Let's Get Your Creative Juices Flowing!!!
For YEARS my Awesome Art School students have been begging me to master pastels so I could bring them some amazing new projects in these FUN mediums! If you're one of these peeps, today's the day you've been waiting for!!
I am NOT being dramatic when I say I haven't used oil pastels since I was around 8 years old. To get this party started, I did a little oil pastel for beginners research and bought four oil pastel sets by different brands to see which one gives me the best bang for my buck: Cray-pas, Mungyo, Faber-Castell, or the "Ferrari of the oil pastel world," Sennelier.
Join me in my studio for Part #1 of this NEW pastels for mixed media beginners series! Stay tuned for next week when I complete my first oil pastels project (as an adult!), and follow that video up with a test to see how pastels can fit into my signature mixed media layering process - the Hamburger System! Soooo much fun is in store!! Let's dive in...
*All product links are affilliate & for U.S. residents only.*
In case you don't have an oil pastel set yet, here's a quick rundown on price points for each set I'm reviewing today. If you're new to me, my channel, or Awesome Art School, I'm always on the hunt for VALUE, and looking for the best brands to recommend to my students that will produce quality results, without breaking the bank. I found it kinda funny that most of the brands were pretty similar in price, except for Sennelier.
Immediately it makes ya pause right?! What in the heck is so special about Sennelier to cost 4x the other brands?! Well, there's actually a story here that's pretty interesting...
The oil pastels developed by Sennelier were developed specifically FOR PICASSO! Yup!! In 1949. Can you imagine?! I guess he wanted something he could take on the go for field sketching that had qualities similar to oil paints. Pretty amazing right?!
Who doesn't wanna work with a product that was specifically developed for one of the masters?!
Before we get into the reviews for each of these oil pastel sets, we need to talk paper. If you're new to my world, I believe paper is JUST as important (if not moreso!) as any art supply you're playing with. Paper can kinda make or break your art, and is NOT something you should ignore.
Not sure which paper to use for which mixed media art project? CHECK OUT this video.
When it comes to oil pastels, I learned you definitely need something with "tooth," or texture to it. Some people like to buy "pastel paper," but I didn't have any of that for today's demo, so grabbed a sheet of my textured, cold press watercolor paper since it's what I had on hand and know I love.
The next big thing I learned about oil pastels is they are actually super toxic (unless they're not labeled "non-toxic" on the packaging - usually found on oil pastel sets for kids). Because of this, it's important to either wear gloves while you work, or to put on a protective coating for your hands, like Gloves in a Bottle.
Once my hands felt nice and protected from Gloves in a Bottle, I set up my test. I thought it would be helpful to not only test a light and dark shade from each brand, but to test how much pressure was needed when applying the pastels to get decent coverage on paper.
Cray-Pas totally took me back to my childhood and felt a lot like crayons, while right away, I discovered the Mungyo brand felt much softer to work with. The Mungyo oil pastel set ALSO came with DOUBLE the number of colors (48), compared to the other brands tested at the same price point with just 24 shades! This is a huge plus for peeps not wanting to spend a fortune, who ALSO love ALL the colors!!
What really surprised me while filming today's video was how underwhelmed I was pretty much the entire time with the oil pastel set by Faber-Castell. It kinda made me sad because this is one of my FAVORITE fine art brands. Watch today's video to see for yourself.
EVERYTHING changed as soon as I picked up a Sennelier.
My fingernail could actually push into the product underneath the paper label, and when I applied the pastel to paper- it was a totally different sensory experience.
The Sennelier oil pastels felt SO much smoother and smearier - leading me to guess that they will blend better than the other products. Plus- how COOL IS IT that these only exist because Picasso ASKED for them specifically?! Kinda awesome, right?! (I know I said in the video they were made by Van Gogh- ooops!! I meant Picasso :)
After playing with the Senneliers, I also discovered how EASY it was to use up one oil pastel stick! If you're using tons of pressure to apply opaque color to your paper, your Senneliers are gonna run out super fast, so just be aware of how quickly you could burn through these individual pastel sticks AND your wallet...
When I tested blendability for each oil pastel brand, I thought it was cool to see how the various color combos morfed into NEW colors based on which color was applied to the paper first. Cray-pas provided a fun smooshing/blending process and created beautiful results. Aren't these greens gorgeous?
The Mungyos were great for blending, and the Faber Castells were ok. When I layered and blended the Sennliers, they felt completely different from the other brands.
I was shocked at how EASY it was to blend two shades of Senneliers that were applied with a light touch. I barely had to apply any pressure from my finger to "smoosh" the colors together.
As a mixed media artist who LOVES watersoluble art supplies, I of COURSE had to test each brand's reactivity when I added Linseed Oil and Gamsol to melt the edges of each swatch to achieve painterly effects.
Overall, I felt like the Gamsol did a better job at melting the edges, whereas, the Linseed oil tended to remove or lift pastel pigment from the paper instead of melting it.
I felt the Mungyos did best with this "melting test," and possibly performed a bit better than the Senneliers here, believe it or not!
If you're new to my world, adding white highlights on top of basically EVERYTHING I create is super important to me. In fact, not long ago I tested ALL the white art supplies I could find in my studio to isolate which ones performed the best overall.
In today's video, I wasn't sure what to expect because pastels are so new to me. Sadly, the white oil pastels really seemed to be more for blending previously applied colors, than for adding highlights. I thought the Sennelier white did best here and actually sat on top of the previously applied layers much better than the other brands. Interesting to note if you're a highlighter like me!!
Make sure you watch today's video till the end to see WHICH blending tools I liked best, plus which scraping tools produced magical effects when two shades of color were blended into one!
Want a FREE Oil Pastels Tutorial for Beginners?
Stay tuned because I've got an Oil Pastel Tutorial for Beginners coming up next week on YouTube!! Here is a sneak peek at the adorable arctic fox we'll be creating together :)
"Karen is flipping hilarious and she's very real...I like the way she teaches in a way that really gives you confidence, whether you're a beginner or advanced there's always something new to learn!"
- Elizabeth W.
What Fans Are Saying
Karen, you are absolutely fabulous! You make me feel like I can draw anything. I have recently retired and finally have the time to do some of the art that I have loved since I was in school. I am really at the beginning of my art journey and I hope to learn as much as I can. Thank you for all you do.