How to Blend Oil Pastels: 5 Techniques

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If you are anything like me, you like to experiment with various art mediums. One of my first experiments was with oil pastels.

These crayons or sticks are thick and greasy, made with pigment combined with a binder, usually mineral oil. Oil pastels are quite versatile, and they can be manipulated to create all kinds of cool effects.

One of the ways that oil pastels can be manipulated is through blending. But, blending with oil pastels is a lot different than blending with paints, whether they are oils, acrylics, or watercolors.

Today we are going to take a look at a few different methods you can use to smudge oil pastels to get a variety of colors and textures. We will also take a look at some of the tools you can use for blending oil pastels.

Continue reading to learn more about the best way to blend oil pastels.

Pre-Blending Oil Pastels

Did you know that you can pre-blend oil pastels before you even put any color onto the paper? This involves blending pastel colors on a palette before applying them to the paper or canvas.

This method will result in one new color. You can use this color on its own or blend it with another color to create an additional color.

So, how do you pre-blend oil pastels? Start by using a palette knife to cut off a few small pieces of one of the colors you want to blend. Put these pieces onto the palette.

Wipe off the palette knife and use it again to cut a few small pieces from a second pastel. Now, you can begin mixing the two colors.

Using the palette knife, press the colors together and mix them until you have achieved what looks like a very thick oil paint. You may need to add more of each color until you get the color you are trying to create.

Once you have achieved your color goal, you can use the palette knife to apply the new color to the paper or canvas. You can also use your fingers if you don’t want to use a palette knife.

Basic Pastel Blending on Paper or Canvas

Now we are going to take a look at a couple of different oil pastel blending techniques that you can try right on the paper instead of on your palette.

#1. Create a Smooth Gradient

This oil pastel blending method will help you to create a smooth gradient. This means that two or more colors will look like they are fading into one another.

This method works well because oil pastels are thick and oily, so they spread around quite easily.

Apply one oil pastel color onto the paper or canvas. Then, apply another color beside the first color. You can use any blending tool, even your finger, to rub the edges of the two colors together.

Once you can no longer see any edges and there is a smooth gradient between the two colors, you will know that you have done this correctly.

#2. Overlay Oil Pastels

You can color-mix oil pastels by overlaying them on canvas or paper. This is a great technique if you want to blend large areas of color. I wouldn’t suggest using it if you are doing detailed work. Blending is better when working on details.

This technique will allow you to create colors with lovely, rich tones. Apply a relatively thick layer of oil pastel to the paper or canvas. Then put another layer of a different color directly on top of the first layer.

Continue adding layers until you achieve the color you want. I like to play around with this and use different pressures. Yes, this method will also work with lighter layers.

Other Oil Pastel Blending Methods

Now let’s take a look at a few more oil pastel blending methods you can use for your pastel paintings. These methods are scumbling, cross-hatching, and sgraffito.

#1. Scumbling

If you want to blend colors and add texture to your oil pastel paintings, scumbling is a great method to use. You will need to use two or more colors for this technique.

With the first color, scribble some marks on the paper or canvas in a controlled manner. Next, repeat this with another color, near the first color so the two overlap at various points. Continue doing this with as many colors as you wish to use until you achieve the look you are trying to achieve.

#2. Cross-Hatching

Before you begin cross-hatching, do a light sketch in the area where you will be using this technique. The next step is to choose two oil pastel colors you want to blend. I suggest using two shades of the same color, one light, and one dark.

You will be drawing small lines in opposite directions. Decide which direction to use for the first color, and draw a few lines going in that direction.

Next, use the next color and draw lines in the opposite direction on top of the first set of lines. Keep doing this until you have achieved the color you want.

#3. Sgraffito

This method isn’t about adding colors. It involves layering oil pastel colors and then scraping away some of the colors to see the colors underneath, and it is ideal for adding fine details.

Apply several layers of different colored oil pastels onto the canvas or paper. I like to make the top layer the darkest color.

Choose a pointed object, such as a knife, a palette knife, or even a paper clip. Use this item to scratch off some of the layers you have created. You will be left with an intricate and interesting design.

You can check my guide on Oil Pastel Techniques for Beginners for more tips. Now let’s talk about the pastel blending tools that you’ll need.

Oil Pastel Blending Tools

There are all kinds of different tools you can use for blending oil pastels. For instance, even though it can get messy, I love to use my fingers for blending colors in large areas.

This method comes in pretty handy if I don’t have any other blending tools within easy reach. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, wear a pair of rubber gloves or use a finger clot.

This method is great for large areas, but not so much for fine details. Let’s take a look at some other tools you can use to blend both large and small areas.

Here’s what to use to blend oil pastels:

#1. Brushes and Shapers

You can get pastel brushes and shapers that are made for working with oil pastels. Both come in a variety of sizes and styles. The brushes have hairs on one end, while the shapers have a flat or tapered rubber end, and can be flat or tapered.

I like to use tapered shapers for blending in smaller areas. Some tools even have a shaper on one end and a brush on the other, so you get the best of both worlds in a single tool.

#2. Tortillon or Stumps

Tortillons, also known as stumps, are made from paper. The paper is tightly round until it looks like a pencil with a pointed end. Tortillons come in small, medium, and large sizes.

These are great tools to have in your arsenal, and they don’t cost much. Once the end gets dirty, all you have to do is peel away some of the paper and you will be left with a clean tip.

#3. Chamois

A chamois (a soft, flexible piece of leather) can be a great tool for pastel artists. You can use the chamois to rub or wipe at large areas to blend colors.

You can also use a small part of the chamois, wrapped around your finger, to blend smaller areas. Cleaning the chamois is as easy as tossing it into the washing machine.

#4. Kneaded Rubber

Kneaded rubber is a very soft eraser, and it is perfect for blending oil pastels. You can form the kneaded rubber into any shape you wish to achieve your desired effects.


Once you get the hang of it, blending colors with oil pastels is pretty easy. You can use any of the methods and tools that we talked about here today.

You can even use common household items to blend oil pastels. Try using Q-Tips, cotton balls, paper towels, or even clean rags to achieve various effects.

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