Product Review -- CrayPas Expressionist - Online Art Supplies

White surf waves crashing on dark rocks under gray storm clouds, black gull silhouette painted in CrayPas Expressionist oil pastels.

Great quality at a moderate price.

Sakura CrayPas Expressionist oil pastels are excellent. There's good reason they get mistaken for the artist grade CrayPas Specialist since these are the high end product -- intended for studio use by serious artists, as an economy product for artists doing very large works and for serious students. After the Junior Artist ones came out so decent, I had high expectations and wasn't disappointed.

These are entirely nontoxic. Matching hues have been substituted for more expensive pigments but the pigment saturation is still decent, better than most student grade oil pastels. The set of 50 sticks includes two colorless extenders and a good chromatic range very strong on greens, blues and earth tones. Warm and cold primary and secondary colors are included. Metallic gold and silver are included.

These are reasonably opaque, not the most opaque but very good. The white is white, not yellowish as in some other brands, it did not stand out as darker than the bright white paper in my ProArt sketchbook. My seascape is a study for a larger competition entry in soft pastels, painted from a reference by MWT who also writes some great how-to articles at

The big question about CrayPas Expressionist in terms of quality is lightfastness. We'll know about that next year, but it would not surprise me if their economy studio product rated well enough to be used in serious art. Certainly a good many artists have used them in serious artwork. The set of 50 was about $22 when I bought it on Jan. 31st at Blick Art Materials and so that places it firmly well below the cost of any of the artist grade brands.

CrayPas Expressionists are higher than the ultra bargain oil pastels but not so high as to be prohibitive if you want to create large artworks or use these as an underlayer with softer oil pastels over them. Blick carries these in open stock and not the Specialists, a switch that confused me a little. Some suppliers carry open stock in both.

Duck painted in Cray Pas Expressionists with black and white head, red speckled chest, reflections in water and green reeds, by Robert Sloan from Walter Foster #152.

Edit from March 9, 2009: I used my CrayPas Expressionists again today for a quick sketch from Painting with Oil Pastels by H. P. McLaughlin on pages 24-25. The creamy strong color, easy blending and working qualities of these oil pastels were a joy to use and this sketch on Moonstone color Canson Mi-Tientes showes some of the many effects you can get with them. Strong blended color, broken color, strong white details over dark and good mixing qualities make these a good choice for sketching.

I'm happier with them the second time around, the set is excellent for studies and sketches.

These are the round wrapped sticks as opposed to square wrapped Specialists. They are good sized, about 3/8" wide by 2 3/4" long, the same size as Neopastels and Senneliers. The box is a sturdy cardboard box with white styrene inserts and a heavy lid. I would recommend rubberbanding it shut unless you keep it stacked absolutely flat in the studio, even then your cat may knock it off the shelf.

Like the Van Gogh these are the upper grade of student oil pastels and so they are suitable for many uses including illustration, studies like my Crash of Waves, practice, or sketchbook work. If you sell art created with these I would recommend telling your client what you used so they do understand these are student supplies and may not be as archival as the CrayPas Specialists -- at least until my lightfastness results come in, it may not matter if the majority of colors are artist grade in lightfastness.

There is a difference between Artist Grade in general which has many other factors including pigment documentation, availability in open stock (check), pigment concentration and general quality, or Artist Grade Lightfastness. The bottom line is that if something is Artist Grade in lightfastness it's good enough to use in works you intend to sell at moderate to high prices. Sketches done in student grade materials are all right to sell cheap, just let your buyer know what you used to create it.

That way a serious collector who loves your sketch will know enough to store it in a dark area and display it only temporarily, perhaps have a good print made and store the original. You can apply the same principle yourself when you've done a study that turns into the greatest painting you ever did. Have it professionally photographed or scanned and then invest in giclee printing using archival materials.

The texture is medium-firm, nowhere near as hard as some of the student grade brands but a bit more firm than Erengi. CrayPas Expressionist oil pastels blend well. On the color chart I blended near complements, Yellow Orange with Prussian Blue to get an interesting range of muted greens.

One of the nicer things about CrayPas Expressionist is the crumbs. They're soft crumbs. They blend in easily. As I did the patches in the color chart, I found that just pressing them down into the patch with the stick pushed them back into place instead of just spraying more crumbs all over. This brand is a good choice if you want something that can be de-crumbed easily without smearing them into the wrong color areas.

I will be using my CrayPas Expressionists often in sketchbook and demonstrations, they're a satisfying brand with good working qualities and a nice range. This set isn't going on the stack to be distributed to kids and friends, it's staying right here next to me for experiments and things I want to show in the videos. These are better than Mungyo Gallery, something I'm happy about since they did cost more. They're worth their moderate price.

The lowest online art supply prices, guaranteed!

Below is a color chart including a demonstration of the included colorless blenders.

Color chart of 50 CrayPas Expressionist oil pastels.

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