You’ve done your homework, you’ve selected the oil pastels you want to use, and you’re ready to explore how this colorful and versatile medium can help you convey emotion and add drama to your art. Now, it’s time to carefully consider the type of surface you will use—surfaces play a major role in the final look and finish of oil pastel artwork.
Oil pastels are formulated to be used on various surfaces like canvas, wood, metal, or glass, but paper is by far the most popular surface to use because it is relatively inexpensive and gives an artist many options. If you choose the wrong paper, however, you can run into trouble: the oil in the pastels might show through as spots on the paper, the pastels may not stick to the paper well, blending can be an issue, or you may not be able to build up layers.
Here are some of our recommendations for good oil pastel paper.
Choosing Oil Pastel Paper
Here are three fundamental questions to think about when choosing a paper for your oil pastel art:
- Tooth and Texture: Tooth refers to the grain of the surface of the paper; it’s a quality of roughness due to sizing that affects both the application and binding of a medium. Some pastel papers are labeled “sanded,” which means the paper has been coated with a gritty material like silica sand for an abrasive texture, almost like sandpaper. The “toothier” the paper, the better the oil pastels will adhere to the surface, giving you more intense colors. You can apply more layers on paper with more tooth, but very rough tooth may make blending more difficult. Less tooth will work when you don’t plan on many layers, and it will allow you to be more precise in drawing details. Medium tooth paper, as you would expect, is the middle ground of layers and detail. Texture is any large-scale pattern or irregularity on the surface of the paper that will show when pastel is applied. The texture may be due to the pulp of the paper, or it may be impressions left by the papermaking process. You can think of it as “bumpiness” or “hills and valleys.”
- Color and Tone Oil pastel papers come in various colors and tones (the lightness or darkness of the color). Paper color can be used for subtle effects—a paper color that harmonizes with your palette will unify your work, while a contrasting color can create atmosphere and mood. Light-toned papers will emphasize dark color pastels, and dark-toned papers can create dramatic effects with lighter pastels. Mid-toned papers provide a balanced background.
- Weight: The weight of paper is described by grams per square meter (gsm). A 35-to-55-gsm paper, the weight typically used for newspapers, will be much lighter and thinner than a 400-gsm paper, the weight of a higher-quality drawing paper. Most oil pastel paper brands are around 160 gsm, but thicker papers, like a 300-gsm watercolor paper, can be used. Lighter papers may tear when used with oil pastels.
Also, always make sure the paper you choose is acid-free. If it isn’t, over time, your work will turn yellow or brown and fall apart. With all the time, energy, and creativity you put into your artwork, you want it to last!
Try these oil pastel paper options for your next oil pastel masterpiece!
Best Premium: Sennelier La Carte Pastel Board
As with oil pastels themselves, Sennelier is synonymous with the highest-quality oil pastel paper. Specifically designed for oil pastel art, La Carte Pastel Pads are coated with finely ground, pH-neutral cork that’s applied by hand to 360-gsm card stock, creating a high-tooth paper with a smooth and uniform surface. Each of the 12 sheets included in this package is 12.44 inches by 9.37 inches by 0.47 inches.
Sennelier La Carte Pastel Pad, 9" x 12", Multi
As with oil pastels themselves, this brand is synonymous with the highest-quality oil pastel paper.
Best for High Texture: Arches Watercolor Pad
The brand Arches was making paper in the Vosges region of France in 1492, and their paper is still produced in the original factory today. These watercolor pads contain 12 sheets of 300-gsm natural white, acid-free, 10-inch-by-14-inch, 100% cotton paper. This paper was used by Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Salvadore Dali, and many more artists. Their choice is a testament to Arches’ quality.
Arches Watercolor Pad, Rough Finish, 140 Pound, 10 x 14 Inch, Natural White, 12 Sheets
The choice of great artists like Monet and Picasso, this high-quality watercolor paper provides a great surface for oil pastels.
Best Color Selection: Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel Paper
Canson’s Mi-Teintes papers come in an amazing variety of colors and tones, all acid-free and resistant to fading. The paper is dual-surfaced: one side has a heavy texture, and the other has a lighter texture. Each pad contains 24 sheets of 160-gsm paper that’s 9 by 12 inches. It’s great for every artist, from beginner to professional.
Canson Artist Series Mi-Teintes Pastel Paper, Assorted Colords, Foldover Pad, 9x12 inches, 24 Sheets (98lb/160g) - Artist Paper for Adults and Students
This paper comes in an amazing variety of colors and tones, all acid-free and resistant to fading.
Best for High Contrast: Faber-Castell Black Paper Pad
Faber-Castell was founded in Germany in 1761 by a cabinet maker, Kaspar Faber, and has been operated by the family ever since. The Faber-Castell Black Sketch Pad features acid-free, heavyweight paper. With 25 sheets of 110-gsm paper per pad, the paper is made from 50% post-consumer recycled materials and measures 9 inches by 12 inches. It’s great for oil pastel and mixed media.
Faber-Castell Black Paper Pad - 25 Sheets of 9" x 12" Paper
This heavyweight black paper is great for oil pastel and mixed media.
Best for Practice: Strathmore 300 Series Drawing Paper
Every artist knows the road to greatness is practice, practice, practice. The Strathmore 300 Series is a reasonably-priced, high-quality, medium-weight drawing paper perfect for daily use by artists of all levels. With a medium surface finish, this paper allows for good erasability with a pencil. The Strathmore 300 Series Drawing Pad is an excellent choice for mixed media, soft pastel, and oil pastel.
Strathmore 300 Series Drawing Paper Pad, Glue Bound, 9x12 inches, 50 Sheets (70lb/114g) - Artist Paper for Adults and Students - Charcoal, Colored Pencil, Ink, Pastel, Marker
This is a reasonably-priced, high-quality, medium-weight drawing paper perfect for daily use by artists of all levels.