Forget the Glaze! How To Use Oil Pastels On Clay

Exposing children to a variety of art styles and techniques, including ceramic techniques is just part of the job of an art teacher. Use this easier way to add bright color to your clay projects without using the kiln. Learn how to use this non-glaze technique using oil pastels and black paint or ink on your clay pieces.

3 different images of how to use oil pastel on clay flower relief tile.
Oil Pastels On Clay

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Can you really use oil pastels on clay?

Yes, it is a different way to add color to clay and creates a unique look to the finished clay projects. Make sure students really grind on the old oil pastels to get rich colors. If doing an ink or acrylic wash, just make sure it is rinsed to the desired effect. Adding a clear coat or sparkly mod podge can also give a fun effect.

This technique is perfect for ceramic tile projects. Since it is hard to load a kiln with glazed slabs, we decided to use this fun oil pastel technique on our flat clay projects. It saves you time and children are always amazed at the outcomes. Each student will get different effects depending on how they use the materials.

watered down black paint with paintbrush resting on clay tile with orange, red and yellow oil pastel on it.

Why do we like this technique?

I fell in love with using an oil pastel resist technique with kids a long time ago. If you have ever had a young child ruin an awesome drawing once they start coloring then you will want to try oil pastel and watercolor painting projects because it is such an easier way to see all the details kids add to their artworks.

We used to always only do this technique on paper, but realized it would be an amazing clay technique as well. While some projects are more suited for glazing, this is a great glaze alternative for your student’s clay projects

Who doesn’t love saving yourself from loading 100+ projects a second time in the kiln?

Did you know? You can also create resist with glue and watercolor paint on canvas?

What happens if I mess up with the black paint or ink?

If you accidentally take too much paint away under the sink you can repeat the process until you are happy with the outcome. You can also use oil pastels on top of the final project to brighten any spots.

Recommended Supplies

supplies used to create oil pastel resist on clay tile.
  • Oil pastels: For young and older students in the art room, we are always a fan of this brand of oil pastel sticks. However, don’t waste new ones with this technique. Use those old bits and smaller pieces.
  • Watered down black acrylic or India ink: Different types of paint such as watercolor, liquid watercolor or tempera may work. They are more washable under the sink, therefore we like to work with a more permanent black You can also use different colors instead of black, but we find that this really makes the small details stand out. 
  • Bisque-fired clay project
  • Optional: Mod Podge,  Gloss Medium or Sealer: We love adding a little sparkle to these projects with this mod podge or gloss medium.


  • Paintbrush
  • Sink

How To Do An Oil Pastel Resist On Clay

Step 1: Color Flat Areas With Oil Pastels

Color bisque-fired clay by pushing hard. The harder kids push the more they will get vivid colors. Make sure kids are careful on delicate areas.

oil pastels partially colored on clay relief tile.

Step 2: Use Different Oil Pastel Techniques

Kids can blend different colors. For best results, really encourage clay to be covered with color. You can create your own blenders or just have them use their finger.

finished oil pastel colored flower on ceramic tile with extra Sakura oil pastels surrounding it.

Step 3: Make Colored Wash

Make a ratio of 1:1 water and ink or black acrylic paint.

Hand holding Sax acrylic black paint with small cup of watered down mixture.

Step 4: Cover Clay Project Completely

Paint a wash over the whole clay project.

black paint being brushed on clay tile covered with oil pastels.

Step 5: Rinse Project

Run the project under the sink. You can rinse a lot of the black paint or as little as you want. Each child can get different results based on their own liking and style.

clay tile in sink getting black paint rinsed off of oil pastel.

Step 6: Let dry.

clay flower relief tile after oil pastel and black paint resist applied.

Optional: Add Clear Coat

Use a clear coat of your choice to finish the clay project.

large paint brush applying glitter gloss mod podge on top of clay tile that has oil pastel and black paint.

More Fun Clay Building Lessons

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How-To FAQs

How do you resist oil pastels?

Draw with oil pastels first and then use waterbased paint to paint on top. The paint will not stick where the oil pastel is due to the nature of how oil and water mix.

What other materials can you do an oil pastel resist on?

Any surface that will allow oil pastels and paint to stick will create a resist. For example, you can get awesome results on paper, cardboard, ceramics and canvas.

What if I have too much black wash on the project?

You can use your fingers to get more of the ink off under the sink. If you accidentally take too much color off, you can always repeat the steps until you are happy.

How long does it take for the paint to dry?

We normally let them dry for about 10 minutes before adding a clear coat. Clay soaks the paint up pretty quickly.

Do oil pastels resist paint?

As long as there is enough water in your paint, you will get a beautiful result from oil and water not being able to mix. We always like to tell kids to think about how their salad dressing separates because oil and water (or vinegar) don’t like each other.

Looking for other non-glaze ways to add color to clay? Did you know watercolor paint works really well on clay? Acrylic paint on clay is also a great way to add color to all those ceramic pieces.

Kids will love the bright colors on their ceramic projects using this oil pastel resist technique on clay.

finished oil pastel done ceramic tile with black paint and clear coat sealer of a flower design.
black paint being brushed on clay tile covered with oil pastels.

How To Use Oil Pastels On Clay Art Projects

Use this non-glazing clay technique to add color to ceramic art projects. Even young children can do this oil pastel technique.
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Keyword: clay projects for kids, how to use oil pastels on clay, non-glazing clay technique, oil pastel resist on clay
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Author: Erin
Cost: under $5


  • Paintbrush
  • Paper towel or placemat


  • Mix black paint and water at about a 1:1 ratio (1/2 water and 1/2 paint).
  • Color clay by pushing hard with oil pastels. Make sure kids are careful on delicate areas.
  • Kids can blend colors. You really want to encourage clay to be covered with color.
  • Make a ratio of 1:1 water and ink or black acrylic paint or India ink.
  • Paint wash over the whole clay project.
  • Run project under the sink. Use fingers to help wash out areas that may have to much black paint left.
  • Let dry.
  • Optional: Use a clear coat of your choice to finish the clay project.


If you accidentally take too much paint away under the sink you can repeat the process until you are happy with the outcome. You can also use oil pastels on top of the final project to brighten any spots.

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    1. Hi Brittany. I would think it would. You just would want to stick with colors that would pop on red clay. You probably just won’t have as much contrast since your base is red. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

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