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Oil Pastels vs Soft Pastels: What’s the Difference?

Oil Pastels vs Soft Pastels: What’s the Difference?

Oil Pastels vs Soft Pastels: What’s the Difference?


Creating art is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Using different techniques and mediums with your hands to then see it come to life is a great way to express yourself. Two of the most popular mediums people of all ages and skill levels like to use are oil pastels and soft pastels.

Oil pastels and soft pastels can both be used to create beautiful art pieces. Choosing a pastel is an easy decision – you just have to know what type of piece and finish you want to achieve and select accordingly. But, what exactly are the finishes and textures of each? Even though they sound like they are similar products, they each have their own unique differences that make them both special. So, what are the differences between oil pastels and soft pastels? Read more below to find out!

What are soft pastels made of?

Soft pastels, also known as chalk pastels, are made of pigment, water, and chalk or binder like gum arabic or clay. This creates a soft, smooth texture that can be used to draw smudgy lines of soft, delicate color. But, soft pastels aren’t able to be mixed on a palette to create another color, so artists who use them need to have a wide range of colors if they want to create art with them.

What are oil pastels made of?

Oil pastels on the other hand, are made of pigment, wax, and oil, and they set in a hard stick. Oil pastels have a much more intense color payoff than soft pastels, and are wet in nature, so they can be missed with other colors or materials to create other hues. This means that you can get away with having fewer of them.

What’s the difference between oil pastels vs soft pastels?

Oil pastels and soft pastels are both great materials, but they are essentially different products. The main differences between oil pastels and soft pastels is the way they perform and mix with other mediums. Soft pastels are better for lighter paintings, like watercolor, and are better for artists who like ready-made colors. Oil pastels, alternatively, can be used to create dramatic works and can be mixed with other colors to create vibrant shades and complex textures. 

Essentially, they are meant to do different things and it’s up to the artist to decide what kinds of works that they want to create so they can know which pastel to reach for.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that if you decide that soft pastels are the material for you, you’ll need to buy many more than you’d think so you can have all the colors you need to complete a piece.

Pastel artists: what supplies do you need?

If you decide to work with pastels, it can be a little daunting to find the materials you need. There’s an overwhelming amount of pastel art supplies available, and it can be hard to know where to start. But, if you start with the basics and work your way up from there, you’ll be able to get a grasp on everything you’ll need in no time. 

First, get some pastel paper. This type of paper has a lot of texture, or teeth, on it so it can adequately grip the pastel and bring out their color and texture. Then, get your pastels, but don’t get intimidated by all of the colors that are available to you. We also recommend starting out with some basic art accessories so that you have the essentials. Next grab a fixative, or a substance that will lock your pastel strokes into place so they won’t smudge. Lastly, grab a sketchbook or two to draft your thoughts before you get started.

If these materials are for your child and they are between the ages of three and six, we recommend signing them up for our Young Artist Series. They’ll be provided with all the necessary materials, and will receive lessons that will help them get started on their art journey. 


Oil pastels and soft pastels are both beautiful mediums that can be used to create masterpieces. I Create Art has a wide range of each type of pastel, so browse through our selection to find what you need. Or, if pastels aren’t your thing, we have other art supplies that you can use to create your best art. Browse through our entire collection today or watch videos & other I Create Art tutorials here on different drawing mediums.

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