Wondering what kind of paper is best for oil pastels? Sennelier Oil Card is the best paper for oil pastels for most circumstances.
But there can be other factors to consider.
I make it easy for you because I put in the hours to test these out so that you don’t have to buy tons of options! I also hope you can benefit from my many years of experience as an artist.
Introduction To The Best Paper for Oil Pastels
The most important decision to be made when using oil pastel is your choice of paper or support. Which one will greatly influence your final look. In addition, the support will either help you or fight with you to achieve your desired look. Please read our insider tips at the end of this article for more detailed information!
Oil Pastels are quite versatile, and they can be used on metal, plastic, glass, paper and wood very successfully. Be aware though, that they never truly dry, so if you don’t intend to frame them they will smear when touched.
I’m not sure how useful it would be to use them on metal, glass or plastic, as the likelihood of them being touched is super high!
Oil Pastel has a texture that is unique and colorful
You can use oil pastel on any paper, however, if you don’t use a paper specified for oil pastels, you should first coat the paper with gesso.
This is because the oils in the pastels will gradually seep into unprotected paper and look unsightly, not to mention begin to deteriorate the paper over time. Here are some excellent choices for papers prepared for oil pastel.
Oil Pastels need a certain ‘tooth’ or grain of paper so that they don’t glide across the surface and smear out transparent.
Bristol board just doesn’t work all that great, especially if you want to blend and layer colors (which is half the fun in using oil pastels!).
Papers for oil pastels
Arches Oil Paper
- A good choice for a cold-press like texture
- Has no mechanical pattern in its surface
- Cardstock-like weight for stability
- Can be framed without mounting to a board
Sennelier Oil Card
This one is my personal favorite!
- low tooth
- Each paper is interlined with Glassine papers so that I can store the finished paintings in the original spiral binder!
- A fine tooth surface – not quite enough for heavy dry-brush techniques
- Cardstock-like weight
Art Spectrum ColorFix Paper (which is a hot press watercolor paper with a Colorfix primer sealed on the surface)
- Preprimed and ready for pastel application
- Many colors available as an underpainted surface
- Several size options
- Available in packets of colors, all white or all black
- Fine tooth texture
UART sanded pastel paper
- Grit surface for maximum grip of pastel
- Accepts multi-layers
- Handles a watercolor or acrylic or oil underpainted layer well
- Easily cuts to any size you like
If you intend to NOT use OMS to thin the Oil Pastels, then it is ok to use watercolor paper as well, as long as you prepare the paper first with a coat of gesso.
You can choose to underpaint with acrylics, which protects the paper from the Oil Pastel, as well.
You can use Bristol paper IF you first coat it with gesso. This protects the oils from damaging the paper and also provides enough tooth for the pastel to adhere to.
Additional options for surfaces for oil pastels
With oil pastels, you don’t have to limit yourself to just paper! Also appropriate are canvas boards, masonite, wood boards, illustration board (prepared with gesso first), and clayboard.
- available in individual boards in several colors or a sample pack of 3 5 x 7 size
- Already mounted onto sturdy board for easy framing
- Colored paper for great control of color value selection
- Lightly sanded for a solid grip on the pastel
- Versatile enough for oil paint, acrylic and wet media
Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel Paper
- Available in packs, individual sheets, colors and also (new!) boards
- This paper has a very mechanical pattern repeat embossed into the paper
- Large variety of colors which are so useful as an underpainted tone
- Needs mounting for framing or a strong backboard
Multi-Media Art Boards
- Available in several sizes
- Versatile for several mediums
- Stiff enough to readily frame finished work without mounting to board
- Canvas boards are a linen-like cotton fabric glued onto acid-neutral cardboard
- They are textured similar to coarse cotton fabric
- Come precoated with gesso so that they are ready for paint application
- Very economical and readily available from multiple manufacturers
Jack Richeson Medium Density Untempered Hardboard
- Must be primed with gesso before using
- Needs a texture applied with gesso so pastel will have something to grip to
- Ready for framing once painted
- Long lasting
Ampersand Museum Series Claybord Panels
- Velvety smooth finish
- Ph neutral
- Ready to framed when done
Cresent illustration board
- Widely used by artists
- Needs gesso coat to protect from oils
- Strong enough to not need mounting
- Cut to size easily
- Versatile for all media
- Needs some texture for oil pastel
- Very economical
- Can be bent accidentally – protect corners
Watercolor paper cold press
Cold press watercolor paper has enough tooth for oil pastel and can be used for drybrush techniques. Remember to give the paper a coat of gesso for protection first!
Many brands and sizes available, but get at least 140 lb paper or higher so that the paper has strength enough to support the heavy oil pastels.
For in-depth information about watercolor paper, please read our article here.
- Archival if you purchase a good brand
- Heavy enough to not need mounting for framing
- Accepts a watercolor underpainting
- Readily available
- May purchase several pages spiral bound, in a large roll or in individual sheets
- Cut to any size
- Versatile for several mediums
I have several tubs of gesso (any quality brand will do) on hand in my studio. I use it to coat hardboard, untempered masonite, wood, paper and canvas before I paint or use oil pastels.
This brand is typical:
Please read our tutorial article about using Oil Pastels here.
For our tests and reviews of The Best Oil Pastels brand, please read our article here.