Oil Pastels for Beginners – The Best Free Guides
While sometimes overshadowed by other mediums such as traditional oil paintings or acrylics, oil pastels are a versatile and visually striking medium for beginners. If you’ve ever drawn with wax crayons or colored pencils, you’re ready to use oil pastel sticks.
The good news is there are lots of free tutorials online to get you started. We’ve hand-selected this list of the best beginner pastel painting and drawing tutorials we could find. Read on to find oodles of tips to guide you along!
Table of Contents
- Choosing Oil Pastels and Accessories
- Basic Oil Pastel Painting Techniques
- Painting/Drawing Complete Scenes
Are oil pastels easy for beginners?
The short answer – yes! Why?
- Oil pastels are fairly inexpensive, even when using high quality materials
- They’re durable and long-lasting
- They’re as easy to use as a crayon, but much more versatile (and attractive, in my opinion)
What You Need to Get Started – The Basics
- Pastel paper (or canvas, glass, wood board – be creative! Oil pastels work on a variety of surfaces.)
- Artist grade pastels (for a much better beginner experience vs. cheap oil pastels, such as student grade oil pastels)
- Blending sticks (if you prefer your fingers clean!)
Now that you’ve got your basic materials, you’re ready to start creating. If you need ideas for subjects or want inspiration, you can find an amazing (and free) reference photo for your newest work of art, first.
While you’re watching these learning videos, keep an eye out for different oil pastel techniques. These include things like the sgraffito (or “scratching”) technique, light pressure blending, adding linseed oil for a painterly effect, etc. As mentioned before, oil pastels are a versatile medium, so learning these methods will help you get the most out of them.
First, though, let’s consider – which pastels and other artist materials should you choose?
Choosing Oil Pastels and Accessories
Exploring the Different Types of Pastels
- Outlines pastel painting options
- Pros and cons of each type
Although the guides on this list are focused on oil pastels, did you know that there are other types as well? Kevin Kramer talks about the pros and cons of these types – soft pastels, hard pastels, and oil pastels.
It’s a good video to start with, as you don’t want to spend money on the wrong materials. And as he mentions at the end of the video – be sure to try each type yourself before buying, if possible. That way you can get your artistic journey off on the right foot.
Thorough Introduction to Oil Pastels
- An excellent, quick introduction to oil pastels
- Gives actionable advice on where to start
In this excellent overview of oil pastels, artist Yayen describes what materials he prefers, and even delves into some oil pastel techniques. He shows how different techniques yield different looks, and how different paper and pastels affect the final product, too.
What Paper Should You Use With Pastels?
- Compares qualities of different papers
- Gives actionable advice on where to start
When starting a new hobby or career, like becoming an oil pastel painter, you don’t want to be discouraged at the beginning of your journey. Starting with materials that work with you instead of against you is key. That’s why it’s important that you’ve got the basics covered.
Artist Syndia examines different types of paper in this video, for example, smooth versus rough, and which type works best for her. She also speaks to specific brands and products, to give you an idea of what you should actually go out and buy. Additionally, she compares student and artist grade pastels on the different paper types, as well, which is really helpful to a beginner pastel artist.
Oil Pastels Compared
- Compares budget to artist quality pastels
- Shows how they work while giving tips and opinions
The “Frugal Crafter,” artist Lindsay Weirich, shows a number of different oil pastels at work. From cheaper sticks that might be considered “student grade” all the way up to the more expensive and pigment-rich pastels (“artist grade”), you’ll see in real time how they perform.
5-Minute Oil Pastels Overview
- Quick summary
- Covers the basics of what you’ll need to start oil pastels
In this 5-minute informative video, pastel artist Syndia is back with us, and outlines the main issues you’ll encounter when beginning oil pastel painting. These include the best and most cost-effective oil pastels, the type of paper to use, how to fix errors in your painting, how to blend, how to use oil pastels like oil paint, and more.
This video is an overview, rather than an in-depth dive into each topic. She has more informative videos linked in the description. Overall it’s a very useful way to see what lies ahead for you in your pastel-painter’s journey! Which is fitting, as now we’re going to start with the art lessons.
Her reviews feel honest and straightforward, which is what you want as a beginner pastel painter. Of course, she doesn’t review all the options out there – just what she uses, personally. I found it to be a good and informative watch.
Basic Oil Pastel Painting Techniques
Oil Pastel Techniques From a Beginner
- Advice from a true beginner oil pastel artist
- Simple and clear demonstration
Self-professed beginner pastel painter Sandra Ruberto demonstrates a number of techniques she uses to create her artwork. First, she demonstrates the techniques on their own. After that, she describes which techniques she used in a few full paintings.
As she’s not primarily an oil pastel artist, her advice and experience will be relatable to the beginner.
If you want to get right to the tips, skip to the 7:43 mark.
More Oil Pastel Techniques
- Demonstrates basic strokes
- Easy to follow and try
In this video, artist Pam Heyda demonstrates a number of easy-to-learn effects you can achieve with pastels. Learning these foundational techniques is good practice, and you’ll surely come up with your own with experience. For example, you can combine any number of the techniques to get the finished look you’re after. Grab yourself some pastel paper and try these out!
How to Blend Oil Pastels #1
- Straightforward, helpful blending advice
- Lets you easily compare techniques
Here artist Nirdesha Munasinghe conveniently lays out a 2x3 grid, and demonstrates six blending methods: Finger blending, tissues, pastel on pastel, blending stump, paint thinner/medium, and finally, stippling.
Like the previous practice, this one is easy to practice at home in a short amount of time.
How to Blend Oil Pastels #2
- Teaches simple and effective blending techniques
- Creates one sweet-looking eye!
In this helpful video, the artist BlackBean CMS talks you through his blending techniques while he draws. He demonstrates a number of different methods, plus a sgraffito-like technique at the end that adds interest and texture. The end result is a vibrant (and well-blended) eye. Well worth a look!
By the way, the tutorial section of the video starts here.
Painting/Drawing Complete Scenes
Now we’ll head into full, real-time oil pastel tutorials. While each lesson can be followed by most beginners, there are some that might be considered more intermediate. As always, just pick and choose what moves you!
Impressionist Floral Landscape Tutorial
- Clear, step-by-step instructions
- Eye-catching results
While the finished piece may look difficult, this oil pastel lesson by artist Matt can be completed by a beginner. All you need is some patience and an eye for color and composition, and you can achieve a striking, vibrant piece of art yourself!
Plus, the impressionistic feel not only looks terrific, but it also hides details in the flowers that might not be completely accurate.
Matt talks you through each step of the painting, with clear instructions and helpful closeups of his strokes. All in all it’s a great free oil pastel lesson that will surely get you excited about the medium.
How to Paint an Apple In Oil Pastels
- Simple subject any beginner can paint
- Teaches good fundamentals
If the last painting looks too difficult to start with, try this one instead! It’s a quick, step-by-step lesson that will teach you how to draw a tasty-looking apple. On top of that, you’ll learn good core concepts, like using warm and cool color tones in the highlights and shadows, shading and highlighting to create depth, and blending techniques.
The artist narrates from start to finish, so you won’t miss anything along the way.
Boy in Moonlight Oil Pastel Tutorial
- Teaches techniques you can use in other compositions
- Step-by-step instructions
If you’re comfortable following along without verbal instructions, you might like this lesson from the channel Art Arena. It’s not in real time, but when the artist Deepak changes colors, or starts blending, the video slows so you can note exactly what color, materials, and techniques he’s using.
After you learn the basics of creating them, elements can be lifted from this piece and used in a completely different context. You could change the colors of the sky, for example, and leave out the stars, to use as the background of a daytime landscape painting.
Stained Glass Window Effect with Pastels
- Fun for kids and adults
- Try it on a transparent canvas!
In this fun pastel tutorial, artist McCall teaches you a fun style of painting she likens to a stained-glass window. Aside from the step-by-step instructions, she also speaks a little bit about color theory, and why she’s making each creative choice along the way.
This piece would also be fun to try on a piece of glass, or another transparent or translucent surface.
Sunset With Birds
- Simple but attractive
- Practice with the palette knife
This oil pastel drawing by All One Art is more of a demonstration than a tutorial. Even still, the video starts off with the color palette used, and the type of materials, so you should be able to follow along easily.
For the first time in this list we also see a palette knife! Yes, you can use them with oil pastels, too, and they create a neat impasto effect.
This painting would be an easy one to complete for a beginner, so why don’t you give it a try?
No-Fail Method to Start a Pastel Painting
- A no-mistakes, beginner-friendly method
- Works for practically any subject
Even though Karen Margulis doesn’t use oil pastels in this tutorial, she does use various other pastels, and the concepts are the same.
The end result is a beautiful floral landscape that would make any beginning artist proud.
Well, that’s it for the best oil pastel tutorials – I really hope you enjoyed them. If you want to share any tips/tricks or other resources, just leave it in the comments below.