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Like oil paint in a convenient, easy-to-hold form, oil sticks consist of a blend of pigmented drying oil and wax. These chunky tools are softer than oil pastels, so using them feels more like painting than drawing. And, unlike oil pastels, oil sticks will dry completely with time. Oil sticks are great to try out if oil paint strikes you as an intimidating medium. Easier to mix and control, they can be used to create effects similar to those of traditional oils and require the same drying and curing processes. Since the sticks are composed of pigment and wax, they can also be used in encaustic painting, and they work well for monoprinting too. Suffice it to say, oil pigment sticks open up a world of possibilities. Because this medium can be very costly, it’s important to buy a good-quality set that feels comfortable and satisfying. Here are some oil paint sticks that we like best.
Sennelier Artists’ Oil Sticks
These artist-grade oil sticks from Sennelier contain nothing more than pigment, fine safflower oil, and mineral wax. The glossy paint glides onto your surface and usually dries in 24 hours or less, leaving a rich, deeply pigmented color. The sticks are available individually in a 38-milliliter size, good for sketching or detail work, or a 24-piece set of “mini” sticks. Some colors are also made in a hefty 96-milliliter version, to cover a broad area with ease. The line comes in 55 colors, and hues can be mixed to provide even more options.
Richeson Shiva Student Grade Paintstik Oils
The student-grade Shiva Paintstiks have many of the same qualities as the higher-grade Paintstiks—they are easy to use, highly blendable, and fast-drying. Like all student-grade paints, they are less pigmented than higher-priced versions, but they are still bright and true, and the price is very accessible, making these a smart choice for the art room. Choose from a pack of 6 or a 12-pack containing the full line of student-grade colors. Each stick is 37 milliliters.
R&F Pigment Sticks and Sets
R&F makes buttery oil sticks that stand out from other options. These tools have a bit of a learning curve if you are used to the more crayonlike experience of oil pastels, but once mastered, the fluid experience of using these sticks is unmatched. The colors are bright and, due in part to the natural waxes used, the paint can be manipulated on a canvas, often without the need for additional oil or thinners. Choose from 104 colors in three sizes (38, 100, or 188 milliliters), or go for a set of 3, 6, or 12 sticks.
Richeson Shiva Oilstik Oil Paints and Sets
One factor to consider when choosing an oil stick is the experience of holding and using it. The Richeson Shiva Paintstik makes our list because of the sheer pleasure of working with it. The paint has a thick consistency and does not soften from the heat of your hand, and the stick’s heavy label stays put but is still easy to tear. The colors are consistent, the drying time is fast (mostly within 24 hours), and the selection is plentiful. Paintstiks come in 55 colors and three sizes: a 12-milliliter mini stick, a 37-milliliter version, and a jumbo, 130-milliliter option.