There are 3 ways to sharpen oil pastels, you can use a craft knife (like an X-Acto knife), rub your oil pastel on rough sandpaper or use a specially-made crayon sharpener.
Tip: Just remember, not apply too much pressure as you sand and cut your oil pastel at an angle or you will snap your oil pastel’s end off.
3 Ways to Sharpen Pastels
1. Using an X-Acto or Craft Knife
First, you will need to gather the materials for sharpening oil pastels.
You’ll need a cutting board or something similar, such as cardboard; sharp scissors or an X-Acto knife; and some fine sandpaper (at least 400 grit).
I use a flat plate as I keep misplacing my cutting board.
Once you have these materials, it’s time to start sharpening.
Start by slicing the oil pastel at a sharp angle on the end of your oil pastel with the scissors or X-Acto knife, making sure not to cut too deeply into the core of the pastel itself.
If you are using scissors, I suggest opening them up and using only one side like a knife blade rather than trying to cut the oil pastel ends.
Use a back-and-forth motion for this step to ensure that both sides of the pastel are shaved and sharpened evenly. Take off only a small slide at a time.
Once the angle has been sharpened, use the sandpaper to refine the sharpening of the tip a little further. Start with laying some sandpaper on a flat surface with the rough side facing up. Hold it down flat with one hand.
2. Using Sandpaper
You can also use sandpaper on its own to sharpen an oil pastel.
Pick up your oil pastel and with the other hand, using light pressure and on an acute angle, start the back-and-forth motion on the sandpaper and work your way up to a firmer pressure until you have achieved the sharpness desired.
You will find you don’t actually need to apply much pressure as oil pastels are quite soft.
This should be done in small increments rather than trying to sharpen it all at once. Sharpen the tip a little bit more and check. Repeat this process until you have the desired sharpness.
Remember, oil pastels are never going to be as sharp as a pastel pencil so if you want to keep making very sharp lines then maybe you should consider a different type of pastel.
Finally, use a paper towel to wipe some of the shavings off the sharpened end of the pastel and then blend it out with your finger or a soft cloth. This will help keep your sharpened pastels in good shape for longer.
3. Use a Oil Pastel Sharpener
The other quick method is to purchase an oil pastel sharpener like the one below.
The only issue I had with this tool is that it does not suit all sizes of oil pastels and you can’t control the tip being sharpened. It is quick but less flexible. Save yourself some money and use the first 2 tips.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech).
While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney.
While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts making Art his full time source of income from the age of 18 until 25.
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