Using Pastels On Wood

One of the other surfaces pastels can be painted on.

The Tale of the Decoy Duck

I recently had a very interesting question come in to me from artist SuEllen Askew which, I must admit, stumped me a bit.  I think you may be interested in what transpired.  Here are excerps from the emails we sent back and forth.

SuEllen wrote:

I am very new to oil pastels and would appreciate your advice. I have just finished carving a wooden duck decoy and had the idea to paint it with pastels. But I'm not sure what I need to do to prepare the wood before painting and what kind of fixative to use afterward. Can you advise me please?

I replied:

Thank you so much for writing and sending me a question that I'm not sure I can answer. I have never tried oil pastel on wood, however, I do know that it can be done. Here are my thoughts: 

  1. Because wood is porous and would have good "tooth" I would say that to put the pastel onto it directly would be fine but, being oil, it probably would soak in and stain and you may lose some of the intensity of color.  I'm thinking that it would be worth sealing the wood first - you could try clear Colourfix primer or even a gesso.
  2. To seal the finished piece - you could try the usual fixatives that are specific to pastels or you could try using a wood varnish.
  3. Another thought (as you are new to oil pastels) is that you could try using a little turpentine or mineral spirits - once you have put the pastel onto the surface you can then use a brush or soft cloth with a little turpentine to help spread it out - make sure you are in a well ventilated room though.

However, if it was me, I would experiment on spare pieces of wood with different ways (making sure you write down the formula) and see which one works the best.


There was a bit of a space in time, then, to my delight I received.......

Took your advice and did some experimenting on a piece of white pine. The wood used to carve the duck is basswood and looks similar to the pine.

I applied the pastels directly to the bare wood and used linseed oil to blend the colors. After finishing the painting, I sprayed it with Grumbacher gloss fixative. It gives the duck a little shine and probably would look more natural with a matte finish. But since he will not be used as a real decoy, I am happy with the results and appreciate your help.


And just so you know this is real - here is the before and after.

Before  After 

Thank you, SuEllen, for sharing!!!




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