Difference Between Oil Pastels and Soft Pastels

When creating with pastels, what’s the difference between oil pastels and soft pastels? Let me show you! First off, simple and to the point: oil pastels are like oil/wax sticks, soft pastels are more like chalk sticks.

I am using a white Ampersand Pastelbord for both paintings. The pastel boards feel like sand paper. I tried using colors as close as possible but I did not have exact matches.


The oil pastel left many “crumbs” or tiny wax bits. These crumbs could not be blown away with  my breath. In contrast, the fine particles that were left by the soft pastels were easily blown away with a light breath. Also, the soft pastel covered a lot more ground quickly and efficiently than the oil pastel did.


As you can see in the oil pastel painting, the layers were more difficult for me to layer. Even though I am using the same paper, I cannot add as many layers on top of each other as I can with soft pastels. With oil pastels, the third layer became mud. Even the second layer would change the color. With soft pastels, I was able to layer many more times without the top layer color changing.

Blending oil pastels is only possible with a blending stump, like a tortillion. I could not blend the oil pastel with my finger. You can use mediums to mix and blend oil pastels, but in this experiment I did not.

Blending soft pastels is possible with just your finger. Blending with a tortillion is too harsh and caused the soft pastel pigment to dislodge from the tooth of the paper. You cannot use mediums to blend soft pastels.


When values of color are similar, the oil pastel colors are more vibrant next to each other. Oil pastel colors next to each other retain their clarity. Soft pastels are slightly more subtle. Many people like oil pastels for this reason, because the pigment is bonded with mineral oils and waxes, they look more like oil paints.


In the oil pastel example, I was able to make fine twigs and branches using the blending tortillion stick. The sky was creamy and the twigs faded into the sky easily. I was able to quickly suggest many little twigs.
In the soft pastel example I was able to use a soft pastel pencil to lightly scratch in fine twigs and branches. The soft pastel in pencil form is very convenient for detailed work.

Oil pastels and Soft pastels both have their own pros and cons. Play with both to see which one feels more comfortable to you.

For more Difference Between posts click here:

Difference Between Cold Press and Hot Press Watercolor Papers

Difference Between Underwashes: Pastel VS Turpentine

Difference Between Hahnemühle Watercolor Papers


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