I often see sketching threads on the art forum I visit frequently where posters talk about using Crayola Portfolio oil pastels in their sketchbooks. I had some spare money a few months ago so I decided to grab some off eBay and ended up finding the set below for about $16 AUD.
Here’s the colour chart for the full 24 colour set.
You can only buy the Crayola Portfolio oil pastels in boxes of 12 or 24; since they’re so cheap, I’d recommend just going for the big set if you do buy them. They are student grade pastels, though I’d argue they straddle the line between student grade and kiddie grade; they’re not in the quality range of student grade lines made by the big art supply manufacturers like Daler Rowney and Winsor & Newton, but they are still easy to use and have decent pigment concentration, unlike truly kiddie grade stuff you buy in the supermarket. Having said that, the obvious assumption based on their price is that they are not lightfast, so don’t use them in anything you want to keep or display for a long time.
Texture-wise, the Portfolio oil pastels are quite similar to the smooth and squishy Sennelier oil pastels, though perhaps a little more firm. Like most oil pastels, they do drop a lot of crumbs, so you have to be careful about getting one colour in an area of another colour where you don’t want it. The smooth texture makes it easy to put down heavy layers of colour and they blend fairly easily when you rub them with a finger; not as easily as artist grade oil pastels I’ve used, but certainly better than the Faber-Castell Creative Studio oil pastels I reviewed at the start of the year.
The main selling point of these oil pastels is that they’re watersoluble, so how well do they perform in this regard? Sadly they don’t dissolve quite as easily as the Cretacolor AquaStics; the Crayola Portfolio pastels do require a fair bit of scrubbing with a wet brush, and even then, you can generally still see some of the original pastel marks. It is also quite difficult to get a concentrated wash from the Portfolios. As you can see from my swatches above, some colours are a bit better than others, but in general, once you wash the colour from a pastel swatch into a clean area of paper, the colour is quite heavily diluted. It is still possible to achieve deep, rich colours, though; just colour one layer with the pastel, wash over it, wait for it to dry and repeat, building up as many layers as you need. In my sample drawing below, I did a few washes in each bottle’s respective colour, went over the dark areas with the Slate Grey pastel, washed those and did a final heavy, dry layer with the pastels, which I blended with my finger. You can also scribble a heavy swatch on some paper and pick up the colour with a wet brush as you might with watercolours, which is how I did most of the shadows on the surface and the wall.
Here’s a picture of some glassware I drew/painted with the Crayola Portfolio oil pastels. The wine bottle is from imagination and the blue vase is from a picture posted to WetCanvas’s Reference Image Library by a user named Elain.
While the Crayola Portfolio oil pastels are definitely not suitable for archival work, they are great for playing in your sketchbook or working out colour/composition etc for larger projects. With Christmas coming up, they’d also make an excellent stocking filler for a child who loves painting and drawing, though you might have to hunt around for them a bit in Australian stores; as I mentioned earlier, I had to buy mine from eBay, and ordering online now would be cutting it very close to have it arrive by December 25.