Oil pastels are a fun and versatile medium for artists of all levels. You can easily correct little mistakes by scraping away the pastel with your fingernail or by smudging edges together, making it one of the least-frustrating and experimental mediums to use.
Oil pastels are a sweet nostalgic sort of thing to me. I used to volunteer as an arts and crafts assistant at a shelter for child sex trafficking survivors back in the day and none of them had an outward interest in art.
Once we whipped out the oil pastels, we had given them something easy to use that had a small learning curve. Oil pastels definitely have the familiarity and fun vibes of a crayon. And so, to our surprise, they dived right in.
Most of the girls completed really introspective awesome pieces of art that they were proud of by the end of the day.
While that memory is overwhelmingly rewarding, I made a lot of mistakes. One being the paper I supplied them. I had bought cheap and flimsy copy paper thinking that it wouldn’t be an issue.
Despite being waxy and thick, oil pastels are still just pigment mixed with a non-drying oil. The pastels, when applied heavily, soaked through the back of the paper and didn’t stick to the front of the paper well at all.
I have since done my research on the best papers out there for creating oil pastel art. Read on to get educated!
What to Look for in Your Oil Pastel Paper
- Weight/Thickness: The higher the “weight” of your paper, the thicker it will be. Since we aren’t working with a wet medium that will cause paper to buckle or wrinkle, it isn’t completely necessary to get a high-weight paper pad for oil pastels. However, if you want to experiment with oil pastels along with oil painting or a different medium, then your best bet is to get some thicker paper. Thick paper in general is also sturdier and easier to work with.
- Texture: The best paper for oil pastels is gritty enough to hold and build color, but smooth enough for clean application and correction.
- Color: A cool thing about using pastels instead of thick paint is the ability to color mix against tinted paper. Oil pastels tend to have some spotty transparency, even when used with a heavy hand. You can drastically change the outcome of a oil pastel drawing if you deviate from plain white and try out natural beiges, black, and other colorful papers. When looking for the ideal pad of paper, try to think about the subjects you depict the most. Natural scenes look very nice against beige paper, while bright and colorful subjects pop against black paper.
Best Overall Paper Pad for Oil Pastels
U.S. Art Supply is known for being accessible through many art supply outlets, inexpensive, and high quality, even though it probably isn’t the first brand name you think of when you think of great art supplies. It really should be.
The 80-Pound 16-Sheet Premium Pastel Paper Pad in Natural Tone Colors from U.S. Art Supply is perfect for the beginner oil pastel user and the professional alike.
Natural tones are ideal for creating beautiful nature scenes and portraits using oil pastels. This pad has a lovely variety of natural tones that include eggshell white, cream white, light beige, and beige-grey.
It also features a high enough weight (or thickness) that mixed media work can be done with it as well.
However, this author suggests avoiding watercolors, as the paper isn’t quite thick enough for watercolor without buckling.
This pad has a great balance of grit and smoothness for getting the most out of your oil pastel paper.
“It has enough tooth for pastels to stick, but it isn’t so bumpy that sketching doesn’t feel smooth. It’s also a nice thickness for pastels – it was holding up nicely even when I was pressing hard with pastels.”
“I bought for use with chalk pastels. This paper is tinted, which makes the colors really stand out. I use less chalk and more gets on the paper and stays vs regular paper where I was using tons of chalk, the colors were dull, and I ended up with more chalk blown in the air and on my arm than on the paper. I’m happy I took the risk and got this paper. My only complaint is I wish they weren’t glued together at the top, maybe a spiral or something easier to flip the pad open with.”
“Excellent collection for a young artist. Highly recommend.”
Best Budget Paper for Oil Pastels
Their products are relatively inexpensive and can be found at a lot of local art supply stores.
The 80-Pound 24-Sheet Assorted Pastel Paper Pad from Strathmore is easy on the wallet, well-made, and perfect for the artist who wants to experiment with different paper color shades in combination with their oil pastels.
This pad features a nice variety of colored paper that includes eggshell white, a yellowish cream, blue, green, pastel pink, and medium brown.
This pad is great for a variety of dry or waxy mediums that include crayons, oil pastels, soft pastels, and chalk pastels.
Like the previous U.S. Art Supply product, this pad can handle some wet media but watercolors should be avoided, as the weight of this paper can’t quite hold up against buckling or wrinkling.
“I’ve done 2 pastels on it so far & found it very easy to work on. It’s nice because this pad also has different color papers you can try out with your pastels in case you don’t want to use the plain white. I’d say it’s an excellent value, especially if you’re just beginning & are hesitant to spend the money for the more expensive supports.”
“Strathmore makes good, affordable paper. Although I’d like to use Canson for everything as I did in school, I have found that the Strathmore 80-Pound Pastel Paper handles my oil pastels well, especially if I apply fixative.”
“The lightly coloured ground makes it possible to use less pastel to achieve a uniform background colour, allowing more direct colour layering in the painting.”
Best Black Paper Pad for Oil Pastels
Drawing on black paper may seem unusual to some, but it has its benefits depending on your personal brand of art. The Black Paper Pad from Faber-Castell is the ideal pad to start with oil pastels against black paper.
This pad works well with metallic pencils, crayons, and gel sticks as well as oil pastels. The packaging doesn’t state the weight/thickness of the paper, but reviews say that the thickness is around the same as construction paper.
Wet media should probably be avoided with this paper pad, with maybe the exception of acrylics that have not been cut or diluted with water.
The Black Paper Pad from Faber-Castell is also appropriate and inexpensive enough to be used for arts and crafts with children.
“I’m a doodler and wanted black paper to give my doodles a new look. It is art quality paper. Unlike plain black paper that seems to just suck up the colors without getting the desired effect this paper keep the color on the page and gives your drawings that special look. It’s just what I wanted and I’m sure my doodling will look great.”
“Very nice quality! Perfect for pastels, their metallic pencil crayons etc…”
“This is wonderful for my oil and chalk pastels. Haven’t tried with my colored pencils yet, but I love the effects with the pastels.”
“Great fun with white crayons and oil pastels! My 3 year old approves. :)”
Best Multi-Colored Paper Pad for Oil Pastels
I’m a big fan of Canson’s spiral-bound hardcover sketchpads. They look sharp and the quality of the paper is rarely ever lacking.This 24-Sheet Mi-Teintes Pad for Pastels from Canson isn’t lacking in quality either.
A fantastic choice for oil pastels, this sketchpad is also a good choice for colored pencil, soft pastels, crayons, markers, and charcoal.
The paper in this pad has a 98 pound weight/thickness and is made from a fine cotton blend, so you can experiment with some wet mixed media as well including acrylic paints, oils, etc.
This pad contains some very luxuriously-named pretty pastel colors that are dyed at the pulp, including eggshell white, champagne (a pale yellow), buff (a rusty orange), moonstone (a greyish muted blue), steel gray, and light blue.
Along with being an interesting experimental choice for use with oil pastels, this multi-colored pad can be used for papercrafting and origami as well.
“This paper is hands down one of my all-time favorites. In general, colored paper is great to work on because it’s far less stark or intimidating than sitting down to a white piece of paper and trying to create. This is a pastel paper, but I’ve also used it with many pencils and had minimal issues.”
“Amazing. My first pastel paper I ever purchased and it made my cheap oil pastels paint remarkably. Highly recommended.”
“I’ve only more recently started getting into pastels, and this pad is a good sturdy type of paper that can really support and enhance your artwork”
Do you recommend paper for oil pastels that we didn’t review?
Let us know! You can also check out reviews on other paper and art supplies, like the: