How To Blend Oil Pastels: Unleash Your Creative Superpowers

Different blending techniques - Image by Syndia Art
Different blending techniques - Image by Syndia Art

Oil pastels are a unique medium to work with since they can be used both on their own and in combination with other materials. They also offer a wide variety of colors that allow for more detailed illustrations, but what if you want to blend the oil pastels? In this guide, we will discuss how to blend oil pastels so that you can do your next project easily and beautifully.

Start by planning your drawing. Composition is essential since you'll have difficulty erasing the oil pastel once they're in. Make a light sketch of your design. Draw and color, then blend your colors using your finger or blending tools like a Q-tip or cloth.

What You'll Need

Step-by-Step Instructions

1. Plan your design

Before you start drawing, plan your design.  This way, you can see whether or not the colors of your oil pastels will blend well. Once you have a plan, use one color as the base and then add other colors on top of it to create depth in your design. Make a light sketch of your design on the paper to outline your drawing.

2. Draw and color

Draw your design and color them in. You may need to blend as you go, while other designs do not require mixing the colors outright.

3. Blend with tools

Once you have the drawing and colored everything in, blend your colors to give it a smooth look. You may add thick layers over the blended surface, then blend lightly to give it texture and depth.

You can use your fingers or blending tools, such as the ones listed below. Blend in a circular motion to soften the edges or use the blending methods to make your oil pastel drawing more interesting. 

Blending Methods

1. Oil blending

Blending oil pastels with baby oil - Image by Syndia Art

Blending oil pastels with baby oil - Image by Syndia Art

Artists use linseed oil or walnut oil for blending oil pastel. However, they leave a slightly yellow color that may change the composition of the painting. Another low-cost alternative is using baby oil or mineral oil.

Add a small amount of oil into a shallow dish or painter's palette to mix pastels. You will observe a smoother effect than just blending them without the oils.

2. Using mineral spirits

Blending oil pastels with mineral spirits - Image by Tim Kranz

Blending oil pastels with mineral spirits - Image by Tim Kranz

Mineral spirits make a perfect medium for blending oil pastels. The smooth effect of mineral spirits on the oil pastel and the way you can pick colors using your pastel brush and use it to add texture to an otherwise plain area is an excellent reason to use mineral spirits for blending.

3. Stippling

Stippling with oil pastels - Image by Art with Pratham

Stippling with oil pastels - Image by Art with Pratham

Stippling is when you blend using dots on the object (i.e., adding more colors to create some depth). This method works well with trees, branches, and leaves in nature scenes.

4. Scumbling

Scumbling with oil pastels - Image by Sir Kaloy

Scumbling with oil pastels - Image by Sir Kaloy

Scumbling is a lot easier than you thought. It simply makes controlled scribbles of one color on top of the other until you get the right value and texture.

5. Cross-hatching

The cross-hatch method is done when you blend two colors by adding them in different directions.  For example, make a series of horizontal lines using blue oil pastel, then vertical lines using yellow lines. Add more blue in the horizontal lines and more yellow for the verticals until you blend them.

6. Pre-blending

Pre-blending involves blending your oil pastels before applying them to your canvas or drawing paper. Break them and blend until you get oily paint. Apply it on the canvas using a palette knife, your fingers, or silicone brushes.

7. Pastel on pastel blending

Pastel on pastel blending is another method of blending oil pastels. Add the oil pastel using heavy pressure to your paper, then make a lighter one at the end where you want the colors to blend. Start your next color on the lighter part and overlay this part with heavy pressure.

Use the lighter color to blend the darker color, working in circular motions until you get the blending finish you want.

8. Sgraffito

An oil pastel painting of a jellyfish using the sgraffito technique - Image by GM Creations

An oil pastel painting of a jellyfish using the sgraffito technique - Image by GM Creations

When appropriately used, sgraffito (Italian for scratching) can make your oil pastel drawings lovely. Though on its own, it's not a blending technique, it's a great way to play with well-blended oil pastel.

To make the sgraffito detailing, start by overlaying the oil pastel, starting with a colorful combination, overlaid with black and white pastel. Apply at a steady pressure until you have covered everything. Using a fine tracing stylus or an empty pen, scratch a design over the oil pastel drawing. You may also use a palette knife, a wooden stylus, and other scratching tools to create a pattern.    

Tips When Blending Oil Pastels

Use white, grey, or black pastel colors to increase different colors’ effect and intensity. Most often use heavier colors than darker ones. 

Apply pastels with consistent pressure.

You should apply the same amount of pressure when you work with oil pastels to ensure the thickness of the paint is consistent. Add more layers, then blend again to have a stunning effect. Make use of heavy pressure blending for oil pastel colors.

Make sure your fingers are dry.

To easily mix oil pastels with your hands, make sure they're totally dry. Wet fingers could also affect paper quality. You want no deformity. Make sure you're keeping your hands dry and keep your palms dry.

Use different fingers for different colors.

Do not use the same finger on multiple colors. If you change these colors, you're able to change colors on the canvas. You can also keep hand sanitizer or damp paper close to you so that you can wash your hands.

Blend with small circular motions.

Make small circular movements to mix them after you overlap two colors to cover the overlapping lines with another pastel. This will help smooth out the transitions.

Make use of lights and highlights.

Tones and values matter in oil pastels as they do for charcoal drawings and watercolor paintings. Make sure to use white spaces for the light and highlights to give depth to your paintings.

Tools to Use for Blending

When blending acrylic paints, you can use several tools to obtain amazing results.


Your fingers are the most powerful and most convenient tool to use for blending watercolors. Just make sure your hands are dry and washed between blending colors. You may also use finger cots or rubber gloves to protect your hands.

Pastel brushes or flat pastel shapers

Pastel brushes have shorter bristles than ordinary paint brushes. Though some brushes use nylon, others use soft pony bristles to blend the pigments.

On the other hand, a pastel shaper is usually flat and chiseled so that it can give you an even, flat stroke on your pastel drawing.

Tortillion or stumps

Tortillion is an excellent tool for blending oil pastels. You can use it for blending colors in small spaces, which is why it's perfect for portraits, realism, and small pieces. Stumps are also good to use with oil pastels because the shape allows you to blend colors without messing around your painting area.

Kneaded eraser

A kneaded eraser is an excellent way to blend oil pastels. Not only does this multi-functional tool function well as a pliable eraser. If you don't have a kneaded eraser, you may use an ordinary eraser as long as it does not scratch the paper’s surface.

Chamois cloth

A chamois cloth is an invaluable tool for blending colors. You may wipe or rub the majority of your canvas with this soft material to blend large areas quickly. Wrap just one side around your finger before applying them carefully where desired. Use a new portion to blend another color.

Household items

You may use household items like Q-tips. Cotton balls, paper towels, or clean rags for blending oil pastels. Q-tips make an excellent substitute for a tortillion, while cotton balls and paper towels can make do for the chamois cloth.

Blending Oil Pastels FAQ

What is used to blend oil pastels?

You can blend pastels by friction (using your fingers, blending stumps, or paper towel), using mineral spirits or oil, or using white pastel. You may also use lighter colors to blend over darker colors.

What is the best tool to blend oil pastels?

There is no best tool to use for blending oil pastels. Instead, the best one is what you have on hand - your fingers, a paper towel, Q-tips, a cotton ball. Having tools helps, but you can still do oil pastel painting without any tools.

Are oil pastels hard to blend?

No. However, you have to master your technique to get the finish you're looking for.

Do you add water to oil pastels?

Yes and no! If you want to dissolve oil pastels as mineral spirits did, you cannot achieve that with water. However, water-soluble soft pastels work fine with blending using water. Adding water can create an exciting effect on soft pastels, almost the same as a watercolor wash.

How do you smudge pastels?

Smudging is mostly used for soft pastels because oil pastels are more intense, and the oil content does not respond well to smudging.


Oil pastels are one of those mediums that can be frustrating to use but is well worth the effort. Once you know how to blend your colors properly, they become easier and more fun to work with.

Now that you know how to blend oil pastels, what will your next project be? Share it with us, and we’ll help you get started on the right path. Let's work together!

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