Undoubtedly, the best paper for oil pastels are extremely important if you want the best results for your paintings.
The concept of oil paints are as ancient as perhaps the concept of detailed paintings. From the Days of Renaissance to modern times, oil paint has been the most common and the most favorite paint option of both professional and hobbyist artists.
With the advent of oil pastels, it has become easier to incorporate oil paint into our art projects, without all the extra fuss. In fact, oil pastels can be considered to be oil paint without all the extra mess - perfect for both drawing and painting.
Oil pastels look like crayons that children use in their art projects and in coloring, but their color and texture resemble oil paint. Just like oil paint, special paper is needed for use with oil pastels.
When used on the right kind of paper, oil pastels give out the best results that you might actually mistake for real artist grade oil paint.
However, choosing the best paper for oil pastels can be tricky, especially if you don’t know what to look for. In this review article, we are going to discuss the best options for specialty papers, and learn what specifications they need to have.
Top 10 Best Paper for Oil Pastels
Here are the 10 best specialty papers that will bring out the best results from your oil pastels.
1. Canson 100510941 XL Watercolor Pad
This is a watercolor pad, but any artist can easily use it for not just oil pastels and watercolors, but also for acrylic paint, marker and ink pens, colored pencils, charcoal and graphite pencils.
Each pad is 9”x12” in size, and contains 30 sheets. Relatively thinner, these pads are the perfect size and weight to carry around with you everywhere.
The sheets are made from cold pressed textured paper that can withstand anything, even water and multiple washes. The pages are also acid free and safe to use, even for children. The natural white color and even texture makes every single medium you use stand out, not just oil pastels.
- Sketch pad of 30 sheets
- 9”x12” in size
- Perfect for most type of mediums, including oil pastel, watercolor and acrylic
- Cold press paper with texture
- Durable surface and cover
- Pages can withstand water and multiple washes
- Acid-free and safe to use paper
- Natural white color
- Fold over pages
- 140 lbs in weight
2. Faber-Castell Black Paper Pad
Black paper pads aren’t very common, but they are indispensable when working with certain paint media. This particular one from Faber-Castell, an extremely well known name in fine art materials, is a heavy-weight pad with only 25 sheets in each one.
The pages are 9”x12” each, and crucial when working with gel sticks, metallic pencils or pens, gel pens or beeswax crayons. The right shades of oil pastels can indeed create magic on these pages.
The pages are all made from 50% post consumer materials recycled and dyed to create heavy-weight paper, completely safe and perfect for all ages and all kinds of arts and crafts.
- Sketch pad with black paper inside
- Each pad consists 25 sheets of paper
- 9”x12” in size
- Perfect for beeswax crayons, gel sticks and gel pens, oil pastels and metallic pens
- Made from 50% recycled materials
- Rich, black pages inside
3. U.S. Art Supply Premium Printing Paper Pad
There’s something special about naturally white paper for you to write or paint on, as you can find with these paper pads from the U.S. Art Supply Store.
This is a set of two printing pads with 15-sheets in each pad, thin but perfect for carrying around. The sheets are glued to the frame so that they can be easily removed when you want to.
All the pages are Acid-free and made from Neutral pH materials; the paper pads might be thin, but the sheets themselves are sturdy enough to be used with most media types. They are in fact, perfect not just for oil pastels, but for all types of oil paints.
- Set of 2 sketch pads
- Each pad has 15 sheets
- 9”x12” in size
- Perfect for oil pastels and oil paint
- Sheets are glued together to the frame
- Individual sheets can be teared easily from the binding
- Acid-free and made from neutral pH materials
- Naturally white pages
- Weighs 90 lbs each
4. ARTEZA 9”x12” Black Sketch Pad
If your art is different from others, this is the sketch pad for you. A set of 2 sketch pads with 30 sheets in each, this is a pad with rich and textrous black sheets inside. Spiral bound on one side, you can use the pages for both vertical portraits and horizontal landscapes.
The sheets are perfect not just for the right shades of oil pastels, but also colored pencils, gel pens, charcoal, chalk pencil and colored ink.
Micro-perforated and spiral-bound - these sketch pads have been made to withstand a lot of use and abuse. They are not too heavy and can be carried around in your backpack or in your hand easily.
Each pad is 9”x12” in size; the pages can be easily ripped out without any harm to the binding or the frame, and each of them are just the perfect size to frame for your walls.
- Set of 2 sketch pads
- Each pad consists of 30 sheets
- 9”x12” in size
- Ideal for most dry mediums, including graphite pencils, oil pastel, gel pens, charcoal and colored pencils
- Perfect for art in reverse
- Micro-perforated cover and body
- Spiral-bound frame, perfect for ripping off
- 90 lbs in weight
5. Strathmore 455-3 400 Series Sketch Pad
As sketch pads go, this one from Strathmore Store is one of the best options you can find anywhere. This is a 100-page, heavy-weight sketch pad with a spiral binding, easy to tear off any page without damaging the binding or the other pages.
The paper inside this sketch pad is absolutely perfect for not just oil pastels, but also for colored pencils, marker pens, charcoals, sketching sticks, soft and hard pastels, crayons, mixed media and graphite pencil.
If you are an artist with varied interests and proficient in a lot of mediums, this is a great sketch pad for you. In each of the pages, you can try different painting mediums without damaging the sketch pad or the paintings in the other pages.
Both the binding and the cover page is sturdy, and can withstand countless handlings and practices. This is a great sketchpad if you are practicing or creating your portfolio!
Everything you do will be in the same place for you to carry around with you. The pages are all acid-free and completely safe for everyone to use.
- 100 sheets inside one sketch pad
- 9”x12” in size
- Versatile and sturdy
- Acid-free pages
- Wire binding sheets for easy use and navigation
- Great for oil pastels, charcoal, pencils, markers, graphite and mixed media
- Heavyweight sketch sheets
6. Northland Wholesale Premium Sketchbook
Sketchbooks are primarily used for making quick sketches, but this one from Northland Wholesale can be used for painting and coloring, as well.
This is a single sketchbook with 40 sheets inside, the standard 9”x12” in size. Instead of naturally white, the sheets are actually off-white in color.
Despite the color being slightly dull, the right shades can be brilliant on these sketchbooks. They can be used quite well for pastels, pencils and gel pens, charcoal and even crayons.
- Sketch pad contains 40 sheets
- 9”x12” in size
- Perfect for oil pastels and oil paint, charcoal, colored pencils, gel pens and crayons
- Off white color
- Double spiral-binding
- High-quality paper with slight texture
- 140 lbs in weight
7. Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel Pad
Canson makes a number of different sketchbooks for different purposes, and this one is made specially for oil pastels. What’s unique about this sketch pad is that all the sheets inside are of different colors, perfect for different kinds of artwork.
The sheets are all 9”x12” in size, and made from 50% cotton. Not just for oil pastels, these sheets can be always used for different crafts to do with paper. You can use both sides of the paper if you want to; one side has a slightly heavier texture than the other one.
With a heavy texture on one side and a lighter texture on the other, you can use both sides or one, according to your project. Oil pastel and other broad media can be used on the heavy textured side, and soft pencil can be used on the lighter side to make doodles or sketches.
The sketchpad has 24 sheets in it, and weighs 98 lbs. It is extremely lightweight and can be carried around with you in your bag or backpack.
- Comes with 24 sheets
- 9”x12” in size
- Sheets inside are of different colors
- Easily removable sheets
- Fold over design
- Dual texture on either side of each sheet
- Made of 50% cotton
- Gelatin-sized papers
8. UART Grade 400 Dark Premium Pastel Paper
This is another black sketchbook especially made for certain shades of pastel. The rich and textrous sheets of this drawing pad perfectly accents the light and subtle oil pastel colors that are more popular these days.
It is the contrast between the sheets and the colors that make any project attractive and interesting.
These sheets can be used not just for oil pastels, but also for charcoal, graphite pencils, colored pencils and watercolors.
They can be used both for wet-on-dry or wet-on-wet techniques, if you are using oil paints or watercolors. Each set has 10 sheets of paper and they are each 9”x10” in size, with each of them sanded for the best performances.
- Each set comes with 10 sheets
- Sheets are 9”x12” in size
- Each sheet is sanded for the best results
- Dark black paper to bring out the colors with oil pastels perfectly
- Suitable for oil pastels, graphite pencils, charcoal and colored pencils.
- Can be used both for wet-on-dry or wet-on-wet techniques
9. Arches Watercolor Block Hot Press Paper
If you are simply looking for loose sheets and not a sketchbook, this set from ARCHES is the one you need.
A set of 20 loose sheets made from 100% cotton, these sheets are all 9”x12” in size; the sheets are also made with cylindrical mould, from natural gelatin sizing. The surfaces are flawlessly textured, and at the same time, acid-free and safe to use.
Together, the sheets weigh 140 lbs, and the sheets have been bound together in all sides by a hot press. Not just oil pastel, it is possible to use watercolors and oil paint on these sheets as well.
- Each set comes with 20 sheets
- Sheets are 9”x12” in size
- Whole set weighs 140 lbs.
- Off-white in color
- Suitable for oil pastels, oil paint and watercolor
- Block of sheets are bound together in all sides
- Made from 100% cotton
- Made with cylindrical mould and natural gelatin sizing
- Professional-grade high-quality paper
- Weighs 140 lbs
10. Sennelier Oil Pastel Color Pad
With these sheets, your oil pastels will neither bleed nor spread, no matter which color you use. The sheets are tempered, and you’ll find 12 sheets in each pad.
Slightly different than all the other sets, the sheets are 11.75”x11.75” in size. Some art projects, especially mandalas or free-form designs require square-shaped paper, and this set can be exactly perfect for those projects.
The sheets are all acid-free and safe to use, both for children and adults. The heavyweight sheets neither bleed nor damage the paintings on the other pages, so you can use any kind of paint on these sheets.
- Each set comes with 12 sheets
- Sheets doesn’t bleed or spread, or create halos or seep into the next page
- Can be used with oil pastels, oil paints or watercolor
- 11.75”x11.75” in size
- Acid-free materials
- Heavyweight, textured sheets
These are the best 10 papers that you can use for oil pastels, or similar colors. You can use them all not just for oil pastels, but most other paint types.
What to Look for While Buying Paper for Oil Pastels?
All paper might look the same to you if you are an absolute beginner with oil pastels, or with painting. The right kind of paper is extremely important for your projects to look their best; if you are planning to use oil pastels for your art projects, buying the right paper is a decision that you need to make.
There are some qualities that the right paper should have for your own convenience.
Weight, in the context of paper, doesn’t actually mean the weight you feel when you carry the sheets or the pad in your hand.
It also means how thick the sheets are, i.e. whether they are heavy and thick enough to carry the weight of the paint.
Oil pastels, just like oil paint, are heavy. Unlike watercolor, they sit on the surface of the paper instead of being absorbed by it. Heavyweight paper is required to hold the weight of the paint.
Besides, if the paper isn’t a thick one, it can’t hold the paint on the surface like it’s supposed to.
You’ll know a particular brand of paper is heavy because the term “heavyweight” will be present in the description.
For example, the Strathmore 455-3 400 Series Sketch Pad, the Faber-Castell Black Paper Pad and the UART Grade 400 Dark Premium Pastel Paper are both sets with heavyweight paper. Most other papers for painting on or drawing on are also quite heavyweight, so this isn’t a quality that is hard to find.
Textured surfaces are better for working with oil pastels than flat or fine surfaces; therefore, most papers for oil pastels are roughly textured.
Texture is important for oil pastels as the paper in question should have enough tooth to hold on to the pastel paint to the surface. On a flat surface, the paint might spread around more than you want it to.
The Canson 100510941 XL Watercolor Pad and the Arches Watercolor Block Hot Press Paper are both textured paper, with rough surfaces that can hold on to oil pastel color very well.
The Northland Wholesale Premium Sketchbook, on the other hand, had a slight texture but is actually a high-quality paper.
The Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel Pad is quite unique in this matter because each of the sheets of this set has two different sets on either side. One side of these sheets have a rough and heavier texture but the other side has a lighter texture.
When it comes to color, there are two common options: white and black. Most artists prefer a white or an off-white colored surface for their art, but other artists want to experiment with “Art in Reverse”, i.e. drawing or painting on a black surface.
Each of these different techniques are beautiful and attractive in their own way!
The Faber-Castell Black Paper Pad is a very popular set that comes with black-colored paper sheets. The Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel Pad is a very different set of paper as well, in which each sheet of paper is of a different pastel color.
Size, too, is almost the same in almost all sets. The standard size for sketch pads or paper sets are 9” in breadth and 12” in length, or vice versa, depending on how the pad is bound.
Although most popular brands manufacture paper and pads in various sizes and shapes, the 9”x12” size is the most popular one used.
The Sennelier Oil Pastel Color Pad has a different size than all the others, as it is 11.75”x11.75” in size and square in shape.
The binding is quite important in choosing the right paper for oil pastels, especially if you plan to use a sketchpad or carry all your art around with you.
Some artists prefer to work on loose sheets, while others maintain a specific sketchpad. Sketch pads are important also when you want to use them as your portfolio, or travel with them everywhere.
The sketch pads that are spiral bound are easier to use than the ones that are bound by glue to a frame. With spiral binding, the sketch pads can be opened all the way and even folded.
This is not possible with a sketchbook that is bound to the frame with glue, such as the U.S. Art Supply Premium Printing Paper Pad.
- Number of Pages
The total number of pages in a sketchbook might not seem to be an important aspect, but it can be at some point.
If you want to use one of the sketch pads as your complete portfolio to show potential clients, you might want the pad to have more pages, so that you always have all your work with you inside a single pad.
On the other hand, too many pages might make the sketchbook heavier; if you are travelling with it, you might want a slightly thinner one with only a few pages.
When it comes to the total number of pages, there are a lot of options availble for every situation.
From the list above, the Strathmore 455-3 400 Series Sketch Pad is the thickest sketchbook, with 100 pages inside. The UART Grade 400 Dark Premium Pastel Paper, on the other hand, only has 10 sheets of paper.
Most of the paper from the list above have not been only made for oil pastels, but they can also be used for other kinds of paints and mediums. In fact, most paper for artwork are manufactured to be thick and heavy enough to hold most kinds of paint.
Oil paints, acrylic paint and oil pastels happen to be the heaviest paints that these papers or sketchbooks can hold. The thicker the paper, the more sturdily they can hold the ink.
On the other hand, most of these papers or pads are also created to hold water-based paints, such as watercolors.
Watercolors are more absorbed by the papers so the pads for these mediums are usually slightly different. However, most sketch pads and sheets of paper made for oil pastels can also be used for watercolors.
Besides, the black or the dark-colored sheets of paper for “Art in Reverse” can also be used with gel pens, colored pens, markers and similar pens and pencils.
There can be some difference between the different materials used in manufacturing these sheets of paper. In a broader sense, there are certain qualities that should be present in paper for oil pastels regarding the material of the paper.
One of the main points to look for is whether the paper has been made from acid-free materials and can be considered to be safe to use, particularly by children.
These were the obvious qualities that should be present in the sketch pad or sheets of paper that you choose for your projects requiring oil pastel.
After these criteria are met, there is always the matter of price, budget, overall look and feel for an artist to consider.
How to Use Oil Pastels as a Beginner?
Even many professional artists make the switch to oil pastels from oil paint or watercolor, because this is a much easier kind of paint to handle.
Oil pastels can also be the perfect substitute for oil paints, as they are made from similar blends. Oil pastels - just like oil paint - are made up of soft and oily materials mixed with pigments. You use them just like you handled crayons as a child, but get much mature results.
Therefore, if you are a complete beginner to painting or a beginner to oil pastels, the following tips can be extremely helpful to you.
- Always Start With Paper.
Oil pastels can be used both on paper and canvas, but it is better to start your journey on paper; more specifically, paper especially made for oil pastels.
You can choose any of the paper or sketch books from the list above as they are all excellent choices for using with oil pastel.
At the same time, you can experiment with different paper types instead of simply choosing one. The options include watercolor paper, pastel paper, canvas or sandboard paper.
Each of these paper types will react differently to oil pastels and you can choose the one you are most comfortable with.
However, it is important for the oil pastels themselves that you choose a paper type with a thickness of 160 gsm or higher.
It is also important to choose a paper that doesn’t contain any kind of acids. Papers or sketchbooks with acid will lead to the colors shifting, and can also be harmful for your skin.
2. Get the Right Pastels
Oil pastels are actually of two types: soft pastel and hard pastels. The hard pastels are usually square-shaped, and they are great for drawing or coloring around the edges; the softer pastels are perfect for coloring large spaces, contouring, layering and adding shades.
Ideally, all artists should have a mix of hard and soft pastels to cover all kinds of art projects.
3. Choose a Simple Subject.
If you are completely new to painting or using oil pastels, always choose a simple subject, i.e. a fruit, a flower, a house or a book.
It doesn’t matter how big or small the object is, it should be easy to replicate and have definite lines. Choosing something difficult, i.e. a landscape with too many details, or a human being with too many layers can be hard for a beginner.
It is also wiser to begin with a subject that doesn’t have more than two colors or a very few shades of the same color.
4. Start with a Rough Sketch.
Whatever you have chosen as the subject, use a pencil or a hard pastel to draw a rough shape of it on the paper. If you have chosen an apple, draw a medium-sized apple on your sheet just like a child would.
You won’t have to worry too much about the shape or the size of the object at first; it can be rectified later when you are using the oil pastels. The sketch is required to decide how you want to start coloring or where the light source is going to be.
5. Color the Outline
Use the darkest shade of the colors you have in mind to draw an outline of the sketch. It is an apple, use your darkest shade of red to draw its outline.
Don’t use black or any other dark color that isn’t relevant to the object; it might contaminate the color later when you are creating shades.
Also, use a hard oil pastel to do this instead of a soft one, as the hard ones are better for creating an outline.
6. Start Working from the Background
It is always better to start coloring from the background, and work your way to the foreground.
The background is always the darkest compared to the foreground; alternatively, the corner where your light source is going to be should ideally be the lightest area.
You need to start by adding thick layers to the background, and then gradually lightening the color as you move towards the foreground.
You can do this by using lighter shades of the same color, or applying less pressure with the same pastel.
7. Blend all the Colors Together
When you are done coloring, it’s time to blend the colors together. You can use one of your fingers, a tissue or a small piece of cloth for this.
8. Create Some Shadows
Use the darkest shade of the same color at one side or one corner to indicate the part of the object that is farthest from the light source, or the part of the object that has a shadow. Blend the darkest shade as well with the rest of the colors.
9. Create some Background
This is completely optional, but you can create some background for your object.
The apple can be resting on a plate, a table or a basket, or even you can use a lighter shade of a contrasting paint behind and beside the apple. This will make your main object pop out from the rest of the painting.
10. Seal the Image.
Use some oil pastel fixative to seal all the colors together to the paper. This is a spray that will help your painting dry faster and make the paint more durable.
Can You Use Normal Paper for Oil Pastels?
Technically, any regular paper can be used for oil pastels. Since these kinds of paints don't use water or any liquid solvent, any kind of paper can hold oil pastels.
However, for the best results, it is recommended that specialty paper is used for painting with oil pastels. These specialty papers are thicker and heavier than normal paper, and better equipped to deal with oil pastels.
Regular paper and sketch paper are much thinner, and because there is oil in oil pastels, the oil might seep through the paper. The thicker the paper, the better oil pastels will stay on the surface.
Paper for oil pastels also need to be textrous. Regular paper is usually flat and smooth; they can’t hold paint on the surface of the paper properly.
Thicker specialty paper for oil pastel also comes with a rough texture, which is perfect for holding the paint together instead of spreading it around. Without the right amount of texture, paint from oil pastels can spread on the paper instead of staying together.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Best Paper for Oil Pastels
If you have any questions regarding oil pastels, you might find the answers here.
Q. How long does it take for oil pastels to dry?
A. Ordinarily, it takes oil pastels 30 to 40 minutes to dry. If you want to apply another layer on top of your primary layer, you can do it after half an hour of finishing the first layer.
You can also use a corner of your finger to check if your paint has dried completely before applying the second layer.
Q. Are Oil Pastels Toxic or Dangerous?
A. Usually, oil pastels are neither toxic nor dangerous, even when used by children. While certain colors might contain pigments that are only a little bit toxic, but they are only dangerous when consumed accidentally.
Otherwise, oil pastels are completely harmless. They can be used anywhere as well, but it is better if you use oil pastels in a room that is well-ventilated.
Q. Is it possible to remove or clean oil pastels?
A. Oil pastels aren’t washable, but they can be scraped off with the right tool.
If it doesn’t come off with a scraper, you can hold a piece of ice on the part of the paint you want to remove. This will make it easier to simply remove from the paper with your fingers or a scraper.
If the stain or the paint persists, the next step would be to wet a piece of cotton ball with rubbing alcohol. Hold and blot the stained area with the cotton ball until the stain is completely removed.
Q. What are oil pastels made from?
A. Most oil pastels are made from a combination of colored pigments, and a binder of wax and non-drying oil.
Oil pastels can be quite easy to use, especially after you get a hold of it. With oil pastels, you can eliminate all the mess made by watercolors or oil paints, as oil pastels are not much different from crayons used by children.
It is, however, possible to create complicated and detailed paintings with oil pastels that look just as good as any painting created by professional oil paints.