Updated Post 2/14/2024
Oil pastels are a popular art medium for both children and adults. They can be used to create realistic drawings, landscape paintings, and abstract other art projects, but some people may be concerned about oil pastels’ toxicity. This article will explore what “toxic pigments” means and how to handle oil pastels to avoid harmful exposure safely.
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What Are Oil Pastels?
Oil pastels are an art medium consisting of vibrant pigments mixed with a binder of non-drying oil, usually mineral or vegetable oil.
They are similar to crayons but have a softer, creamier texture that allows smoother blending and layering. Oil pastels are known for their intense colors and ability to create rich, textured effects on surfaces such as paper, canvas, and even wood.
They can be used to create drawings, paintings, and mixed media artworks. Oil pastels are popular among beginners and professional artists for their versatility and ease of use.
What Is The Difference Between Oil Pastels And Crayons?
Oil pastels and crayons may appear similar at first glance, but there are some key differences between the two:
- Composition: Oil pastels are made using pigment mixed with a non-drying oil binder, such as mineral oil or vegetable oil. Crayons, on the other hand, are composed of wax and color pigments.
- Texture: Oil pastels have a softer and creamier texture compared to crayons. This allows for more effortless blending and layering of colors, resulting in smoother transitions and gradients.
- Color Intensity: Oil pastels typically offer more vibrant and intense colors than crayons. The use of oil as a binder allows for better color saturation, resulting in richer and more vivid artwork.
- Blending: Due to their oil content, oil pastels can be easily blended using techniques like smudging, blending sticks, or fingers. Conversely, crayons do not blend as easily and tend to leave more distinct strokes.
- Surface Adherence: Oil pastels adhere well to various surfaces, including paper, canvas, wood, and more. They have good staying power and can be layered without smudging. Crayons work best on paper surfaces and may not adhere as effectively to other surfaces.
- Drying Time: Oil pastels do not dry entirely like other oil-based mediums. They remain soft and retain their vibrant colors over time. Crayons, on the other hand, dry quickly and leave a waxy finish.
Both oil pastels and crayons have their own unique qualities and can be used for different artistic purposes. The choice between the two depends on the desired effects, techniques, and personal preferences of the pastel artist.
What Is The Difference Between Oil Pastels, Soft Pastels And Pastel Pencils
Oil pastels, soft pastels, and pastel pencils are all types of pastel mediums used in art, but they have some differences in composition, texture, and application:
- Composition: Oil pastels are made with pigment mixed with a non-drying oil binder, such as mineral oil or vegetable oil. Soft pastels are composed of pure powdered pigment combined with a binder, usually gum arabic. Pastel pencils have a pastel core encased in a wooden barrel, similar to regular colored pencils.
- Texture: Oil pastels have a soft, creamy consistency allowing smooth blending and layering. Soft pastels have a powdery texture and can be smudged easily with fingers or blending tools. Pastel pencils have a harder texture compared to oil and soft pastels, allowing for more precise lines and details.
- Color Intensity: Oil pastels generally offer more vibrant and intense colors due to the oil binder, resulting in rich and vivid artworks. Soft pastels also produce vibrant colors, but the intensity can vary depending on the brand and quality. Pastel pencils may have slightly less intense colors compared to oil and soft pastels, but they still provide a wide range of hues.
- Application: Oil pastels can be applied directly onto various surfaces, including paper, canvas, wood, and more. They can be blended using techniques such as smudging, blending sticks, or fingers. Soft pastels are also applied directly but are more fragile and may require fixative spray to prevent the pastel dust from smudging. Pastel pencils offer more control and are ideal for detailed work, precise lines, and adding fine textures.
Each pastel medium offers unique characteristics and effects, and artists often choose the one that best suits their style, preferences, and specific artistic needs.
What Are Soft Oil Pastels Made Of?
Soft oil pastels are made of pigment mixed with a binder that typically includes oil and wax. This combination gives soft oil pastels their slightly creamy consistency and allows them to be easily applied and blended on various surfaces. The specific composition of soft oil pastels may vary between brands, but they generally contain pigment, oil, and wax as the main ingredients.
What Are Toxic Pigments?
Toxic pigments are colorants or dyes that contain harmful substances or chemicals that can pose health risks if ingested, inhaled, or excessively exposed to the skin.
Some toxic pigments include:
- Cadmium: Cadmium-based pigments, often used for vibrant reds, oranges, yellows, and greens, can contain toxic heavy metals like cadmium sulfide and cadmium selenide. Prolonged exposure or ingestion of cadmium can be harmful to human health, potentially causing kidney damage and other adverse effects.
- Lead: Lead-based pigments, historically used in white pigments such as lead white or flake white, can be toxic if ingested or inhaled. Exposure to lead can lead to lead poisoning, which can cause neurological and developmental issues, especially in children.
- Chromium: Certain chromium pigments can be toxic, particularly those containing hexavalent chromium. These pigments are commonly used in greens, yellows, and blues. Inhalation or ingestion of hexavalent chromium can contribute to respiratory issues, skin irritation, and an increased cancer risk.
- Cobalt: Cobalt pigments, often used in blues and greens, can contain cobalt compounds that may cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Prolonged exposure to cobalt can also lead to lung and heart problems.
It’s important for artists and individuals working with pigments to take proper precautions, such as wearing protective gear, working in well-ventilated areas, and properly disposing of hazardous materials. It is also advisable to consult product labels and safety data sheets or seek professional guidance to identify and handle any potentially toxic pigments safely.
What Is Cadmium Yellow?
A toxic pigment that is both carcinogenic and teratogenic can lead to cancerous tumors, lung cancer, and congenital disabilities in the developing fetus.
How Can You Tell If a Pigment Color Contains Lead or Cadmium?
To determine if an oil pastel pigment color contains lead or cadmium, it is important to refer to the manufacturer’s labeling or safety data sheets. These documents typically provide information about the pigments used in the product and any potential associated hazards.
Additionally, you can look for specific color names that may indicate the presence of toxic pigments. For example, cadmium-based pigments are often labeled as “cadmium yellow,” “cadmium red,” or “cadmium orange.” Lead-based pigments may be called “flake white” or “lead white.”
If you are unsure about the composition of a particular oil pastel pigment color, it is best to contact the manufacturer directly for clarification and specific information about the pigments used in their products.
How To Handle Oil Pastels Safely?
Handling oil pastels safely is important to protect your health and ensure a safe working environment.
Here is a detailed list of guidelines to follow when working with oil pastels:
- Work in a Well-Ventilated Area: Adequate ventilation helps prevent the inhaling of fumes or pastel dust particles that may be released while working with oil pastels. Open windows or use a suitable ventilation system to keep the air circulated.
- Avoid Ingestion: Refrain from eating, drinking, or smoking while working with oil pastels to prevent accidental ingestion of pigments or chemicals. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling oil pastels.
- Use Protective Gear: Consider wearing gloves, an apron, or a smock to protect your skin and clothing from contact with oil pastels, as they can be difficult to remove once embedded.
- Clean Workspace Regularly: Keep your workspace clean and free of accumulated dust and debris. Use a damp cloth or paper towels to wipe down surfaces and remove any loose particles.
- Store Oil Pastels Properly: Store your oil pastels in their original packaging or in a container specifically designed for them. This will help keep them organized and prevent breakage or cross-contamination.
- Dispose of Waste Safely: Collect any leftover oil pastel shavings, scraps, or contaminated materials in a sealed container or bag. Dispose of them according to your local waste disposal regulations.
- Be Mindful of Toxic Pigments: Some oil pastels may contain toxic pigments, such as cadmium or lead. Refer to the oil pastel brands manufacturer’s labeling or safety data sheets to determine the composition of the pigments used in your oil pastels.
- Be Careful with Solvents: If you use solvents for blending or thinning your oil pastels, do so in a well-ventilated area and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the appropriate solvents and handle them with caution.
- Take Breaks and Monitor Your Health: If you experience any discomfort, respiratory issues, or skin irritations while working with oil pastels, take breaks and consult a healthcare professional if symptoms persist.
- Clean Hands Thoroughly: After working with oil pastels, wash your hands with soap and water to remove any residual pigments or oils. Consider using a hand cream or moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated.
It is always recommended to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety data sheets and follow best practices for handling any art materials, including oil pastels.
Should You Wear Gloves When Using Oil Pastels?
When working with oil pastels, wearing gloves can be a matter of personal preference and safety concern.
Some artists advocate using gloves to protect their hands from the greasy and messy nature of oil pastels, while others may feel comfortable working without them. Additionally, some individuals also choose to wear gloves as a precautionary measure against potential skin irritation from handling certain pigments.
Ultimately, selecting gloves when using oil pastels depends on the individual’s comfort level and consideration of safety measures.
Are Oil Pastels Safe For Babies?
Oil pastels are generally considered safe for babies and children, but some significant considerations must be remembered.
While oil pastels are typically non-toxic, they can break easily, posing a potential choking hazard for young children still putting items in their mouths.
Additionally, sure oil pastels may contain toxic substances such as lead and cadmium yellow, which could be harmful upon ingestion or inhalation. Therefore, it’s crucial to exercise caution when using oil pastels around babies and young children.
It’s advisable to supervise babies and young children closely when they are using oil pastels to ensure they do not put them in their mouths. Furthermore, it’s essential to choose non-toxic and child-safe oil pastels if young children use them to minimize potential risks.
How To Store Oil Pastels?
The best way is to keep the oil sticks in the pastel box they came in. This will protect them from breakage and help keep them organized. If the original box is lost or damaged, consider using a container specifically designed for storing oil pastels.
Additionally, it is important to store your oil pastels in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight. Heat and moisture can cause the pigments and binders to deteriorate over time.
Furthermore, avoid storing your oil pastels with other art materials containing solvents or chemicals that could potentially contaminate, create a toxic reaction or damage them.
By following these guidelines for proper storage, you can extend the lifespan of your oil pastels and ensure their quality for future use. Overall, safely handling and storing art materials is essential to protecting your health and the environment. So, always take the necessary precautions and educate yourself on the potential hazards associated with any product before using it to create your art.
Best Oil Pastels
Many artists enjoy working with soft pastels because they come in various colors that can be used on different surfaces. Here are some of the most popular brands professional artists use for their pastel paintings.
Derwent Academy Oil Pastels – are the ideal tool for artists and hobbyists of all levels. They come in various vibrant colors, each with a unique texture that will inspire you to create something new. The quick-drying pigments allow them to blend well with other colors, so don’t be afraid to try out your wildest ideas!
Sennelier Oil Pastels – Henri Goetz approached Henri Sennelier, the famous artist materials manufacturer, to create wax color sticks for his friend Pablo Picasso. Being a long-time customer of Senneliers and a frequent visitor at their store across from the Louvre Museum in Paris, he was looking for a medium that could be used freely on various surfaces without fading or cracking. The collaboration created incomparable oil pastels, originally available in classic hues but now include metallic and iridescent shades.
Caran d’Ache Oil Pastels – Neopastels are perfect for artists of all levels. Unlike other brands, Neopastels do not contain dust, meaning your drawing space will be clean and tidy with no mess! These professional quality oil pastels boast a superb smoothness that creates intense coloring or delicate shading. It can also create subtle transitions in hue when you combine different colors on paper- truly an artist’s dream come true.
Faber Castell Oil Pastels – Faber-Castell has always been the best choice for artists and those looking to experience art differently. Faber Castel offers an affordable alternative catering to students with quality at unbeatable prices! The Goldfaber line is perfect for children of all ages who are just starting their adventures into creative endeavors or experimenting with different painting techniques. It’s easy on your budget but not on creativity: these colors blend smoothly and evenly without being too hard, so you can achieve rich oil pastel effects whenever you want them! This collection also ensures lightfastness, perfect for kids playing outside during recess.
Pentel Arts Oil Pastels – The Prismacolor Premier Colored Pencils are a staple for any artist, but you don’t need to be an accomplished painter or illustrator. The pencil tip is firm enough to color on anything from paper and canvas to other surfaces like fabric and metal. This means the possibilities for your creativity are endless!
Student Grade Oil Pastels
Below are some oil pastels at an affordable price.
Pelikan Oil Pastels – Junior Artist Oil Pastels are the perfect tool for young artists. These student-quality oil pastel sticks produce bright, intense colors that blend easily and last without fading. Whether you’re looking to try out some new techniques or need something fun to get your creativity flowing, these vibrant pastels will help you create amazing masterpieces in no time at all!
Crayola Oil Pastels – Crayola Oil Pastels are a great choice for little learners. They have the smooth, creamy texture and true hues that teachers love, and the no-roll hexagonal shape is perfect for keeping away pesky crumbs!
Final Thoughts On Oil Pastel Painting
Many different toxic chemicals can be found in oil mediums and art supplies, like lead and cadmium yellow. It is important to know about toxic substances in oil pastels to handle them safely.
If you are pregnant or nursing, avoid using any oil paints or pastels because they can be absorbed through your skin. And if you have small children who like to put things into their mouths, don’t use lead-based pigments – they’re especially harmful to toddlers because the pigment is so easily absorbed by young kids and even ingested. If exposed to heat or sunlight, the substances will evaporate and be released into the air.
To store them safely, keep your oil pastels in a cool, dry place out of reach of kids and pets. It’s also important that when handling an oil pastel, you wear gloves to prevent it from coming through your skin – this can lead to serious health risks. Don’t use oil pastels if you have an allergy to the pigment, as it can be potentially harmful.
Oil pastels are a great way to add brilliant colors and detail to your work when drawing or painting – make sure you know about their hazards so that you can handle them safely. If you want to create art that looks like oil paintings with vivid colors without all of the mess, then oil pastels will be a good choice.
Q1: What are some popular brands of oil pastels?
A1: Some popular brands of oil pastels include Derwent Academy Oil Pastels, Sennelier Oil Pastels, Caran d’Ache Oil Pastels, Faber Castell Oil Pastels, and Pentel Arts Oil Pastels.
Q2: Are there affordable oil pastels available for students?
A2: Yes, there are. Brands such as Pelikan and Crayola offer student-grade oil pastels at a more affordable price.
Q3: What are the potential health risks associated with using oil pastels?
A3: Oil pastels can contain toxic substances like lead and cadmium yellow. Exposure can occur through skin absorption or inhalation hazard, in the case of young children, ingestion. Pregnant or nursing individuals should avoid using oil pastels.
Q4: How can I handle and store oil pastels safely?
A4: Store oil pastels in a cool, dry place away from children and pets. When handling them, it’s recommended to wear gloves to prevent skin absorption. Avoid using oil pastels if you’re allergic to the pigment.
Q5: Why would I choose to work with oil pastels?
A5: Oil pastels can create art that looks like oil paintings but with brilliant colors and without all the mess. They’re a great choice for adding detail to your work when drawing or painting.