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Soft Pastels vs Chalk Pastels vs Oil Pastels

soft pastels vs chalk pastels vs oil pastels

A Little Rundown

Performing various art techniques and applications using pastels can intensify your artistic skills and abilities. You just have to pick your most favorite and preferable pastel colors and try them on a piece of paper. As you use them, you’ll notice that such gorgeous and vivid effects and details are being made.

However, if you are a novice artist and you’ve never experienced using pastels before, it might seem difficult to choose which type of pastel you will use first in your artwork. Generally, there are three types of pastels – soft pastels, chalk pastels, and oil pastels.

The type of pastel you use will mostly be determined by your artistic preferences, needs, and goals. In this comparison of soft pastels vs chalk pastels vs oil pastels, I’ll help you distinguish their differences, uses, strengths, and weaknesses so that you’ll know when and where to use them.

Uses of Soft Pastels

Soft pastel is the most well-known and traditional pastel type. It is normally composed of small amounts of chalk or clay, water, dry pigment, and binders. This type of pastel can help in creating smeared lines, smooth effects, and generating extremely bright colors.

Sanded or fibrous papers are some of the best surfaces for soft pastels as they contain incredible teeth, which means, they can accommodate and grasp the soft pastels’ pigments very well.

Uses of Chalk Pastels

Chalk pastels are designed for impermanent art projects. They are normally used by children to practice their artistic skills. Chalk pastels are generally made out of inexpensive and low-quality pigments that can fade over time. The quality of chalk pastels resembles the chalks that are being used on classroom blackboards.

Several coloring techniques and applications can be used with chalk pastels such as scumbling, feathering, layering, or adding extra details and highlights. However, you won’t expect to have the colors stay vivid for a long time. They can also be easily erased.

Uses of Oil Pastels

Oil pastels are composed of pigment, binder, wax, and non-drying oil. The consistency it generates resembles the effect a traditional painting medium can give. Meaning, artists can use oil pastels and work with them the same way when they’re painting. Oil pastels aren’t applied in large amounts to avoid getting messy color effects.

In terms of appearance, oil pastels are a bit the same as crayons, but with more enhanced, vivid, and rich color quality. They are indeed higher-quality and better in accomplishing art applications than crayons.

As layers made by oil pastels are created, the color becomes a bit oily or buttery, and later on, the artwork starts to look like it’s painted with oil paint.

Comparison In Terms of Different Art Applications and Techniques

difference between oil pastel and soft pastel


Soft Pastels – Excellent

Soft pastels can be easily pressed with your finger or any stick-like material. To efficiently do the smudging application, you just have to put a thick layer of soft pastel onto the surface, press it, and smudge it to generate color effects or blend two different colors. You can also use this application to minimize the intensity of a color.

Chalk Pastels – Not Good

Chalk pastels are too powdery. You can’t press them with your finger to create artistic smudges. Pressing them forcefully might just crush them.

Oil Pastels – Fair

With oil pastels, smudging is possible. Simply dab some baby oil on a cotton swab or cotton ball and mix it into the surface over the oil pastel you’ve already applied. You may smudge and smooth out your colors as well as control the blending direction.


Soft Pastels – Excellent

You can rely on soft pastels when creating mini dots to produce various color effects on your artwork. Soft pastels are indeed reliable when it comes to creating small dots on your surface to achieve a stippling and shading effect. Just add multiple layers and make different-colored dots with your soft pastel. By doing this, you can also add texture to your artwork.

Chalk Pastels – Fair

You can do the stippling technique with chalk pastels, but not as productive when you are using soft pastels.

Oil Pastels – Excellent

When it comes to generating little dots on your surface to achieve a stippling and shading appearance, oil pastels can perform an excellent job. Since oil pastels are rich in color quality, the dots you make will feature vivid hues.


Soft Pastels – Good

Soft pastel layering can help you get greater color and intensity in your project. You may also layer different colors on top of each other and merge hues while sketching with soft pastels. However, the results may sometimes vary; some soft pastel brands are not meant for layering.

Chalk Pastels – Not Good

Chalk pastels are not that ideal for layering. They can be used for drawing or highlighting, but they do not produce desirable results when they are being used for layering.

Oil Pastels – Excellent

Layering with oil pastels can help you get more color and value depth in your artwork. With oil pastels, you can also layer various colors over each one of them and overlap colors while drawing with your pastels.


Soft Pastels – Excellent

You can use your soft pastels like a typical pencil and rub each side of it to your working surface. Drag the soft pastel and apply various pressures to achieve unique color effects.

Chalk Pastels – Fair

Chalk pastels can be used like a normal pen that you can drag on a surface. You just have to minimize the pressure to avoid breaking the chalk pastel’s barrel.

Oil Pastels – Excellent

Just like soft pastels, oil pastels can also be used for dragging applications since they offer seamlessness when you glide them across the surface.


Soft Pastels – Fair

Soft pastels are not that great in terms of acting as underpainting. It would be a bit harder for you to add another layer of color if you used a soft pastel as your underpainting since it isn’t that permanent enough to hold the color above it.

Chalk Pastels – Not Good

This pastel type is not for permanent uses; thus, they are not good for underpainting.

Oil Pastels – Excellent

Using oil pastels is certainly an excellent idea to create underpainting. That is to ensure that the colors beneath are in rich and smooth quality and to provide an enhanced working surface when it’s time to put additional colors on top of it.


These pastels have their distinct strengths, attributes, and weaknesses as well. Soft pastels and oil pastels are generally designed for intermediate and expert artists as they will require some skills to use them. On the other hand, chalk pastels are a great starting art medium for beginners and children.

Therefore, all of these pastel types can be used for making unique art projects. You can even combine all of them to perform different techniques!

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