some form of light oil for better blending.

Q: How do you blend oil pastels without tissue paper?

The perfect way to blend oil pastels without tissue paper is to use a chamois piece. This versatile and accurate blending tool helps blend bigger surface areas. Simply wrap the piece around the finger and start blending.

Q: Can you blend oil pastels with only water?

No, the colors of oil pastels cannot be blended with only water. Oil isn’t soluble in a water-based medium. Given that oil pastels contain oil, it imparts them a creamy and thick texture.

However, they are not at all soluble in a water medium.

Final Thoughts

When learning about the best ways to blend oil pastels, remember that a fresh pack would work better than an old one. You can definitely renew the pastels with some heating action and oil.

Still, it might take up longer than average to aid the blending process. On the other hand, oil pastels can give you a scope to showcase your creativity in the best possible way!

Loard Eva

Hi there! I’m Eva, artist, designer, photographer and mom of three little gentlemen altogether. When I’m not playing with my kids, you’ll find me researching and writing for ChooseMarker.

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