Art

Oil Pastels and Soft Pastels – What’s the Difference?

Now that the days are getting shorter and cold nights are getting longer, we find ourselves looking for creative projects to tackle at home. With only two weeks left until Christmas, most of us have already exhausted our seasonal projects – salt dough ornaments have been shaped, baked and painted, our DIY bunting span each corner of our living rooms and our Holiday cards are on their way to their recipients.

But that doesn’t mean we have exhausted our creative inspirations, and there’s always room for an extra homemade gift for friends or family members. Homemade gifts really are the best way to show someone you care – even if your creation doesn’t meet professional levels, it’s the thought that counts. Knowing someone has spent many hours thinking up and executing an idea that is personal to you is the best gift of all.

One homemade gift that will always go down a treat, is a drawing or a painting. You may think your parents and grandparents stopped appreciating your doodles by the time you graduated kindergarten, but the truth is, these are the kind of keepsakes family and even friends will treasure for a lifetime – especially if you consider their personal tastes in colours, styles and sceneries.

To make your drawing or painting something truly special, steer away from the usual painting and drawing supplies such as markers, crayons and watercolours and opt for something a little more extravagant: oil pastels or soft pastels, for example. Both respective pastels have unique characteristics that will allow your work to come to life, but it is up to you to figure out which pastel works best for you and the type of painting you are looking to accomplish.

Before you decide on which pastels to buy, let’s look at the differences between oil pastels and soft pastels.

Oil Pastels

Oil pastels are the go-to if you’re looking to paint a vibrantly colourful picture of your grandma’s favourite flowers, or a sunset scene for your best friend, as they produce a beautifully intense hue. Painting with oil pastels is easy as they allow for easy mixing and lots of experimental creativity, as they allow you to play freely with different textures and scratching techniques you will easily pick up by yourself – no need for extensive tutorials.

Their wax-like consistency promotes different layering techniques that will have you thinking of your painting as infinite – you can add layer upon layer making the painting thick and textured, or decide to scratch back to its original surface to reveal its essence. The most important thing to consider when working with oil pastels, is to use primed, textured paper, to ensure the pastels stick to the painting surface and don’t dull out your colours.

Soft Pastels

If you like the delicate hues achieved with watercolours, soft pastels are the best bet for you. Made from Gum Arabic, white chalk and pigment, soft pastels can be brushed off and have a matte finish to them, making them the ideal choice for the type of project you will be finishing over the course of several days, weeks or even months.

Soft pastels do not dry out, nor will continuing an unfinished piece alter the colouration in any way. This is particularly advantageous for beginners who do not want to rush the experience. Soft pastel sticks differ in strengths – soft, medium, hard – but the medium variety is by far the most popular choice amongst beginners as they allow for easy blending. One of the best brands to start out with – and continue with, according to professional soft pastel artists – is Rembrandt. They are inexpensive and sticks can be replaced individually as you use them up.

Whichever pastel medium you decide to work with, you’ll have a jolly good time creating another gift from the heart to hang above the Christmas tree.

Richard Hammond

I am the founder of 9Mousai and am deeply interested in creativity and what inspires it. My main passions are writing, film and music but I have a great respect for all the arts. I'm also an animal lover and have a little cat called Winston and occasionally dabble in the odd whisky.

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