How to Paint a Realistic Landscape with Oil Pastels

Introduction: How to Paint a Realistic Landscape with Oil Pastels

Oil pastels are a popular medium for artists to create stunning pieces of art. These sticks of pigmented wax are a versatile tool that can be used to create a range of effects, from delicate lines to bold strokes. They are also ideal for creating realistic landscapes, as their texture and blending capabilities allow for the creation of intricate details.

What are oil pastels?

Oil pastels are a type of drawing and painting medium that consist of pigment, wax, and oil. They were first developed in the 1920s by the Japanese artist, Kanae Yamamoto. Oil pastels are similar to crayons, but they have a softer texture and are oil-based, which makes them more versatile. They can be used on a variety of surfaces, including paper, canvas, and board.

Oil pastels come in a wide range of colors and can be blended together to create new shades and tones. They can also be used with a range of techniques, such as blending, layering, and scumbling, which makes them an ideal medium for creating realistic landscapes.

In this article, we will explore the techniques and tools needed to create a realistic landscape using oil pastels. We will cover the basics of color theory, composition, and texture, as well as provide step-by-step instructions for creating your own masterpiece.

Materials Needed

Before you start painting a realistic landscape with oil pastels, you need to gather the necessary materials. Here are the materials you will need:

Oil Pastels

You will need a set of oil pastels in various colors. Choose a set with a wide range of colors to allow for greater flexibility in your painting. It is recommended that you use artist-grade oil pastels for best results.

Paper or Canvas

You will need a surface to apply the oil pastels on. You can use paper or canvas for this purpose. Choose a surface that can handle the oil pastels and is suitable for your intended size of the painting.

Blending Tools

Blending tools are essential for creating a realistic landscape with oil pastels. You can use your fingers, a blending stump, or a piece of cloth to blend the colors and create a smooth transition between them.

Reference Photo

You will need a reference photo to guide you in creating a realistic landscape. Choose a high-quality photo that captures the essence of the landscape you want to paint. You can also use a sketch or a painting as a reference.


Gathering the necessary materials is the first step in creating a realistic landscape with oil pastels. With the right materials and techniques, you can create a stunning painting that captures the beauty of nature.

Preparing the Surface

Before starting to paint a realistic landscape with oil pastels, it is crucial to prepare the surface properly. This section covers the essential steps to prepare the surface for oil pastel painting.

Choosing the right paper or canvas

The first step is to choose the right paper or canvas. The surface should be sturdy enough to hold the oil pastel and prevent it from smudging. A heavyweight paper or canvas is recommended for oil pastel painting.

Some popular choices for oil pastel painting are:

  • Canvas board
  • Pastel paper
  • Watercolor paper
  • Illustration board

Applying a base layer

Once you have chosen the surface, the next step is to apply a base layer. This layer helps to create a smooth and even surface for the oil pastel to adhere to.

You can use a fixative spray or a layer of acrylic paint as a base layer. The acrylic paint should be applied thinly and allowed to dry completely before starting the oil pastel painting.

Preparing the reference photo

Before starting the painting, it is essential to prepare the reference photo. The reference photo should be clear and detailed, with all the necessary elements for the painting. You can use your own photo or find one online.

It is recommended to print the reference photo in color and in the same size as the painting surface. This will help you to accurately depict the colors and details in the painting.

Sketching the Landscape

Before starting to paint, you need to create a rough sketch of the landscape you want to paint. This will help you plan out the composition of your painting and ensure that you have all the necessary elements in place.

Choosing the Subject

When choosing a landscape to paint, consider the mood and atmosphere you want to convey. Do you want a bright, sunny landscape or a misty, moody one? Look for interesting shapes, textures, and colors that will make your painting unique.

Blocking in Basic Shapes and Colors

Once you have your sketch, start blocking in the basic shapes and colors of the landscape. This will give you a foundation to work from and help you establish the overall composition of the painting. Use light, loose strokes to keep the sketch flexible and easy to adjust as you go along.

  • Start with the sky and work your way down to the foreground.
  • Use a limited color palette to keep the painting cohesive.
  • Don’t worry about details at this stage; focus on getting the basic shapes and colors in place.

With your basic shapes and colors blocked in, you’re ready to start adding more detail and refining your painting. In the next section, we’ll look at how to add texture and depth to your landscape painting.

Building Layers

Layering colors is an important technique in creating a realistic landscape with oil pastels. It involves building up colors gradually to create depth and texture in your artwork. Here are some tips on how to effectively layer colors:

1. Start with a Sketch

Before you start layering colors, it is important to have a sketch of your composition. This will help guide you on where to place each color and create a cohesive landscape.

2. Work from Light to Dark

Start with the lightest colors and gradually build up to the darkest colors. This will create a sense of depth in your artwork and make it look more realistic.

3. Use Blending and Smudging Techniques

Blending and smudging techniques are essential in creating a smooth transition between colors. Use your fingers, blending tools, or a soft cloth to blend and smudge the colors together. This will create a seamless transition between colors and give your artwork a soft, painterly look.

4. Add Texture

To create texture in your landscape, add layers of colors with different techniques. For example, use short, choppy strokes to create the appearance of grass or use a stippling technique to create the appearance of leaves on a tree.

5. Experiment with Different Colors

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different colors and layering techniques. Mix and blend colors to create unique shades and hues that will make your landscape stand out.

By following these tips, you can create a beautiful and realistic landscape with oil pastels. Remember to take your time and enjoy the process of layering colors to bring your artwork to life.

Adding Details

Once you have completed the initial layers of your landscape painting with oil pastels, it is time to add details that will make your artwork come to life. The two most important elements to focus on at this stage are highlights and shadows, and texture.

Adding Highlights and Shadows

Adding highlights and shadows to your painting is essential to create a sense of depth and dimensionality. Use a lighter color to create highlights on the areas that catch the light, and a darker color to create shadows on the areas that are in shadow. Pay attention to the direction of the light source and make sure your highlights and shadows are consistent throughout the painting.

Adding Texture and Details to Trees, Rocks, and Other Elements

Adding texture and details to trees, rocks, and other elements in your landscape painting will make them look more realistic. Use small strokes and dots to create the texture of leaves on trees, or the rough surface of rocks. Use different shades of color to create depth and variation in the texture. Take your time with this step, as it is what will make your painting truly unique.

  • Use small strokes and dots to create texture
  • Use different shades of color to create depth and variation in the texture
  • Pay attention to details to make your painting look more realistic
Tip: Use a reference photo to help you with the details and texture of your painting.

oil pastels landscape finishing touches

Finishing Touches

After completing your landscape painting with oil pastels, there are some finishing touches that you need to do to bring your artwork to life. These finishing touches include:

Final blending and smoothing

To add depth and dimension to your painting, it is essential to blend and smooth out the colors. You can use a blending tool or your fingers to blend the colors together. Be gentle and blend the colors evenly to avoid creating harsh lines that can ruin the painting. Also, use a blending tool to smooth out any rough edges or bumps on the painting.

Signing the artwork

Once you are satisfied with your painting, it is time to sign it. Use a fine-tip pen or a brush to sign your name or initials on the painting. Signing your artwork gives it a personal touch and also helps to authenticate it as your creation.

Framing the artwork

Finally, framing your artwork is the best way to protect it and give it a professional look. Choose a frame that complements the colors in your painting and enhances its beauty. A good frame will also protect the painting from dust, moisture, and other elements that can damage it.

With these finishing touches, your landscape painting with oil pastels will be ready to display and admire for years to come.


Painting a realistic landscape with oil pastels can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can create a stunning piece of art that captures the beauty of nature.

Remember to start with a sketch and choose a color palette that complements the mood and atmosphere of your landscape. Use a variety of techniques such as blending, layering, and cross-hatching to create texture and depth. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different tools and materials, such as blending stumps and solvents, to achieve the desired effect.

It’s also important to take breaks and step back from your work to assess your progress and make any necessary adjustments. And most importantly, have fun and let your creativity flow!

Finally, remember to share your artwork with others and seek constructive feedback to help improve your skills. By continuously practicing and refining your techniques, you can become a master at painting realistic landscapes with oil pastels.

  • Start with a sketch and choose a color palette
  • Use a variety of techniques to create texture and depth
  • Experiment with different tools and materials
  • Take breaks and step back to assess your progress
  • Share your artwork and seek constructive feedback

With these tips in mind, you can unlock your artistic potential and create breathtaking landscapes that will leave a lasting impression.

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