What is Pastel Paper like?
Pastel paper has a number of qualities that make it stand apart quite distinctively from watercolour paper and cartridge paper, and within the category of ‘Pastel paper’ there are a surprising number of different varieties.
What makes a good Pastel Paper?
Pastel papers, as with all fine art papers, are acid free and pH neutral in order to maximise their lifespan. Many pastel papers are coloured, but unlike other coloured papers such as sugar paper, the colour is lightfast so will not fade unless exposed to direct sunlight over a substantial amount of time.
Experienced pastel artists tend to prefer not to use fixative if they can avoid it, as fixatives have a tendency to darken colours. The majority of pastel papers will hold pastel colour to their surface without the need for fixing. This means that the colours remain as vibrant as they appeared when first applied to the surface.
How does pastel paper hold colour?
The texture of a pastel paper will allow it to hold colour in its crevices. Pastel artists have quite a diverse range of preferences with regard to what extent, or what kind of texture they demand of their paper, in order to create work that looks exactly as they would like it to. This is where the following guide will help you to find the right grain or texture for you. The coarser the grain the better the colour holding, however some artists prefer a smoother texture so that a greater degree of subtle and detailed marks can be made. Textures can be irregular as with cork lined papers, or regular as with mould made Ingres papers (which has a regular line- grain appearance).
What other characteristics vary between pastel papers?
At Jackson’s we sell pastel papers and pastel card as well as pastel board, which is a pastel paper mounted on to board. Generally speaking, a rigid surface is favoured among pastel artists as it minimises the amount of colour that can inadvertently be displaced from the surface if the paper is ‘flicked’; without flexibility in the board the colour is more likely to stay in its place. The other consideration is colour: Many artists enjoy working on a tinted background as it helps to unify the composition from the outset, the question is what colour? Many of the pads that we sell have a variety of different colours within them, and the majority of sheet ranges offer a good variety of colours. Most of the cork grained pastel papers can be tinted with inks if the colour of the surface needs to be modified. Another characteristic which varies between pastel papers is the ability to tackle wet media such as watercolour and gouache – some are not water-resistant and the texture may damage when brought into contact with water. If you intend to mix your media on any of these surfaces, it is strongly advised that you double check the descriptions to see what it says with regard to this.
What is Pastel Ingres Paper?
Ingres pastel paper is the oldest, most traditional pastel paper on which to work. It is cylinder mould made, which means that acid free cellulose fibres are placed in a huge vat and a large metal cylinder is dipped into it, the fibres attach themselves to the cylinder forming rolls of paper, which need to then be dried and flattened. The paper is compressed between the mesh of the cylinder and marking felt, which gives it its unique texture. This surface is known as a chain and laid line surface. It is a lighter, more delicate pastel painting surface, and some artists find that they need to reinforce their work with a light fixing. It is great for detailed work and is also suitable for use with coloured pencil, graphite and charcoal. It is not heavy enough to withstand wet media applications without buckling; paper weights between brands vary from 100gsm – 160gsm. It tends to be grained only on one side. The paper usually has very subtle colour flecks on its surface which enhance the sense of this being a very traditional painting surface.
Ingres papers available at Jackson’s:
Hahnemuhle Ingres pastel paper pads – 100gsm, 20 sheet pads, 9 colours in each (9 different colours: white, ivory, antique, butter, yellow, grey-green, rose, light grey, grey.
Daler Rowney Ingres pastel pads – 150gsm – 160gsm weight, available as shades of white or assorted neutral colours (of pale blue, ochre, pale umber, soft buttercup yellow, warm grey, beige and cream). 24 sheets in each pad, spiral bound
Fabriano Ingres Pastel Paper – 130gsm, available in 4 different neutral coloured sheets 50 x 70cm. Fabriano is a very popular brand and the quality of their products is consistently high, meaning that this paper is often used for deluxe editions, high end advertising, bookbinding, drawing and collageThe grain directions runs parallel to the 100 cm side and the cross lines are parallel to the 70 cm side. This pastel paper is mould-made, wood-free and laid watermarked. Suitable for all dry media, especially soft pastels and pastel pencils.
Claire fontaine Ingres Pastel paper pads - 25 sheet pads of 130gsm pastel paper, in assorted neutral colours. Each page is interleaved with glassine which makes protecting work a lot easier.
Other lighter weight, subtle grained pastel papers for detailed work
While the following pads are not traditional Ingres pads, they are relatively similar in that they are lighter weight and have a subtle grain which will hold some colour. Some layering is possible on these papers, whilst still being able to work with fine lines and other detailed marks. These papers are often used for other art applications, including relief printing and as endpapers in bookbinding. They may take some amount of wet media, but on whole it is recommended that the following papers are only used for dry media technqiues.
Daler Rowney Murano - Available in neutral, cool and warm colour assorted pads. 160gsm. Light textured paper, 45% cotton fibres.
Neutral colour pad: Haze, platinum, stone, rose grey, oatmeal, pale peach (5 sheets of each).
Cool Colours: Lagoon, Wedgwood, fern, dusk, slate, aubergine (5 sheets of each).
Warm Colours: Chocolate, Bordeaux, strawberry, raspberry, cinnamon, nutmeg (5 sheets of each)
Murano is often favoured by those who like to make their own printed greeting cards.
Fabriano Tiziano Pastel Paper 160gsm, available as pads and loose sheets. Tiziano paper has a smooth surface on one side and a more rigid grain on the other. Although you can work on either side the textured side is better suited to pastel painting. The texture is a regular horizontal grain which has a similar ‘feel’ to Ingres paper. Fabriano state that the paper is also suitable for airbrush and watercolour techniques, but we would advise only light applications to avoid any buckling. The paper has very subtle and attractive flecks. The pads are available in either soft or dark colour pads (30 sheets of 6 assorted colours in each pad) as well as a range of 25 coloured sheets.
Hahnemuhle Bugra pastel paper – 130gsm, available in 14 sheet pads which each contain 7 neutral colours. The paper is toothy on one side and smooth on the other yet both sides can be worked on. Hahnemühle Bugra is specifically made for pastels and charcoal, but it works well for pencils, graphite, and other drawing mediums. It is mould made, has a gentle texture which consists of lines similar to Ingres paper. Often used by bookbinders for endpapers and a very popular choice for artists using pastels and pencils. Not recommended for use with wet media.
Winsor and Newton Tints Pastel paper pads - 160gsm, 24 sheets of 6 assorted colours. The coloured papers in this range are suitable for use with pastel, pencil, charcoal and other craft applications. The colours in the pads are chosen from the full range of colours available in the loose sheets range (available to special order on request) and reflect the choice of pastel colours as well as brighter colours, which are well suited for craft, collage and presentation purposes. As with Bugra paper, Tints has a smooth side and a textured side, and both can be worked on.
What is Velour Paper?
Velour paper feels a bit like ‘fuzzy felt’, if you can remember this from your school days! It is very soft and smooth to the touch. Pastels will glide over the surface effortlessly in big sweeping gestures, and it is a pleasure to work on. However it is not a recommended surface to work on for detailed work. It’s softness holds some colour, but generally speaking this surface is best suited to those who only need to apply one layer of colour and minimal marks. It is difficult to eraser marks too, which also adds to the fact that this is really a surface for those with a clear intention to make bold work with very little over-working. Velour is not recommended for hard pastels or hard pencils, it is best suited to very soft dry media. Hahnemuhle Velour Pastel paper pads are 260gsm in weight, available in 3 sizes and consist of 9 different colours in each pad (white, medium grey, yellow, orange, dark grey, sand, ochre, light grey, black), 10 sheets in total.
Pastel Surfaces with a slight tooth – a fine, cork-like grain that will hold multiple layers of colour and accumulate minimal dust
Canson Mi-Teintes Touch Pastel Board
Canson Mi-Teintes Touch Pastel Board is a sanded and therefore smoother alternative to the original Mi-Teintes Pastel board, although it does still possess a pronounced tooth, provided by a screen-printed pastel priming which has been applied to a rigid hot pressed board. The reduced abrasiveness means that pastels are not used up as quickly, and less dust is accumulated when working. The tooth is sufficient to effectively hold colour, and the board can easily hold many layers of colour. It is advisable to fix work after the application of every 4 or 5 layers of colour as this will help maintain the stability and permanence of your work. The boards are available in a palette of cool blues, warm earth and grey tones. Canson Mi-Teintes Touch Pastel Board is heavy enough to withstand applications of both wet and dry media. Some artists choose to use gouache, watercolour or ink to apply and underpainting prior to painting in pastel, and although the board may appear to buckle when wet, it usually dries completely flat (if you are concerned about this we suggest you tape your pastel board to a sheet of plywood or MDF before you begin applying your wet colour). The board also is a good support for charcoal, wax crayons and acrylic paint.
Clairefontaine Pastelmat Pads and Sheets
Clairefontaine Pastelmat has similarities to the Cason Mi-Teintes Touch pastel board. It’s very fine grain is relatively soft to the touch but is pronounced enough to hold considerable colour without eating your pastels up. It is smooth enough to allow one to blend colours on its surface with one’s finger. Much like the Mi-Teintes, we suggest fixing pastel colour every 4 or 5 layers applied to ensure that the structure and permanence of your work is properly maintained. Pastelmat is very durable and colour is easily lifted and erased from its surface. It is 360gsm in weight and can hold applications of wet media such as acrylic paint, watercolour and ink, however because it is also quite absorbent colours appear noticeably dull when dry, therefore it may be better to use wet media with a greater colour strength such as gouache or ink. It is also a good support for coloured pencil work. In the pads of Pastelmat there is a layer of glassine between each sheet which helps to preserve work in the pad.
Toothy Pastel Surfaces – Durable, able to hold multiple layers of colour and suited for work with wet and dry media:
Art Spectrum Colourfix Paper – A highly durable textured paper for pastel and mixed wet and dry media
Good for wet and dry media, 300gsm with a toothy texture – its is 300gsm hot pressed watercolour paper that has been screen-printed on to with the colourfix pastel primer. 20 different colours. Erasing is also easy with Colourfix™ - simply lift off excess pastel with clear adhesive tape, brush off with a dampened or dry brush, or use a pencil eraser. Alternatively, errors can be overpainted or areas touched up with the matching colour of Art Spectrum Colourfix™ Primer. The tough, toothy surface can be sanded, scrubbed, soaked and reworked over and over. The Colourfix Clear Pastel Primer can also be used as an adhesive for collage and mixed media work, which makes both the card and the primer incredibly versatile and well suited to work that is multi-textural. A Jackson’s customer review of Art Spectrum Colourfix Paper describes it as being the ‘Best support for pastel on the planet’. The solid priming on the 300gsm hot pressed paper makes this surface sufficiently heavy to withstand applications of acrylics, inks, silverpoint, oil pastels, gouache, watercolours and dry media such as soft pastels, charcoal and pencils without cockling/buckling. Colourfix can hold multiple layers of pastel colour and is also well suited to detailed work and small marks.
Fisher 400 Pastel Card
Fisher 400 pastel card is made by the pastel artist Tim Fisher. It is only available in a cream colour but this can be tinted with inks or watercolour if you prefer. It has a very fine sandpaper-like texture which, much like the Clairefontaine Pastelmat pastel surface, will hold the colour and allow it to appear vibrant, but without over-consuming your pastels and causing excessive dust. This surface is well suited to detailed and intricate marks. It is highly durable and can withstand much reworking and erasing, as well as lifting of colour. It is water-resistant and so gouache, watercolour, ink and acrylic paint can all be applied to it without causing damage to the grain. Colours also blend very well on this surface. It is also available in packs of 10 sheets as well as individually.
Sennelier Pastel Card
Sennelier Pastel Card is one of the coarser pastel surfaces available at Jackson’s Art Supplies. It has a sandpaper texture, which is abrasive and will hold multiple layers of colour, but will also use up your soft pastel sticks more quickly than our other surfaces, and create a little more dust. For detailed intricate marks it fairs a little less well than Fisher 400 or Clairefontaine Pastelmat as the tooth is a little too pronounced. Colour blending ability is excellent on this surface, however the texture is quite delicate and comes off with thorough erasing techniques – one has to be very careful when lifting colour from this surface. Sennelier Pastel Card is not waterproof either so we strongly suggest only using it for dry media. Sennelier Pastel Card pads contain 2 sheets of each of 6 assorted colours. The paper is 75lb/160gsm in weight. There are slight flecks in the paper surface, giving Sennelier pastel card a traditional look.