The 7 Best Papers For Oil Pastels

If you are an oil pastel artist, then learning about the best papers for oil pastels is a must. Oil pastels are an incredibly versatile medium to work in.

When you develop the skills to use them properly, you can create vibrant drawings and paintings. Oil pastels allow you to quickly lay down color, and when mixed with mineral spirits, they can be blended and behave a lot like oil paints.

While oil pastels can be used on just about any surface, there are certain types of papers that work better for oil pastels than others.

Oil pastels work best on a paper that has a lot of tooth to it, this gives the pastel something to grip.

Without sufficient tooth, oil pastels will slide around and smear, which can turn a pastel painting from a work of art, into a muddy mess.


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Can You Use Oil Pastel On Sketch Paper?

The 7 Best Papers For Oil Pastels With Examples
The 7 Best Papers For Oil Pastels With Examples

Can you use oil pastels on sketch paper? Sure. Should you? No. Oil pastels can be used to sketch with inexpensive sketching paper like newsprint, just don't expect to get outstanding results.

Thin, lightweight paper without a lot of tooth is an inferior surface for oil pastels. Now, if all you are trying to do is practice and experiment with colors, then using cheap paper is fine. 

But if you are trying to create a drawing or painting to sell, show, or give as a gift, avoid using cheap sketch paper. Using smooth papers is never going to work well for oil pastels, but there are some smooth papers that are heavyweight, which means that you can apply a pastel ground to them to give them more tooth. 

This won't work for sketch paper for two reasons. First, it's too lightweight and will tear when you attempt to apply pastel ground to it. This article is the property of Second, even if you could apply pastel ground to it, jars of pastel ground aren't cheap,  so you wouldn't want to waste it by using it on something that isn't going to give you professional quality results.

Can You Use Oil Pastels on Mixed Media Paper?

Now, when you're talking about textured paper, you're starting to get into paper that will work for oil pastels. How much texture is too much? With oil pastels, there really isn't such a thing as paper that has too much texture. The problem with working with oil pastels on a smooth surface is that they never completely dry.

For example, let's say that you're an acrylic painter. You can lay down a wash or layer of acrylic paint, wait a short time, then you can start applying a fresh coat of paint. The same approach works for oil paints, the only difference being that you have to wait a few days or a few weeks for a layer of paint to dry before you can apply the next layer of paint.

With oil pastels, there's no drying. They will harden somewhat over time, but when you're working with them, they will remain soft and can be easily smudged.

This is problematic when you're trying to add more color to a painting. It's also one of the endearing qualities of oil pastels since it allows artists to continue working and blending a painting for months if they want to.

Now, one way to partially overcome the soft and smudgy nature of oil pastels is to use a heavily textured paper.

Heavily textured paper will allow oil pastels to adhere to them, which makes it much easier to apply more color with causing it all to blend together and turn into a smudged mess.

Can You Use Oil Pastels on Watercolor Paper?

When working with oil pastels working with heavier paper is your best option. Oil pastels are heavy, and oils from them will seep into the paper you are using.

Some artists find success using charcoal paper, and while the textured surface is excellent for oil pastels, this thin paper tends to tear if you apply dense layers of pastel to it.

Your best option, whether you choose to use oil pastels dry, or you want to add mineral spirits to them, is to use a heavyweight paper. If you plan on using them with mineral spirits, using heavy watercolor paper is a great option.

But, wait, watercolor paper has some texture, but probably not enough for oil pastels, right? While this is true, it's also true that you can use pastel ground to give the watercolor paper a lot more tooth.

You can also mix colors into your pastel ground so you can add a background color to your picture before you begging drawing.

Since oil pastels have such vibrant colors and tremendous covering power, you can even apply a heavy coat of acrylic paint, add pastel ground over the top of it, then draw over a painted background.

This is an excellent option because it allows you to overcome the one major weakness of oil pastels, and that's their inability to do detailed work.

If you've ever done a pastel drawing without doing the background first.

You probably already know that attempting to color in the background without accidentally coloring over your foreground is next to impossible with oil pastels.

What Paper Is Best Used For Oil Pastel

It shouldn't be much of a surprise to learn that most artists that work with oil pastels prefer to work on paper that was designed and manufactured for oil pastels.

Pastel paper is intended to be textured enough to provide oil pastels and other dry mediums with a surface that will allow them to grip it.

But, before you decide that pastel paper is your best option, you need to figure out what type of style you plan to work in.

If you work in a manner that is similar to a drawing, then working on pastel paper is probably going to be right up your alley.

But what if you prefer to use turpentine or mineral spirits and you like to work in a style that is more of a painting than a drawing?

In that case, pastel paper is a poor choice since it's not designed to be wet.

What kind of paper should you use if you like to use a lot of turpentine or mineral spirits with your oil pastel artwork?

Watercolor paper, mixed media paper, canvas paper, or even illustration boards are all great options when you like to add turpentine or mineral spirits to your drawings.

These are all heavy papers that are designed to be wet, which is what makes them great if you're adding turpentine or mineral spirits to your work. But, what should you do about any of these papers that lack sufficient tooth for oil pastels? This is another case where using acrylic pastel ground is a great option.

Sennelier Oil Pastel Card Pads

When you're looking for the best papers for oil pastels, the first paper on your list should be Sennelier Oil Pastel Card Pads. Click here to check the price on Amazon.

Sennelier is a name that is well known in the art world for the high quality of the materials that they produce.

The paper that they provide for pastels definitely meets the high standards that the company is known for.

What makes Sennelier Oil Pastel Card Pads so unique is its subtle, sand-like surface that provides exceptional tooth for all dry mediums.

Because of the amount of tooth, oil pastels are able to be applied in multiple layers.

Artists often find that the amount of fixative that must be used is minimalized when working with this paper.

If you can cut down on using a fixative, which has some nasty fumes, it's a good thing.

Faber-Castell Black Paper Pad

If you like to draw or paint with oil pastels on a colored background, you have two choices. First, you can spend some time applying a pastel ground and color to watercolor paper.

Or, if you don't have the time or patience to do this, you can work on a surface that already has color. When drawing or painting, many artists struggle to create the darkest blacks in their work.

In many cases, this stems from their childhood when art teachers taught them that using black makes your work look flat. The truth is that not using blacks will make your work look flat.

When you look around you, any areas that you see that are in very heavy shadows often appear black. You can always add some purple, dark green, or some other type of color to your black shadows, or you can just leave them black. Click here to find out more at Amazon.

When working on Faber-Castell Black Paper Pad, it can take some time for you to get used to working from dark to light. But, once you master it, you should notice your work taken on an added dimension since you'll be utilizing a more extensive range of values in it.

If you've ever used scratchboard, then working on a black background with oil pastels will be similar to you, the main difference being that you'll be working in color.

Since you'll be getting the advantage of having the darkest part of the piece done for you, make sure that you also add the brightest highlights. It's also a good idea to choose an appropriate subject and color scheme since you'll be working on a dark background.

For example, if you're planning on painting a rainbow and blue skies, then using a black paper isn't the best starting point.

Hahnemuhle Bugra Pastel Paper

Despite its odd-sounding name, Hahnemuhle Bugra Pastel Paper is a paper that you should spend some time trying out if you are an oil pastel artist. It is an acid-free, high-quality paper that is ideal for oil pastel art. Click here for more information at Amazon. 

It comes in 19 different colors, so you can start out your painting with a tinted background without having to apply acrylic or watercolor paint and pastel ground first. It also has a textured, toothy surface that grips oil pastel very well allow you to lay it down in multiple layers.

One thing to keep in mind about this type of paper is that it's only meant for dry techniques. That means that if you like to use turpentine or mineral spirits to melt your oil pastels to create an effect more like a painting, this paper probably isn't a good option for you.

If you're very careful and use mineral spirits or turpentine very lightly, you can possibly safely blend some parts of the painting, just don't plan to use it on large parts of the painting because it will damage the paper.

U.S. Art Supply Premium Pastel Paper Pad

If you're looking for an oil pastel paper that's high quality, but won't cost you a fortune, then U.S. Art Supply paper is an excellent option for you. Once again, this is a paper that was designed explicitly for pastel artists. You don't need to modify it or do any kind of prep work to get it ready for use.

All you have to do is sit down, get out your oil pastels, then get to work. You might not think that 80-pound paper would be heavy enough for oil pastels, but you'd be mistaken. This paper works very well for all dry mediums you may work with, and that includes oil pastels. Click here to check the price on Amazon.

Canson Mi-Tientes Pad For Pastels

One of the reasons that oil pastels are so popular is their ease of use. If you paint with oils, acrylics, or even watercolors, there is some degree of setting up time required. You need a palette, knives, brushes, and either water, acrylic mediums, or oil mediums. Click here to view this product on Amazon.

Then you have to mix colors, and when you're working with acrylics, you have to worry about the paint drying. When you're working with oils, you have to worry about dealing with prolonged drying times. 

Even if you use quick-dry mediums to speed up the drying time, it's still going to be at least a day before you can start to add a layer on top of another layer without disturbing it. The point is that there are a lot of barriers that make it difficult to just sit down and start working.

Why is that important? It's important because having a pad of paper gives you the ability to move around and draw in places that you usually might not be able to. You can go sit at a park, ride the bus, or go anywhere in public where you might see exciting places, people, or things.

Now, if you tried to do this with any other type of painting medium, the setup involved would make it impractical or outright impossible. You could use a pencil, but then you'd lack color.

You could use colored pencils, but they don't really give you the same painterly effect that oil pastels do. Canson Mi-Tientes Pastel Pads are high quality, inexpensive paper that works well for oil pastels.

Best of all, it's small enough to be carried around, so you can enjoy spending time painting outdoors or anywhere besides your home or studio.

Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel Paper

The Art Spectrum Colourfix Coated Pastel Paper pad is a fantastic surface that just about every oil pastel artist will tell you is perfect for them. It's ideal because it's a heavyweight paper that is exceptionally versatile.

Do you enjoy working with mixed media in your art? If you do, then this paper will probably very quickly become your favorite drawing and painting surface. Click here to see it on Amazon.

It's designed to be used for both wet and dry media, and it's one of the few papers that you can find that will work for using wet techniques with oil pastels without having to do any prep work to it. You just get out your pad of paper and your pastels and then get to work. 

Colourfix papers come in a wide range of colors, so you can start working on a colored background. Or, you can add some paint on top of that colored background, then begin adding oil pastels right over the top of it.

UART Premium Sanded Paper

Do you like having choices? Sure you do, who doesn't? UART Premium Sanded Paper comes in 7 different grades of coarseness. That means you can choose a paper that has a slight amount of surface tooth or you can choose one that has a substantial amount of tooth, or something in between. Click here to check the price on Amazon.

When buying some pastel papers, you have to simply accept whatever they have. But with UArt Premium Sanded Paper, there are so many varieties that it's as if you have your pick of a custom paper that's made just the way that you like it.

Being very heavyweight, you can easily underpaint on this paper without having to worry about damaging the paper or reducing the tooth that it has. While this is one of the more expensive options available for oil pastel artists, it's also one of the best.

Create Art With My Favourite Drawing Resources

General Drawing Courses. I like Udemy if you want to develop your knowledge of drawing techniques. Udemy is an excellent choice due to its wide range of creative courses and excellent refund policy. They often have monthly discounts for new customers, which you can check here. Use my link.

Sketching and Collage. Take a look at this sketching resource I have created. Use this link.

Proko. Is one of my favorite teachers who surpasses in the teaching of Anatomy and Figure drawing. Prokos course breaks down the drawing of the human body into easy-to-follow components aiding the beginner to make rapid progress. For this, I really like Proko.

Art Easels. One of my favorite ways to draw is by using a drawing easel, which develops the skill of drawing on a vertical surface. The H frame easel is an excellent vertical way to add variety to the style and type of marks you create when using a drawing board.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations, check out this resource I made for you.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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The 7 Best Papers For Oil Pastels (With Examples)