How Long Do Oil Pastels Last? They Never Expire (Tested)

how long do oil pastels last

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Oil pastels are a remarkable artistic medium that are made with pigments, wax, and non-drying oil. The pigments and binders are formed into small sticks that are easy to handle for maximum efficacy when drawing. Using high quality substances gives them certain qualities that can increase their longevity greatly depending on the materials used to create them. Ever wonder how long do oil pastels last? The answer is right below along with other oil pastel facts you may wish to know. I have been using oil pastels for over 40 years and I absolutely love them. I still have oil pastel sets from 1987 that I still use today.

How Long Do Oil Pastels Last?

So, how long do oil pastels last? Oil pastels that are made with pure pigments and oil last the longest with an indefinite shelf life. That means oil pastels never expire or go bad. Many people have found these high quality oil pastels still draw just as good decades as they did when they were first made.

Some cheaper oil pastels may degrade over time if they are made with lower quality binders and pigments. Pastels made with higher ratios of drying oils such as safflower oil, may not have as long of a shelf life compared with oil pastels that use more pigment and non-drying oil. Oil sticks that are similar to oil pastels use oils that dry over time. This can cause them to harden, become brittle, and not draw as well as when they are first created but you can still use them.

Another factor that affects oil pastels is cooler temperatures. This can cause them to harden somewhat, but once the temperature warms they perform the same as they first did.

Proper storage of oil pastels

Proper storage and care of your oil pastels will keep them in excellent condition for many years to come. I keep mine in an airtight lunch box away from heat and direct sunlight, that prevents the oil that binds the pigments together from oxidizing (oil’s version of evaporating). As you can see, looking after oil pastels is not rocket science and does not need expensive equipment, so you have no excuse not to do it.

Oil Stick vs. Oil Pastel

There are some distinct differences in an oil stick vs oil pastel that should be noted. Beginner and advanced artists may choose one of these mediums over the other depending on artistic style and preferences. Each type of pastel will perform differently and should be experimented with to determine which is right for desired applications.

Oil sticks are made with safflower, linseed, and sometimes other types of oils, as well as wax and different colored pigments.

Because these oils do dry and degrade over tim, the longevity of the oil stick is shortened. In contrast, oil pastels tend to have a much longer lifespan because they are made with pigments, wax, and mineral oil that does not dry.

The combination of these substances is why old oil pastels still perform well many, many years after they are created.

Using Oil Pastels

After you have found quality oil pastels for your artistic projects, you may want to learn different techniques to improve your skills.

Oil pastels can be applied to many types of surfaces including specially made papers like pastel paper, water color paper, and standard drawing papers of different weights. In addition to paper, oil pastels can be used on canvas, wood surfaces, glass, plastic, and even metal surfaces. Oil pastels have a range of potential applications based on individual preferences. 

As you acquire more skill and confidence using this beautiful medium you can expand on techniques using your fingers and tools to smear oil pastels. Blending stumps, cloth, and paper towels are commonly used to smear pastels for desired effects.

Solvents can also be used in conjunction with oil pastels to create unique effects of your artwork. Some artists even melt oil pastels and use them like encaustic.

Choosing the Right Oil Pastel

There are several brands of oil pastels to choose from. Some may be harder or softer which can affect how they perform. You may want a brand that draws more like a hard colored pencil or choose one that is softer so you can easily blend and smear it with your fingers. Experimenting with different brands and types of oil pastels will help you find the perfect ones to match your artistic capabilities. 

Making Oil Pastels at Home

Buying high quality oil pastels from well known makers is a sure bet that you will get a superior product that performs to your expectations. In addition to purchasing oil pastels, some individuals choose to make their own.

This is a skill in itself that may take some time to learn, though not impossible. Once you have used oil pastels for some time you might want to buy pigments and binders to learn how to make your own. There are several resources online as well as offline available that can help you learn this craft which can be enjoyable.

You may find it very rewarding to learn to make your own pastels and by using the right ratios of ingredients you can create pastels that last for years. This might be something I will write about soon. If you are interested, let me know via the Contact Me page.

Until then, you can try this out…

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Joe Colella - Chief Wasted Talent
Joe Colella – Chief Wasted Talent

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