Oil Pastels: Sennelier Oil Pastels (review)

Though I don’t often draw with them, oil pastels are one of my favourite mediums because of how easy they are to layer and blend. Most of the oil pastels I’ve used are in the medium to firm range, but the general consensus among artists on a forum I frequent is that Sennelier are by far the softest. I wanted to see what they were like to work with so I bought myself a little box of 12 colours.

Here’s the chart for my set of 12 Sennelier oil pastels.

There are 120 colours in Sennelier’s oil pastel range, including a few metallic colours. While I haven’t tested them myself yet, the chart on their site indicates that most of the colours have decent lightfastness. At around $3 each, they’re in the middle range of cost for oil pastels per individual stick.

Sennelier oil pastels really are the softest, softer even than the Caran d’Ache Neopastels that I love. They have a texture similar to lipstick and they almost glide onto the surface. You can achieve an almost painterly effect with them, especially if you use a brush dipped in a little solvent. While this creamy texture is lovely to work with, it can be challenging to work with; after a few layers, the surface becomes very slick and reluctant to take more layers. This can be worked around a little by either putting the drawing in the fridge to let it set up and harden a bit (or just letting it sit overnight), allowing more soft oil pastel to be applied, or by using a sanded surface which takes more layers than a non-sanded surface to begin with. You could also use a harder brand of oil pastels like Holbein or Sakura Cray-Pas Specialists for the underlayers and save the soft Senneliers for the final layers and finishing touches. The Sennelier oil pastels are quite strongly pigmented and colours that you would expect to be opaque are, meaning they are especially good for applying highlights with whites or pales.

This is a tomato I drew with my Sennelier oil pastels, based on a photo uploaded to WetCanvas’s Reference Image Library by olika.

Sennelier oil pastels are beautifully soft and creamy, and though they can be used perfectly well on, I think they are especially suited for use as finishing pastels over layers of firmer oil pastels. They’re also reasonably priced, so it’s worth picking up a small set or at least a handful of colours to add to your collection and see if you like the squishy texture.

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