If you only had five dollars to spend on art supplies for your kiddo and asked me what to spend it on I wouldn’t have to think very long. Oil pastels. Those are the supply I would pick. Here I list a few oil pastel techniques that are just my favorite ways to use oil pastels with kids. They’re bright, and beautiful, and so fun! Join me!
Why oil pastels are the perfect kid art supply….
Basically anything a crayon can do an oil pastel can do better. It’s true. Crayons are about the most common kid’s art supply there is but these oil pastels are more vibrant and more versatile which makes them just more fun to color with!
Oil pastels are softer than a crayon which makes coloring large spaces or coloring really heavy, vibrant color much less tiresome than doing so with crayons.
And, affordable. The oil pastels pictured in my examples come in a set of 25 colors for the price of a cup of coffee. I’m not even talking fancy coffee here. I love using art supplies that aren’t “too precious” with kids. It’s no fun to have to guard art supplies from being used up when your kids have hit their creative mojo. These oil pastels are student grade but the colors are vibrant and smooth! I also like this brand of oil pastels and use it often in the classroom. Because they are a little thicker there is less breakage!
Blending values with oil pastels….
Most techniques that allow a young artist to smoothly transition from one color to another involve paint. And a mess. This oil pastel technique is a great way to allow your kiddo to experiment layering a color plus black and white to achieve a smooth value scale with no big clean up process. (A free value printable is here if you want to dive further into this concept!)
Start by laying down a bit of the middle color or hue. Oil pastels build up on the paper and that’s what allows the colors to blend easily. So, really lay that middle color down. And inch or so away from one end of the middle color start coloring with the white until it overlaps the color itself. Encourage kids to color with the white onto the color and the then trade and use the colored oil pastel to blend into the white. Getting a smooth transition may take more than one layer of color! Keep going back and forth!
Do the same with the black crayon to complete your value scale. I find this process of blending values to be super valuable (Haha, get it?) because even the largest oil pastel sets will not likely include multiple values of the same color.
Reverse drawing with oil pastels…
I love this oil pastel technique because there’s that “Ewwww and awwww” element to it. It’s a little magical!
The process here is to completely cover a page with vibrant oil pastel color. Lay a plain piece of paper on top and draw. Draw any design with a pencil focusing on making lots of marks. When the paper is lifted a colorful design will be transferred from the oil pastel paper to the back of the drawing. The “back” of the drawing becomes the work of art! Check out this post for more details on this process and ways to turn it into a complete lesson!
Oil pastel resist….
OIl pastels color a soft and waxy pigment. Naturally, they resist water. Their color stays vibrant when painted over with watercolor paints which present about a million possibilities for these two art materials as a combo! It can be hard to convince kids to use their entire paper, background included. Focus on the main subject by using oil pastel and then add a quick wash of watercolor to the background for a super finished look. I used this exact same process for this line drawing lesson and it’s always a hit!
Texture rubbings with oil pastels…
Texture can be a tricky element for kids to capture when drawing. But, lay something with a bit of actual texture under a paper, lay that oil pastel down sideways and rub it back and forth. You’ve got a texture rubbing that’s a visual representation of the item you did the rubbing of with no tedious drawing skills required.
I love using this method to create interesting paper for weavings and collages and maybe even combining it with the watercolor resist method above! Check out one of my favorite projects ever- this leaf rubbing project that combines both the texture rubbing and watercolor resist. It’s so easy and turns out beautiful. Every. Single. Time.
(Check out this free printable to help teach your kiddos about the different types of texture!)
OIl pastels can blend just like paint can. Your kiddos won’t see results of this if they just use them to draw outlines like they might if they were using crayons! In order to achieve paint like results it’s necessary to really lay the oil pastel on thickly, which is easy since the pastel crayons are so soft and color so easily.
Lay a some color down working in a back and forth or circular motion. Choose an analogous color (one close to your original color on the color wheel) and lay some of that color down next to your original. Continue to layer one color and then the other till the transition disappears. If your kiddo knows this oil pastel technique they can literally create any color they can imagine!
Oily oil pastels….
Okay, this sounds weird. But weird is fun and this is definitely a little weird. Before you try this on a super precious artwork play around a bit on a sample. Color a few colors and then run into the bathroom and grab a bottle of baby oil and a handful of q-tips. Pour the baby oil into some type of open mouthed bowl so you can dip the q-tip right into the oil.
Draw over top of the oil pastels with the oil loaded q-tip and watch the oil pastels liquefy and move around on the page. This post has more details on this process. It’s a fun one!
Laying in large areas of color with oil pastels….
You know the oil pastels you peeled the wrappers off of for the texture rubbing? You can use them for this oil pastel technique too! Instead of holding the oil pastel as you would hold a pencil lay it down flat and move it back and forth that way! It’s a quick way to add in some not so intense color perfect for large areas like backgrounds!
Oil pastel scratch….
Grab a couple of different colors of oil pastels and layer one over top of the other in thick layers. Use a toothpick to scratch into the oil pastels and remove a bit of color. This oil pastel technique is a great way to add interest to smaller areas and reproduce actual textures.