Learn Oil Pastels


Before you begin, please read my Ezine article about oil pastels, "Discover A World Of Brilliant Color." It gives a small history of oil pastels and guidelines for using oil pastels.

Click here to read my article, "Oil Pastels--Discover A World of Brilliant Color"

As Featured On Ezine Articles

Here are three videos of oil pastel workshops I have done for students of all ages. Combining oil pastels and colored pencils produces amazing results and it is a great technique for discovering the many uses of drawing with oil pastels.

Here is an exercise using the colored pencil and oil pastel technique.

Here's what you will need for the Video Project Oil Pastel Lessons

A set of (at least 12) good quality oil pastels.

A good quality, spiral-bound sketch book (at least 50 pages), size 8" x 11" or 9" x 12".

12" ruler

A pencil

Paper towels

You can easily purchase your oil pastels and sketch book online by clicking on the Amazon product logos above!

These videos will acquaint you with using oil pastels and producing amazing drawings. Watch them all. If you feel you should have better drawing skills, please click here to go to my Basic Drawing Lessons.

A good way to start exploring the properties of oil pastels is to do a doodle!

Producing light and shadow can be practiced by shading a circle to look like an illuminated sphere.  Blending light and dark colors is an important skill in this exercise. Try shading other geometrical shapes like squares and triangles.

Ready to draw?  Set up a still life and begin.  Oil pastels with produce vibrant color and rich textural effects.

Real Feedback

Thanks Lois,

I really enjoy your classes. It has really helped me improve my skill with various materials. Also, I love your voice on the videos...very relaxing.

Gena Smith


Hi Lois,

I was searching the web for ideas for me to teach K-3 students in an after school art program which meets for about 10 weeks in Spring and Fall. I have no art background but would like to teach art concepts to children to help them become independent thinkers. I've seen the results of children's artwork through a friend and loved the results. Children are not afraid to explore. I also have a deep desire to use my right brain.

I live in Honolulu.

Ranie Mulligan


Thank you for sending the links. I live in Sunnyvale, California. I came upon your site when I was searching the internet for some ideas for developing lessons for a free art class I wanted to offer kids in my neighborhood.

Best regards, Saba


How Oil Pastels were invented (Wikipedia)

At the end of World War I, Kanae Yamamoto proposed an overhaul of the Japanese education system. He thought that it had been geared too much towards uncritical absorption of information by imitation and wanted to promote a less restraining system, a vision he expounded in his book Theory of self-expression which described the Jiyu-ga method, "learning without a teacher".

Teachers Rinzo Satake and his brother-in-law Shuku Sasaki read Yamamoto's work and became fanatical supporters. They became keen to implement his ideas by replacing the many hours Japanese children had to spend drawing ideograms with black Indian ink with free drawing hours, filled with as much as colour as possible. For this, they decided to produce an improved wax crayon and in 1921 founded the Sakura Cray-Pas Company and began production.

The new product wasn't completely satisfactory, pigment concentration was low and blending or impasto was impossible, so in 1924 they decided to develop a high viscosity crayon: the oil pastel. This used a mixture of mashed paraffin, stearic acid and coconut oil as a binder. Designed as a relatively cheap, easily applied, colorful medium, oil pastels granted younger artists and students a greater freedom of expression than the expensive chalk-like pastels normally associated with the fine arts. Until the addition of a stabiliser in 1927, oil pastels came in two types: winter pastels with additional oil to prevent hardening and summer pastels with little oil to avoid melting. State schools simply couldn't afford the medium and, suspicious of the very idea of "self-expression" in general, favoured the coloured pencil, a cheaper German invention then widely promoted in Europe as a means to instill work discipline in young children.

Oil pastels were an immediate commercial success and other manufacturers were quick to take up the idea, such as Dutch company Talens, who began to produce Panda Pastels in 1930. However, none of these were comparable to the professional quality oil pastels produced today. These early products were intended to introduce western art education to Japanese children, and not as a fine arts medium, although Sakura managed to persuade some avant-garde artists to acquaint themselves with the technique, among them Pablo Picasso

In 1947 Picasso, who for many years had been unable to procure oil pastels because of the war conditions, convinced Henri Sennelier, a French manufacturer who specialised in high quality art products, to develop a fine arts version. In 1949 Sennelier produced the first oil pastels intended for professionals and experienced artists. These were superior in wax viscosity, texture and pigment quality and capable of producing more consistent and attractive work. The Japanese Holbein brand of oil pastel appeared in the mid-1980s with both student and professional grades; the latter with a range of 225 colours

Another brand, Caran d'Ache, introduced Neocolor wax crayons onto the market in 1965, using a patented polyethylene wax with superior lubrication; in the nineties these were developed into an oil pastel, Neopastel.