Oil Stick vs Oil Pastel: A Quick Comparison Guide

There are clear differences when comparing an oil stick vs oil pastel.

Both oil sticks and oil pastels offer vibrant colors and unique textures, but understanding their differences is key to choosing the right one for your artwork.

Oil pastels and oil sticks resemble crayons but differ in their binders.

Oil pastels use a non-drying mineral oil, never fully drying, while oil sticks, made with linseed or safflower oil, dry over time.

Oil pastels, mixed with wax, don’t damage paper or canvas and blend with just friction.

In contrast, softer oil sticks feel like painting and require a medium for blending.

oil stick vs oil pastel

Oil sticks are not the same as oil pastels

No, oil sticks and oil pastels are not the same.

While both are art mediums that have pigments compressed into stick form, they have some have similarities and some differences:


Oil pastels are made with a non drying mineral oil and wax, meaning they never fully dry. Oil sticks, on the other hand, are made with drying oils like linseed or safflower oil and will eventually dry and cure.


Oil pastels can be blended using just friction, while oil sticks often require a blending medium.


Oil sticks are generally softer and using them feels more like painting, whereas oil pastels can feel more like drawing due to their consistency.

Drying Time

Oil pastels remain somewhat malleable and can be smudged, while oil sticks will harden over time, similar to traditional oil paints meaning they should be touch dry in a few days.

Though similar in some ways, they have distinct characteristics and serve different purposes in art.

Understanding Oil Sticks and Oil Pastels

Oil stick vs oil pastel: both offer unique ways to create some pretty cool art. They both have their own benefits and drawbacks, so let’s dive in to some detail to see what makes them different outside of the characteristics I just described.

What are oil sticks?

Oil sticks are made of pure pigment combined with linseed or safflower oil. This forms a stick that offers the same versatility of oil paints but in a convenient, portable form. In contrast, oil pastels have pure pigment, too, but they’re mixed with non-drying oil and mineral wax, resulting in a creamier texture ideal for drawing.

Working with oil sticks allows you to blend and layer colors as you would with oil paint. They have a drying time similar to traditional oil paints, which means you can rework your piece before it dries completely. 

What are oil pastels?

With oil pastels, you can still blend colors, but they never fully dry due to their non-drying oil component. This means your artwork remains delicate and may require a protective fixative.

Here are the key things to remember when working with oil sticks and oil pastels:

So, when choosing between these two mediums, consider your artistic goals and the specific benefits each medium offers.

If you want the flexibility and drying time of oil paint in a portable form, oil sticks, such as R&F Pigment Sticks, might be the right choice.

On the other hand, if you’re drawn to the creamy texture and blending possibilities of a drawing-focused medium, oil pastels may be your ideal choice.

Feel free to experiment with both to find your preferred style and unleash your creativity.

Pros and Cons – Oil Stick vs Oil Pastel

Both oil sticks and oil pastels have their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a breakdown:

Oil Sticks:


  1. Drying: They eventually dry and cure, which means a finished piece won’t smudge or smear once set.
  2. Versatility: Suitable for both drawing and painting techniques, bridging the gap between crayons and traditional oil paints.
  3. Layering: Once dry, they can be layered more effectively than oil pastels.
  4. Integration: Can be used alongside traditional oil paints, making them suitable for mixed media approaches.


  1. Drying Time: They take longer to dry than some other mediums, which may not be ideal for quick projects.
  2. Blending: Requires a blending medium, unlike oil pastels that blend with friction.
  3. Cost: Generally more expensive than oil pastels.

Oil Pastels:


  1. Ease of Use – They are straightforward, easy to use, and great for beginners.
  2. Blending – They can be effortlessly blended using just friction.
  3. No Drying – They never fully dry, allowing for reworking and layer adjustments at any time.
  4. Price – Typically more affordable than oil sticks.


  1. Permanent Setting – Since they don’t dry, finished artworks remain susceptible to smudging.
  2. Layering – It can be challenging to layer effectively, especially if a heavy base layer has been applied.
  3. Fine Details – It can be tricky to achieve fine details because of their soft consistency.

The choice between the two would largely depend on your artwork’s desired outcome, your preferences, and the specific techniques you intend to employ.

Usage and Techniques

Oil sticks and oil pastels serve as unique artistic mediums, offering a range of possibilities for artists.

Professional artists appreciate the similarity to regular oil paint when using oil sticks.

This medium, sometimes called oil bars or oil paint sticks, contains an oil binder and allows for rich, vibrant colors.

Oil painters often pair oil sticks with other oil painting mediums, using a palette knife or applying directly for bold oil paint strikes.

On the other hand, oil pastels provide pastel colors that pack a punch, lending vivid and vibrant hues to your artwork.

This type of pastel differs from dry pastel, also known as chalk pastel, due to the oil content.

The binder in oil pastels – a non-drying mineral oil – keeps colors luscious, but does not harden like oil pigment sticks or artist-grade oil sticks.

When selecting materials, consider your needs and preferences. You’ll find various brands of oil pastels and oil sticks on the market.

For oil pastels, different oil pastel brands cater to different skill levels and budgets. A good-quality set can elevate your work, while more affordable options, like student-grade Shiva Paintstiks, might suffice for casual projects.

As for oil sticks, there are several respected brands available. Some artists prefer chunky tools, while others opt for a slimmer design. Experiment to see what suits your style best.

Remember that oil pastels and oil sticks both require specific techniques for optimal results. With oil pastels, you can layer and blend colors to achieve subtle nuances, or use a walnut oil diluent for smooth blending.

Oil sticks, on the other hand, often benefit from surface preparation and require more time to dry than other mediums like acrylic paints.

Ultimately, your choice between oil sticks and oil pastels comes down to the feel, application method, and desired outcome for your work.

By understanding their individual attributes, you can unlock their potential and bring your artistic vision to life.

Materials and Surfaces

Exploring art supplies can be exciting, especially when it comes to oil sticks and oil pastels. Both of these art mediums have distinct characteristics that will affect how they interact with surfaces.

Oil sticks are made with linseed or safflower oil, making them similar to oil paint. This means they require surface preparation when working on paper or canvas.

You can start by applying a layer of gesso or oil painting primer to help create a good surface for the medium to adhere to.

Typically, you would use a brush or a paper towel to apply the gesso, and after it dries, your art room is all set for some oil stick painting magic.

Oil pastels contain non-drying mineral oil and natural waxes, so they never completely dry.

This gives them a versatile edge that allows you to create art on various surfaces – from paper and canvas to wood and metal – without any prepping.

Some popular types of paper to use for oil pastel artwork include pastel paper and watercolor paper. These provide a slightly textured surface that holds the pastel effectively.

When it comes to picking a surface for your masterpiece, remember these key points:

  • Prepare the surface with gesso or an oil painting primer for oil sticks.
  • For oil pastels, experiment on different surfaces, including pastel paper and watercolor paper.

Using the appropriate materials for your chosen medium makes your art shine and last longer. Choosing surfaces that best showcase your work and help you create the desired outcome is essential. 

Cleaning Up Oil Stick vs Oil Pastel – Compared

Cleaning up after using oil sticks or oil pastels is an essential aspect to consider, especially for artists who work in various mediums or have limited workspaces. Here’s a comparison:

Oil Sticks:


  1. Similar to Oil Paint: If you’re accustomed to cleaning up after using oil paints, oil sticks won’t present any new challenges. You can use the same solvents and methods.
  2. Reusable: Once an oil stick has dried on a palette, it can be reactivated with solvents, reducing waste.


  1. Solvents Needed: Just like with oil paints, you’ll likely need solvents like turpentine or mineral spirits to clean brushes or tools effectively.
  2. Potential for Stains: Since they eventually dry and cure, spilled or smeared oil sticks can be challenging to remove from surfaces or fabrics if not addressed quickly.

Oil Pastels:


  1. Wipe Away: They can often be wiped away easily from non-porous surfaces with a dry cloth or paper towel.
  2. No Solvents Needed: Generally, there’s no need for solvents for basic cleanup. For more thorough cleaning, a mild soap and water will often suffice.


  1. Smeary Nature: Oil pastels can smear easily. If smeared on fabrics or porous surfaces, they can be challenging to remove entirely.
  2. Residue: They can leave a greasy residue, which might require additional cleaning or precautions to prevent transferring to unintended surfaces.

General Cleanup Tips:

  • Always wear aprons or old clothes to prevent stains.
  • Use a dedicated workspace or protective covers to ensure easy cleaning.
  • Always cap or wrap your mediums after use to prevent unintentional smudging or drying out.

Oil pastels might be a bit easier and more straightforward to clean up after than oil sticks due to the absence of required solvents.

Both mediums demand careful handling to avoid unintentional smears or stains.

Popular Brands and Variants

Sennelier Oil Pastels and Sennelier Oil Sticks are favorite choices among artists. Henri Sennelier, a French chemist, created artist-grade oil pastels in 1949, and these high-quality materials gained popularity quickly.

They’re known for their vibrant colors and creamy texture. Necessary to note: Sennelier oil pastels come in higher-priced versions as well.

Jack Richeson Shiva Paintstik is another well-liked brand for oil sticks. They offer a range of higher-grade Paintstiks that are artist-friendly and easy to use. Their full line also includes student-grade colors, so you can find something for every skill level and budget.

Pan Pastels are independently reviewed products that have earned a solid reputation among artists.

They provide an excellent alternative to traditional oil pastels and sticks. Pan Pastels come in a variety of colors, and their easy-to-blend formula allows for endless creative possibilities.

Instead of applying them as pencils or crayons, you apply the pastel as you would paint.

Remember, choosing the right brand and variant depends on your unique style and preferences.

Try experimenting with several options to find the ones that work best for your artwork. Enjoy discovering new materials and techniques to enhance your creative process!

Distinguishing Characteristics

Oil sticks and oil pastels may seem similar, but they have unique characteristics that make them different mediums. Let’s explore their main differences and how they can affect your artwork.

Oil pastels are made with a non drying mineral oil, meaning they never completely dry. This gives oil pastel paintings rich colors and a smooth, creamy texture.

Because they don’t dry, it takes a long time for layers to set, so you need to be careful when adding more layers. The best paper for oil pastels is heavy and textured, like watercolor paper. This type of paper gives your oil pastel marks a strong grip and prevents smudging.

When it comes to layering techniques, oil pastels offer a more crayonlike experience. You can blend colors easily just by rubbing them with your fingers or use a small amount of wax for a different effect.

But remember, oil primer is necessary when working with oil pastels on canvas to create a protective barrier between the oily composition and the canvas.

On the other hand, oil sticks are made with linseed or safflower oil, and they eventually dry and harden like traditional oil paint.

This means you can work in larger areas and with different pastel types, such as soft pastels. Oil sticks typically come in a 38-milliliter size, ideal for covering large areas quickly.

Using oil sticks is like applying glossy paint glides directly to your canvas – an exciting experience to explore.

The main ingredients are oil, pigment, and a small amount of wax, allowing for unique layering techniques and effects in your art. Unlike oil pastels, oil sticks work well on a variety of surfaces without the need for special attention or paper types.

Pablo Picasso, a famous artist, loved working with oil pastels, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from oil sticks.

They can be an equally vital and fun medium to experiment with. Remember, exploring different mediums is key to finding your artistic voice and challenging yourself as a visual artist.

When choosing between oil sticks and oil pastels, consider the type of artwork you want to create, the surfaces you like to work with, and how patient you are in waiting for layers to dry or not.

Experiment with both mediums to discover their unique characteristics and which one best suits your artistic needs.

Compatibility With Other Mediums

I love working with mixed media, and this extends to the use of oil pastels and oil sticks. I like to mix them with various types of surfaces and paints and pencils to make unique work.

But do you know there are some limitations? Let’s have a look at how compatible oil sticks and oil pastels are with other mediums.

When discussing the compatibility of oil sticks and pastels with other mediums, it’s important to consider how they interact chemically and visually.

Let’s delve into how oil sticks and oil pastels fare when used alongside various popular art mediums:

Oil Sticks:

  • Oil Paints: Highly compatible. Oil sticks can be used on top of dried oil paint or vice versa. They share similar binders and drying mechanisms.
  • Acrylics: Can be applied over dried acrylic paint, but not the other way around. Acrylics are water-based and should not be applied on top of oil mediums.
  • Watercolors & Gouache: Oil sticks can be applied over dried watercolor or gouache, but like acrylics, the reverse isn’t advised.
  • Charcoal & Graphite: Compatible, but it’s advisable to fix the charcoal or graphite layer before applying oil sticks to prevent smudging.
  • Inks: Can be used on top of dried inks. Ensure the ink layer is fully dry and won’t react with the oil.
  • Pastels: Not commonly combined due to differences in texture and layering, but it’s possible with care.

Oil Pastels:

  • Oil Paints: Not entirely compatible. While they can be applied over dried oil paint, the non-drying nature of oil pastels can lead to issues if oil paint is applied over them.
  • Acrylics: Oil pastels can be used over dried acrylics, but the reverse isn’t advised because of potential adhesion problems.
  • Watercolors & Gouache: Oil pastels can resist or repel water-based mediums, creating interesting effects. They can be applied on top or used as a resist underneath.
  • Charcoal & Graphite: Oil pastels can smear these, so it’s advisable to fix the charcoal or graphite layer first.
  • Inks: Can be used over dried inks, but ensure the ink layer won’t be smudged or lifted.
  • Soft & Hard Pastels: These can be combined, but it’s essential to be aware of the different textures and blending behaviors.

General Compatibility Tips:

  • The old adage “Fat over lean” applies, especially with oils. Thicker or oilier mediums should go over thinner or leaner ones.
  • Always test unfamiliar medium combinations on a scrap piece of your art surface before committing to a larger project.
  • Consider how the finished artwork will be preserved. Some combinations might require specialized sealing or framing techniques.

In the end, experimentation is key. Many artists find unique and innovative ways to combine mediums, producing fresh and exciting visual results.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *