There are many tools you can use to create beautiful artwork. And each tool is unique in use and effects. But to get the best results out of different drawing tools, you need the appropriate drawing surface. For oil painting, there’s the canvas; for watercolor, there’s the watercolor paper; and so forth. But what paper do you use for oil pastels?
The Construction of Oil Pastels
It is important to know how oil pastels work and what they are made of to fully appreciate the features of papers suitable for them.
Oil pastels are very similar to colored pencil cores in that they are made of pigments and a binder. But the two things have a major difference. Colored pencil cores are made of pigments held together by a binder. The binder can either be wax or oil-based. But an oil pastel is made of pigments held together by a binder of BOTH wax and oil.
The combination of wax and oil gives oil pastels unique properties. Without getting into many details, oil pastels don’t crumble, they’re not dusty, and they produce bright and intense colors.
But the aspect of an oil pastel’s construction that concerns you is how does it stick to different types of paper. The pigment and binder combination makes oil pastels very soft and will not stick to flat surfaces. The wax and oil binder combination also make oil pastels impossible to dry.
So, what kind of paper do you use for oil pastels?
Paper Qualities to Look For
There are certain qualities of paper that you should look for when considering the type of paper to use for oil pastel.
The first and perhaps most important paper feature for oil pastel is its texture.
You want paper that has a very rough or toothy texture. When you slide an oil pastel across this paper, the pigments will effortlessly latch on the paper. The pastel will stick to the paper and will not move (unless you intentionally move it by blending).
Another benefit of having textured paper is that you can add some layers of pastel on top of another.
Toothy textured paper is the best paper for getting the most consistent results out of oil pastels.
The next feature you want from a paper for oil pastel is should be heavier than sketch paper. Why does oil pastel paper have to be heavy?
The thickness of the paper is not very important when you are making your first strokes of oil pastel. But as you get into the final stages of making an artwork, you will prefer that the paper be thick.
Blending oil pastels is quite challenging because they smudge easily. You want to use a tortillon to make it easier. But with the heaviness of the oil pastel on the paper and the pressure you are applying on the tortillon, the paper might tear. You want thicker paper when using oil pastels.
Types of Paper for Oil Pastel
Oil Pastel Paper
Will it surprise you to know that there is a type of paper specifically manufactured for oil pastels? Well, you shouldn’t be. As I have already touched on, oil pastel is soft and will not stick to flat surfaces well. Plus, they don’t dry; they will smudge if you try to apply another layer of oil pastel on top of another.
Oil pastel paper (or Ingres paper) solves both of these problems because of its special qualities.
Oil pastel paper has a very toothy texture. There are other types of paper with a toothy texture, sure, but none of them has the same texture as oil pastel paper. Most oil pastel paper you can buy is somewhere around the 160 gsm mark, so they are quite heavy.
Another thing that makes oil pastel paper a good option is they come in tones. If you are drawing landscapes or outdoorsy pieces, you want paper that comes in brown or green tones. Paper tones will help you set the initial color scheme of your oil pastel art.
Sanded paper is very similar to sandpaper. It is not very toothy, but it can be very rough. Like sandpaper, the roughness of sanded paper is measured in grit. The higher the grit, the less rough sanded paper is. So if you want sanded paper with higher layering capability, I suggest going for those with low grit.
This may come as quite a shock for you, considering that watercolor paper has a smooth surface. But the rough texture of both oil pastel paper and sanded paper is only great for layering colors. If you prefer blending colors smoothly (smudging), a smooth surface may work for you.
But you don’t want to use regular sketch paper because they are too thin. So what will you use? Watercolor papers are generally very thick that the oil pastel will not bleed through the paper.
The smooth surface of watercolor paper makes flowing and smooth blending or color mixing.
The thing about making art is that there are no rules. As long as you can creatively solve problems with your drawing mediums, I see no reason why you should stick to conventional materials. But, if you want to get the best results out of oil pastels, I suggest using papers with a rough texture and high heaviness.
If you ask me “What paper do you use for oil pastels?” My first response would be oil pastel paper. They have a very toothed texture and high gsm. But if I want less tooth, I’d choose sanded paper, which can still be very rough. But if I’m going for a smooth blending of colors, watercolor paper is my go-to choice.