Do Oil Pastels Dry Out?

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If you are interested in working with oil pastels, you probably have a lot of questions. For instance, do oil pastels dry out?

I have been working with oil pastels for a couple of years. From experience, I can say that oil pastels never dry out completely. The trick is to store them properly and take proper care of them so they do not dry out.

Using oil pastels will give you artwork that looks much like oil paintings. You can get a lot of texture using oil pastels, and the oily finish is a lot like the finish you would see on oil paintings.

The biggest drawback to using oil pastels is that because they never completely dry, it is easier to damage artwork created with them. On the other hand, oil pastels have characteristics that allow artists to create interesting effects.

I know a lot of artists who like to combine oil pastels with other mediums in their work. Keep in mind that there are student-grade and artist-grade oil pastels.

The student version is obviously less expensive than artist-grade pastels, but they may dry out or deteriorate a bit compared to artist-grade pastels.

Keep reading to learn more about oil pastels and why they never dry out.

Why Oil Pastels Never Dry Out?

The ingredients used to make oil pastels are the determining factor as to why these crayons never dry out. Artist-grade oil pastels are made with ground color pigments, mineral oil, and wax.

Unlike oil paint, which often contains linseed oil, the ingredients in oil pastels behave differently. The wax will become a hardened skin as the pastels set, but these crayons will never completely dry out.

If you want to use pastels that do dry out over time, I suggest using soft pastels. They contain white chalk, which changes how they look and feel, and allows them to dry.

Because oil pastels are not made to dry out, they must be stored properly. If they are not stored in an airtight container that is not in direct sunlight or heat, your pastels will have a longer life.

Not only will proper storage give your oil pastels a longer life, but it will also ensure that they maintain their quality.

Differences Between Student-Grade and Artist-Grade Oil Pastels

As I mentioned, there are student-grade and artist-grade oil pastels, and the student-grade pastels are the least expensive of the two. These are best for those who are just learning how to work with oil pastels.

For student-grade oil pastels, the manufacturers use less expensive filler material that is dyed. This creates the colors. They act much like artist-grade oil pastels when used on paper, so they are perfect for beginners.

You can check my guides on how to use oil pastels and pastel drawing ideas for more tips.

When oil pastels are applied to paper, they leave a stain behind. This stain is the color, and you can achieve this color with both student-grade and artist-grade oil pastels.

If you want to know more about artist-grade oil pastels, I suggest looking for manufacturers’ spec sheets. These will tell you about the materials used and pigment composition.

If you are unable to find the specs about some oil pastels, this is a good sign that they are student-grade.

How Can You Protect Oil Pastel Art?

While some fixatives can be used to protect artwork that has been created with oil pastels, it isn’t something I advise using. Even the artist-grade oil pastels will smudge after the fixative is applied.

You can apply several layers of fixative, and the oil pastels still will not be completely dry. Even worse, the fixatives can alter the texture and color of your art.

The best way to protect oil pastel art is to frame it under glass or plexiglass. Make sure you also use a mat, which will keep the artwork from touching the surface of the glass.

Are Dry Pastels the Same as Oil Pastels?

Dry pastels are completely different from oil pastels. These pastels are made by mixing pigment with chalk or other dry ingredients.

Dry pastels act a lot like chalk. They do not adhere to paper nearly as well as oil pastels do. A finished painting will have softer and lighter colors because of this lack of adherence.

You can learn more about other types of pastels on our blog.

Can You Wash Oil Pastel Stains Out of Fabric?

If you get dry pastel stains on your clothing, it is easy to get rid of them with water and mild detergent. On the other hand, it is a lot more difficult to remove oil pastel stains from fabric.

There are many ways that you can clean these stains. If you want to learn more about this, check out my post about How to Get Oil Pastels Out of Clothes.

Keep in mind that you will likely never be able to completely remove an oil pastel stain from fabric. But, the methods I talked about in the other article will help to minimize the appearance of those stains.

Will Oil Pastels Go Bad Over Time?

One of the things I love about oil pastels is that they can last for many decades and still be used! Of course, as I mentioned they do need to be properly stored to preserve their longevity.

If oil pastels are not properly stored, there is a chance that they can form a sort of dry skin. But, as long as they are stored in a cool, dry area, you shouldn’t have to worry about this at all.

If you store oil pastels in an area that is hot and/or damp, there is a good chance that your pastels will deteriorate. Heat will cause them to melt, and dampness can lead to mold.

It is also important to keep finished oil pastel art protected from moisture and heat. This is why I suggest framing them under glass with a mat.

Oil Pastel Alternatives

Some alternatives to oil pastels will dry if that is what you want. For instance, pigment sticks and oil bars are fun to use, and they will dry eventually.

These products are made much like oil paint and contain linseed oil. I advise doing a few small pieces with these materials to see how you enjoy using them before getting into larger art projects.


Oil pastels are loads of fun to use, and you can use them to create paintings that look much like traditional oil paintings. I love them because they are so easy to blend. You check my oil pastel blending guide to learn more.

With light strokes, you can create clouds, fog, and mist. Then you can go in with heavier strokes to create darker colors and details.

Just know that no matter what you do, anything you create with oil pastels will never dry out. Take the right steps to protect your art and you won’t have to worry about this at all.

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*image by aberheide/depositphotos