Soft Pastels vs Oil Pastels: Differences & Powerful Benefits




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9 minutes

Oil Pastels vs Soft Pastels

Soft Pastels vs Oil Pastels
Soft Pastels vs Oil Pastels

If you’re an artist looking for a versatile and expressive medium to bring your creations to life, you may wonder which type of pastel to use – Soft Pastels vs Oil Pastels.

Soft pastels and oil pastels are two popular options, each with its own unique features and benefits.

This article explores the differences between soft and oil pastels and helps you choose the right medium for your artistic vision.

Key Takeaways:

  • Soft and oil pastels are popular options for artists, each with unique features and benefits.
  • Soft pastels are made of pure pigment and binder, which produce a powdery texture. They are easy to use, offer vibrant colors, and are compatible with various surfaces.
  • Oil pastels are made of a combination of pigment, wax, and oil, which give them a creamy texture. They offer intense colors, the ability to layer and blend smoothly, and are versatile.
  • The choice of pastel medium depends on factors such as the desired texture, level of detail, surface compatibility, and personal artistic style.

What are Soft Pastels?

What are Soft Pastels
Soft Pastels vs Oil Pastels Sticks

If you’re new to pastels, you may wonder what soft pastels are. Soft pastels are a type of pastel made from pigments, chalk, and binder.

Their composition makes them different from other pastels, like oil pastels and pastel pencils.

Soft pastels get their name from their texture—soft and crumbly, almost like chalk. This makes them easy to blend and layer on paper or other surfaces.

Soft Pastel Techniques

Because of their softness, soft pastels are popular among artists who like to create delicate or detailed works.

The texture makes them easy to manipulate and blend, allowing creative expression.

You can use numerous techniques with soft pastels, including creating a wash, layering colors, blending with your fingers or a blending tool, and using watercolor underpainting.

Unlike oil pastels, soft pastels require a protective fixative to prevent smudging and ensure your artwork’s longevity.

What are Oil Pastels?

What are Oil Pastels
What are Oil Pastels

Oil pastels are a type of art medium made with pigment, wax, and a non-drying oil, such as mineral oil or castor oil.

Unlike soft pastels, oil pastels have a creamy texture and are easy to blend. They can be applied to various surfaces, including paper, canvas, and board.

Oil pastels also allow for layering and texture building, making them perfect for creating depth and dimension in the artwork.

One of the main advantages of oil pastels is that they are very opaque and have intense colors.

They can be used to create bold and vibrant artwork with shades and tones that can be achieved through layering and blending.

Another benefit of oil pastels is their compatibility with other media. They can be used with different art mediums, such as acrylic paint, watercolors, and ink, to create mixed-media artwork.

Oil pastels can also create various effects, from smooth and blended transitions to bold and textured strokes.

If you are used to oil paint, you will find that oil pastels offer a similar experience. They can create various effects, from smooth and silky to thick and impasto.

However, unlike oil paint, oil pastels are much easier to work with and do not require solvents or brushes.

Differences Between Soft Pastels and Oil Pastels

It is important to understand their differences when choosing between soft pastels and oil pastels.

While both mediums are composed of pigment and a binder, they have distinct characteristics that impact their usability and final results.

Composition: Soft pastels comprise pigment, chalk, and binder, while oil pastels use pigment, oil, and wax. This difference affects their texture and blending capabilities. Soft pastels have a dry and powdery texture, making them ideal for layering and blending. Oil pastels have a waxy texture that allows them to blend smoothly, much like oil paints.

Texture: Soft pastels produce a velvety and matte finish that blends easily with your fingers or a blending tool. On the other hand, oil pastels produce a shiny and glossy finish with a slick texture, sometimes requiring a solvent or oil to blend effectively.

Blending capabilities: Soft pastels blend easily and allow for delicate details. Their smooth and dry texture makes them ideal for use on paper, suede, or other textured surfaces. Oil pastels are a little more difficult to blend, requiring more pressure or solvents to achieve the desired effect. They can be used on various surfaces, including canvas, paper, and wood.

Permanence: Soft pastels are more fragile and easily smudge or rub off over time. They require a fixative spray to prevent this from happening. Oil pastels are more permanent and do not necessarily require a fixative spray.

Choosing between soft and oil pastels depends on your artistic goals and preferences. Soft pastels may be the right choice if you prefer a dry texture with easy blending capabilities and delicate details.

If you want a shiny and glossy finish with a versatile medium that can be used on various surfaces, oil pastels may be the optimal choice.

Consider your preferred surface, desired texture, and level of detail when choosing between the two mediums.

Benefits of Soft Pastels

Soft pastels are a versatile and popular medium for artists due to their unique qualities and benefits. Here are some of the reasons why you might choose soft pastels for your next artwork:

  • Vibrant colors: Soft pastels offer a wide range of bright and intense colors that can create stunning effects on paper or other surfaces.
  • Easy to use: With their soft texture and solid form, soft pastels can be easily picked up and applied to a surface without additional tools or preparation.
  • Delicate details: Soft pastels allow artists to achieve delicate and nuanced details in their work, making them ideal for portraits and still lifes.
  • Compatible with various surfaces: Soft pastels can be used on various surfaces, such as paper, canvas, and even wood, providing versatility for artists.

In addition to these benefits, soft pastels can also be used to create various effects, such as dry-brushed textures and layered colors.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, soft pastels offer a unique and expressive medium for your next artwork.

Benefits of Oil Pastels

Oil pastels offer numerous advantages for artists creating vibrant, expressive artwork. Here are some of the benefits of using oil pastels:

  • Rich, Intense Colors: Oil pastels allow for rich, intense colors that are difficult to achieve with other mediums.
  • Layering and Blending Capabilities: These pastels have the unique advantage of layer and blending smoothly, allowing for creating dynamic and textured effects in your artwork.
  • Highly Versatile: Oil pastels are versatile and can be used on various surfaces, including paper, canvas, and wood.
  • Similarities to Oil Paint: Oil pastels offer many of the same benefits as oil paint, including their ability to create depth and texture in your artwork.

When using oil pastels, choosing the best quality pastels you can afford is important.

Higher-quality pastels tend to be more pigmented and have better lightfastness, ensuring that your artwork will last for years.

Choosing the Right Pastel for Your Artwork

Sticks of Pastel

Choosing between soft and oil pastels for your artwork can depend on various factors, including your artistic goals, personal preferences, and the specific effects you want to achieve.

Here are some tips to help you make an informed decision:

  • Consider the level of detail: If you want to create intricate and detailed artwork, soft pastels may be a better choice as they allow for finer lines and delicate shading. Oil pastels are better suited for bold, expressive strokes and thicker lines.
  • Think about the surface: Soft pastels are ideal for paper and other textured surfaces holding loose pigment. Oil pastels can also be used on paper but work best on smooth surfaces like canvas or cardboard.
  • Consider the type of artwork: If you want to create paintings resembling traditional oil paintings, oil pastels may be a better choice as they mimic oil’s texture and blending effects. However, soft pastels are often preferred for portraiture or landscape paintings because of their delicate color nuances and blending capabilities.
  • Think about permanence: Soft pastels are known for their lightfastness, meaning they resist fading over time. Oil pastels, on the other hand, can become more brittle and yellow over time. Soft pastels may be the better option if you want your artwork to last a long time.
  • Experiment: Ultimately, the best way to determine which pastel medium is right for your artwork is to experiment with both. Try using soft pastels and oil pastels on different surfaces and with different techniques to discover which medium suits your style and preferences.

Unlocking Your Creative Potential

Whether you prefer the soft, powdery texture of soft pastels or the bold, creamy colors of oil pastels, both mediums offer creative possibilities.

Take the time to explore the differences and benefits of each pastel type and experiment with various techniques to unlock your full creative potential.

As an artist, you can bring your unique visions to life through your choice of medium.

So why not try soft pastels and oil pastels to discover new ways to express yourself and take your artwork to the next level?

Final Thoughts on Soft Pastels vs Oil Pastels

Soft Pastel Stick
Soft Pastel Stick

As you can see, soft pastels and oil pastels offer unique benefits and differences that can greatly impact your artwork.

Soft pastels are ideal for creating subtle, delicate details, while oil pastels are great for creating bold, rich colors and smooth blends.

When choosing a pastel medium, consider your desired texture, level of detail, surface compatibility, and personal artistic style.

Experiment with soft and oil pastels to discover which medium best suits your creative vision.

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