top of page
  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Benson

Oil Pastel and Color Pencil Exploration

Updated: Nov 9, 2023

Supplies: Pentel Oil Pastels

White Paper


cloth rag or papertowel

vegetable oil or baby oil

variety of papers

Explore the different ways in which to use oil pastels, experiment with the amount of pressure, overlap colors to see how they blend, add white to colors to blend, scratching into the oil pastel to see what kind of textures you can create, blending with a paper towel or small rag, and laying a base color(s) that you cover in black oil pastel and scratch a design into.

I made a series of videos to document some of my explorations. This first video shows the effects of "sgraffito" in oil pastels. I put the color on thick and took a sharp object to "scratch" a design into the colors.

In this next video, I use a q-tip and olive oil to turn the oil pastels into a paint-like texture. I then took a small rag and blended it. This method made the colors look rather muddy and the oil has an interesting reaction with paper.

This video is another example of "scratch" art but this time, I put a design as the base, cover it in thick black oil pastel and scratch a design that will expose the base colors.

In this next video, I blend the oil pastels with a fabric rag wrapped around my finger. Really important to pay attention to what you're blending or the final product will just look muddy.

This next image shows how oil pastels show up on black art paper. Some of the colors are vibrant and other colors are more muted, especially when blending.

My next experiment was completed on tracing paper. I loved the smooth silky texture of the paper and thought it would create a painterly effect with the oil pastels. I started with a base layer of random colors in colored pencils. I then quickly sketched a design with my non-dominant hand. I filled in the background with white and brown oil pastel. The design itself has the colored pencil base colors exposed.

The following drawing was created on a piece of brown paper roll. I used both my left and right hands simultaneously and sketched out a design. I experimented with blending on this paper and random color fill.

And finally, my last piece, on white drawing paper, started with a red colored pencil square that I drew on top of with oil pastel. I like the way turquoise and red play on each other and envisioned a scene of birch trees in my head, but the project did not turn out as I hoped. The red colored pencil base really altered the colors of the oil pastels.

Colored Pencils

Supplies: Variety of Papers

Variety of Color pencils

Rubbing Alcohol

Painters Tape

I like to try different mark-making techniques first, to get a better feel of how the colored pencils glide on paper, how much pressure feels right, and even how to hold the colored pencil in a way that feels most comfortable.

Next, I wanted to try creating skin tones with a limited color palette. I also wanted to try to create the different skin tones and different papers.

I also wanted to try blending colors. I used the lightest color first and layered on darker colors. I tried the technique on brown paper bag, black drawing paper, and white drawing paper. The white drawing paper worked best. The black paper made the lighter colors really pop instead of blend. The brown paper was too similar in color to make much difference.

Next, I wanted to see if using different papers would make certain colors pop. I found that black drawing paper created the most popping effect.

I wanted to create a left-hand/right-hand contour drawing on black paper. I wanted to add color to it. The design was so vibrant, and really had a painterly feel.

My final exploration with colored pencils was to create a blind contour profile and color it in. I attempted to blend some of the black coloring with a little bit of rubbing alcohol.

Another piece created with color pencils, "Mundane"


Oil Pastels, are creamy, they are bold, they are messy. But, they are also vibrant, fun, and easy to use for expressive work. It is important to have paper towels nearby, not only for cleaning hands but also for wiping away color contamination when blending/mixing colors. Oil pastels do not bring the risk of harmful vapors like oil paints do, it is best to read the labels to make sure that the pastels in use are not using hazardous pigments. It is best to keep them stored away from sunlight, they should not be put in the mouth, and hands should be washed promptly after use. If a child does not like the feel of oil pastels or poses a risk of putting pastels in the mouth, opt for crayons. Have a variety of thicknesses, oil pastels come in several sizes. You can limit color options if too many colors prove to be too overwhelming for a student. Since oil pastels are not toxic, any age range will work, just adjust the size of oil pastels used, to a bigger thickness for smaller hands.

Colored Pencils work on a variety of different surfaces. They don't work as well on painted surfaces. They are easy to manage, cheaper to purchase, and are completely non-toxic. They do require frequent sharpening, it's estimated that a sharpening is required every 1 minute of use. Like a regular pencil, if a child has difficulty holding the pencil properly, rubber pencil grips can be used. Thicker colored pencils are available online for smaller hands. Scaffolding might help in learning about colored pencils: Color Layering, Blending, Tinting, Toning, Shading, and Value Transition.

Project Ideas

  • Create a landscape theme on colored paper.

  • Create a stained glass design on white paper.

  • Create a work using the Sgraffito process.

  • Recreate a pencil drawing into a colorful oil pastel piece or colored pencil drawing, maybe use a viewfinder to recreate only one small section.

  • Try to imagine transfer using thickly applied oil pastels.

  • Fill in a page with colorful designs in colored pencil, and use the oil pastels to create a drawing of a still life or animal, or person. Use both right and left hands simultaneously to create the drawing. once it is done, fill in the background and foreground with 2 different colors. The subject matter will be the only color exposed.

Artist Inspiration:


Hafeli, M. C. (2015). Exploring studio materials: Teaching creative art making to children. Oxford University Press. Pages 46-55

19 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page