Finding the Perfect Oil Pastel Set to Spark Your Creativity

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Oil pastels are a unique art medium that have recently exploded in popularity. With their rich pigments, thick and creamy texture, and versatile painting abilities, it’s no wonder more and more artists and crafters are reaching for oil pastels to add vibrant color to their sketches, paintings, and mixed media work.

But with so many oil pastel sets on the market, how do you know where to start? It can be overwhelming browsing the shelves, looking at the different sizes, brands, colors, and price points. You want to find the ideal oil pastel selection for your needs and experience level without breaking the bank.

In this post, we’ll guide you through choosing your perfect oil pastel set. First we’ll share our picks for the top 5 best oil pastel sets spanning student grade to professional quality. Then we’ll go over the key factors to keep in mind when shopping for oil pastels. And finally, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about these vivid art supplies.

Let’s start playing with color and get creating!

Top 5 Oil Pastel Sets

Oil pastel brands run the gamut from kids’ craft sets with basic colors to professional-grade selections with huge diverse color ranges. Here are our choices for the best oil pastel sets available today:

Sennelier Oil Pastel Set (88 count)

Sennelier is considered by many artists to make the best oil pastels, with unrivaled quality coming at a price. Their 88 color oil pastel set delivers a luscious, buttery texture and intense color quality perfect for advanced techniques. The sticks have high pigment concentrations for brilliant color layering and mixing. With glide and blendability rivaling traditional oil paints, it’s easy to achieve luminous blends, gradients, and color effects. The wide spectrum of hues provides endless options for landscapes, portraits, and vivid abstracts. The higher price tag reflects the professional standards, making this a worthy investment for dedicated oil pastel artists.

Caran d’Ache Neopastels Oil Pastel Set (96 count)

For those seeking a professional-grade oil pastel with a huge range of colors, the 96 count Neopastels set from Caran d’Ache delivers. The ultra-soft, extra-thick round pastels have a creamy consistency allowing effortless layering and blending. Colors are vibrant and mixing produces bright secondary hues. The Caran d’Ache pastels are slightly waxier which helps prevent crumbling. Neopastels glide smoothly onto paper, canvas, or board. With over a hundred colors to work with, this set will satisfy any oil pastel enthusiast.

Sakura Cray-Pas Expressionist Oil Pastel Set (25 count)

For beginners or hobbyists, the Sakura Cray-Pas Expressionist set provides a practical option. The smaller 25 color selection offers primaries plus essential colors to get started. Reviewers praise the richly saturated hues with a creamy texture perfect for blending. The vibrant colors layer well to produce additional shades and effects. As a budget-friendly introductory oil pastel set, it’s great for experimenting with drawing and color techniques without the investment of a deluxe set. The conveniently sized round pastels encourage creativity anywhere.

Holbein Artists Oil Pastel Set (50 count)

Known for their superior pigments, Holbein oil pastels deliver rich, dense colors that almost leap off the page. The buttery smooth texture enables effortless blending and mixing. With 50 deep, bold colors to choose from, artists appreciate the versatility spanning realism to abstraction. The jumbo-sized square pastels make expressive mark-making simple. Holbein pastels are quite soft and tend to crumble more readily than other brands. But their lush vividness makes them a favorite for impasto techniques. This set offers professional quality at a moderate price point.

Winsor & Newton Oilbar Set (20 count)

Technically an oil stick rather than standard oil pastel, the Winsor & Newton Oilbars offer a unique waxy, dense texture closer to oil paints. The thick impasto strokes retain crisp brush-like detailing. Oilbars can be blended, scraped, scratched, and carved like paint. The 20 color starter set provides high-pigment primaries plus secondary shades. Painters love Oilbars for versatility from thin glazes to thick buttery color. The thick chunky sticks allow both broad and detailed brushstroke textures. For oil painters looking to expand their repertoire, the Oilbars make an excellent addition for brilliant color effects.

How to Choose an Oil Pastel Set

Now that you have a better sense of the best oil pastel brand options, here are the key factors to consider when selecting a set for your artistic needs:

Skill Level and Experience

As a beginner, start with a basic small set from an affordable brand like Sakura Cray-Pas. For children or casual crafters, cheaper craft sets work well to experiment. Intermediate artists benefit from larger, mid-priced sets with more colors like Caran d’Ache or Holbein. Advanced oil pastelists will appreciate the largest professional Sennelier range.


Oil pastel sticker prices range wildly from value packs under $20 to deluxe Sennelier’s $500+ set. Consider what you can spend comfortably. Student sets allow trying oil pastels without a huge investment. Or start with a smaller high-quality set in your budget.

Color Range

Do you need a wide spectrum of hues for realistic landscapes and portraits? Or just the basic primaries plus black and white for simple work? Think about your color goals to determine if a larger versus smaller set makes sense.

Preferred Brand or Properties

Some brands like Sennelier excel at creamy blendability, while Holbein offers vivid richness. If you love a certain brand or oil pastel characteristic, factor that into your decision.

Techniques You Use

Certain techniques require more colors and layering like blending and color mixing versus solid fill-in. Make sure to choose a size that fits your style. Also consider softness level—very soft pastels crumble more when layering.


If you’ll take your oil pastels on the go for plein air painting or travel, choose a smaller, compact metal set versus large studio sizes. Look for sturdy packaging that won’t break in transit.

Selecting your oil pastel set takes some consideration. But you’ll be set up for success when you choose a selection that aligns with your goals, budget, and experience. Next we’ll cover some commonly asked questions about oil pastels.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are oil pastels toxic or safe to use?

Oil pastels use the same pigments found in traditional oil paints, making them generally non-toxic. Most brands are labeled non-toxic on their packaging. The binders used are wax, mineral oil, and nondrying oil. Oil pastels are safe for kids and classroom use. Avoid ingesting and minimize skin contact.

How are oil pastels different from soft or pan pastels?

Soft and pan pastels use a chalk or gypsum binder, while oil pastels use wax and oil. This gives oil pastels a thicker, creamier texture and luminosity. Oil pastels don’t smudge or transfer as much as soft pastels. The oil content also enables blending and color mixing.

What surface should I use oil pastels on?

Oil pastels work on any paper, but heavier weight paper holds up better. Sanded paper and pastel card stock allow layering and blending. Canvas, board, and hard surfaces are also suitable once primed first. Avoid slick, non-porous surfaces.

Is there a fixative spray for oil pastels?

Yes, you can apply a fixative spray over oil pastel art to help adhere and protect the pastel. This cuts down on smudging, transfer, and dust. Let layers dry fully before spraying. Avoid heavy coats that will alter texture.

How can I blend, layer, and mix oil pastels?

Layer colors and blend while wet, using tools or fingertips. To mix hues, crosshatch or scumble colors, then blend together. Apply turpentine or oil pastel medium sparingly to aid blending. Allow layers to fully dry between applications for intensity.

What are some basic oil pastel techniques for beginners?

Use heavy pressure for dense color, light pressure for sheerness. Try basic strokes: dots, lines, loops, crosshatching. Scrape with a palette knife to reveal underlayers. Use blending tools, brushes, sponges to smooth and mix. Apply watercolors or inks on top. Mask areas for highlights.

How should oil pastels be stored?

Closed boxes or tins work best to prevent evaporation and dust. Store sticks flat, not on their ends. Keep away from heat sources and sunlight, which alter consistency. Seal wrapped sets in plastic bags. Label each oil pastel stick if removing from original packaging.

Can oil pastels be used with other mediums?

Absolutely! Oil pastels combine beautifully with watercolors, acrylics, inks, colored pencils, and more. Layer wet mediums over oil pastels once dry. Use water-soluble oil pastels with wet techniques. Apply pastels on top once underlayers are dry. The combinations are endless!

We hope this guide gave you a helpful overview of selecting your perfect oil pastel set! Now that you’re armed with tips on the top brand choices, key considerations, and oil pastel FAQs, you can shop for your new art supplies with confidence. Whichever set you choose, oil pastels open up a vibrant world of color.

Explore layering dazzling hues and textures as you learn. Play, experiment, and discover new techniques along the way. Don’t be afraid to push the luminous medium into new creative directions. Let oil pastels unleash your inner artist. Simply pick up a pastel, embrace the messiness, and enjoy the journey!

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