A guide to pastel painting
Introduction to Pastel Painting
To view the Jackson's Art Supplies Pastel Painting Playlist on YouTube please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAfGtSvzeK8&list=PLi86B3jOHkDYZDFtHgV9TEFHv-s16DxuG
Working with pastels is usually called pastel painting. It is a way for artists to paint directly with pigment without the intermediary of a brush. Blending can be done with the finger, blending tools or a brush. Pastels come as oil pastels, soft pastels and hard pastels. Health concerns about breathing in dust from the soft chalk pastels have caused some pastel artists to switch to oil pastels. An oil pastel has the pigment bound with non-drying oil and wax. Quite different results can be achieved using a variety of techniques. For example oil pastels dissolved with solvents look very different to ones used lightly over the surface of a textured paper. Some wax or oil pastels are also water-soluble. Some artists use fixative to protect the work as the colour remains somewhat smudge able but mounting and framing behind glass is usually sufficient protection from smudging.
A soft pastel is made to be as soft as possible without falling apart or breaking too easily. The surfaces used with soft pastels usually need to have a tooth to hold the powdery colour onto the surface. Because colours are mixed on the surface and not mixed on a palette beforehand pastels usually come in a huge range of tints and shades of colours. Finished paintings should be sprayed with a fixative for longevity as the soft colour may not adhere completely to the surface (especially if many layers are built up) and framed with a mount and glass to protect the work, though some artists do not like the look of fixative and simply frame the work. Soft pastels can be used dry or with water and also come in a pencil format that is tidier to use.
As is the case with professional quality oil colour, acrylic colour or watercolour paints, the very finest soft pastels will have a higher pigment to binder concentration. Although this means that the pastel sticks deposit brighter, more saturated hues, it also means that the characteristics of the individual pigments will be more apparent, and the sticks are more likely to break or crumble as less is holding them together. Less experienced pastel painters will complain of pastels that accumulate more dust when used, but in fact many of the superior pastel ranges will cause dust because that is the nature of a highly pigmented soft pastel. The softest pastels are achieved using manufacturing processes that use the smallest quantities of binder, hand-rolling the sticks of pastel in such a way as to not compress the ingredients too much; this allows for both subtle and bold expressions of mark making in colour.
In our view, the highest quality professional soft pastels are made by Unison, Schmincke and Sennelier.
Unison Soft Pastels
Unison Soft Pastels were originally developed by artist John Hersey, who was keen to find a way of producing pastels that did not feel mass produced, mechanical, and lack the essential qualities of a professional standard soft pastel. The brand is world renowned, and generally thought to be the best available.
- Generally considered to be the least soft professional range, after Sennelier and Schmincke
- There are nearly 400 shades in the full range, with an excellent choice of different ‘themed’ sets, which are an especially good gift idea for a pastellist, as well as a good way of upgrading or trying out the very best pastels for the first time. Themed sets include a set of Turquoises, Heavenly colours, Portrait colours, Natural Earth colours, Dark Jewel colours, Landscape colours, and special artist selection sets including one selected by Heather Harman.
- Particularly good for
- The natural hues available, and for that reason particularly favourable among artists who paint landscapes or botanical studies. Some artists say that the colours are less saturated than other ranges, but this means that blending and layering colour is a lot easier, and the hues are sympathetic to the colours of the world in which we inhabit.
- Unison are recommended because
- They are relatively easy to use without being overly-crumbly and delicate, they have the best colour range and consistently perform well. We highly recommend Unison Soft Pastels!
Sennelier Soft Pastels
Softer than Unison Soft Pastels, these pastels are so soft and crumbly they feel creamy, and the colour glides on to any surface, although they are particularly well suited to a cork grained surface that can hold the colour in place. Their consistency enables the most skilled pastellists to deposit subtle and even colour.
- Incredibly soft and crumbly; less experienced pastel painters may need to get used to how delicate they are.
- There are 522 shades in the range as well as an excellent selection of sets which make for a real treat for any pastel painting enthusiast.
- Particularly good for
- Strong saturated colour. These pastels are intensely pigmented and so despite their softness, can be used sparingly to create delicate colour blends – a small Sennelier soft pastel stick can last a surprisingly long time!
- Sennelier are recommended because
- They have a luxurious traditional feel to them, they are expressive, wonderful consistency, and can create the most stunning results when in the right hands!
Schmincke Soft Pastels
Schmincke Soft pastels are very similar to Sennelier pastels in their consistency. They are thought to be so soft they feel creamy, and possess the highest levels of pigment concentration.
- Very soft, crumbly and creamy in its consistency
- There are 400 colours in the range as well as 10 selection sets, ranging for the set of 10 for around £10 to the full set at £875! As with the other highest quality pastels available on the market, these pastels have a handmade feel about them which allows their natural characteristics to shine through and optimise the appearance of your work.
- Particularly good for
- Strong saturated colour; the dark shades are particularly strong and an asset to any collection of soft pastels.
- Schmincke are recommended because
- They have a gorgeous colour range and consistently perform well. They are made with the highest imaginable levels of care, leaving you with a genuinely impressive product. Wonderful!
Artist Grade Soft Pastels
Artist grade soft pastels are often used by professional artists as well as advanced students and some beginners, but I am referring to them as artist grade to differentiate from the highest quality pastels. Some professional painters actually prefer the qualities of the lesser pastels – a firmer pastel will be easier to control, and will be easier to use for drawing fine lines and intricate detail. The firmness of the pastel however will actually be attributed to less sensitive production methods, which compress the ingredients to such a degree as to make the sticks of colour less crumbly. It can also be attributed to a greater amount of binder in the pigment to binder ratio. Pastels that I consider to fall into this category include Rembrandt, Art Spectrum and the newly reformulated Conte Soft Pastels.
Rembrandt Soft Pastels
- A medium soft consistency that will not get eaten up as quickly as Sennelier, Schmincke or Unison soft pastels on abrasive, cork grained pastel card surfaces. The medium soft consistency also enables easy layering and blending of colour.
- 203 colours comprising of 44 pure colours, each with 4 tints linked to it. A good sized palette with which to get started.
- Exceptional pigment concentration that closely follows the likes of Sennelier and Schmincke soft pastels.
- Particularly good for
- Using as an underpainting medium, over which you could use oil colour, acrylic colour, or softer higher grade pastel colour. Also recommended for beginners who want to use a pastel that has excellent pigment concentration – the medium is very forgiving and will take rougher handling without completely falling apart in your fingers.
Art Spectrum Soft Pastels
- Comparable with Rembrandt for its medium – softness consistency, but slightly more gritty in their feel.
- 154 shades of pure, brilliant and intense colour, many of which are unique to Art Spectrum and inspired by the colours found in their native Australia.
- Very highly pigmented
- Particularly good for
- Very fine deposits of rich and even colour.
Conte a Paris Soft Pastels
- A rich and creamy, soft, crumbly texture that trails only marginally behind the leading soft pastel ranges.
- A limited range of 50 colours, available in sets of 10, 20, 40 and 50.
- Highly pigmented with strong, clean colours. A tendency to crumble easily when used with pressure.
- Particularly good for
- Using with water, layering and blending. A highly versatile medium, the sets that they come in are a convenient and cost effective way of acquiring a good palette of colours for underpainting and quick preparatory sketches.
Student Grade Pastels
Student grade pastels are more affordable than artist or professional grade pastels and will offer a cost effective means of acquiring a good palette for experimenting with this exciting medium. Pigment saturation will be a little weaker and the consistency of the sticks will tend towards being firmer, but this is a more forgiving medium with which to work as the pastels will last for a considerably longer amount of time. The firmness is attributed to the greater amount of binder. Some use chalk in their binder which has some influence over the way that the colours appear and the general behaviour of the pastel. Student Grade pastels include the ranges by Daler Rowney, Faber Castell, and Arch Art Manet. Perfect to buy for college or an art class.
Daler Rowney Soft Pastels
- Smooth velvet texture, on the harder end of the spectrum
- Almost 200 tints including a number of colours that are unique to the Daler Rowney range including Pansy Violet.
- Reasonably well pigmented, as expected for a student grade
- Particularly good for
- Experiments and quick studies as well as underpaintings
Faber Castell Sets of Half Stick Pastels
- Firm to withstand heavy pressure, but yet still maintaining the ability to easily deposit even colour
- 72 colours which all feature in the set of 72; there is also a selection set of 24 colours.
- Reasonable saturation, not the highest level as these pastels are designed to be part of the ‘Creative Studio’ range – so they are really only for getting ideas down on paper quickly and effectively, and not for exhibition standard work.
- Particularly good for
- Blending but not layering.
Arch Art Manet
- Firm yet smooth and not likely to crumble. Colour does glide on. There are occasional inconsistencies in the texture of pastels for batch to batch.
- 120 colours available individually and 15 different sets (although some of these include firmer, drawing pastels)
- Not well saturated but good for layering colour so saturated blends can be achieved.
- Particularly good for
- Value for money, a very affordable way into the world of pastel painting. Good sized pastels, so even if you need to use a lot in order to achieve the colour intensity that you are looking for, there is plenty to stop you from running out too soon!
Pastels for Children/ Cheap and Cheerful Pastels
In addition to the pastels discussed above, we also offer the Reeves and Jakar ranges of pastels. These are very inexpensive and offer the cheapest way of experimenting with pastel painting. Reeves and Jakar soft pastels are ideal for children at school as well as those who just need a small set of pastels to make quick sketches or paintings with. They are water soluble and incredibly versatile. If you are not a passionate pastel painter yet you like the idea of having a quick go, these are the ones we recommend to you.
PanPastel Colours are professional artist grade soft pastel colours in a unique pan format (cake-like); so that they can be mixed and applied like paint. They have very little dust for a cleaner working environment.
Hard Pastels make more crisp marks than soft pastels. They are better at making fine lines with as they do not crumble or smudge as easily. However on the other hand they will not blend as easily as soft pastels and you may find it harder to layer colours over one another to quite the same extent as is achievable with soft pastels.
One of the most famous ranges of hard pastel is the Conte Care range – Carre in French means ‘square’ – so they are literally square pastels. Conte Carres are baked with kaolin clay. They are synonymous with drawing classes, as they are a perfect medium with which to create sharp, bold expressive marks, and therefore ideal for students wishing to become more confident with their drawing technique. The sticks measure 2.5” x 0.25”. The edges of the cuboid will create fine lines and the sides of the square will allow you to draw broad strokes of colour. The Conte Carre range is most famous for its selection of earthy red-brown shades, but they also offer a full colour spectrum in some of their other sets. Sets are hugely diverse and range from 4 colour sets to 84 colour sets! The colours are blendable with one another and quite opaque – they work very well on darker sheets of paper.
In addition to the Conte Carres we also offer the Daler Rowney hard pastels, which complement their range of soft pastels in terms of the colours available. They are very similar to the Conte Carre hard pastels, but may be a little more crumbly. There are 23 individual colours in the range as well as 2 sets: The sketching set and a set of greys.
Derwent Artbars are wax based, and as a result have a slight sheen to them. They are not defined as wax crayons because they have a greater pigment concentration, and so the colour glides on less transparently and with a deeper lustre. Artbars are triangular and so have the same sharp edges as a square pastel has to achieve fine lines, as well as 3 sides that can be used for broader strokes. Derwent Artbars layer very well and are also water-soluble; making them even more versatile as stains can be made with them with ease. There are 72 individual colours as well as 4 assorted colour sets of various sizes. Alongside the sticks Derwent also offer 3 useful accessories. The scraper lifts colour from your paper. If you have layered colours up you can reveal the colours you initial drew on, which can be very useful in sgrafitto effects. The spritzer is a regular pump spray bottle that will allow you to gently wet the marks you have made and break them down, allowing you to move and spread the colour into transparent stains and washes. The Shave n’ Save allows you to grate your artbar into particles of colour which can then be shaken up in the vessel with water, effectively making your own liquid watercolour which can be used alongside the Artbars in their dry state.
Because hard pastels require more pressure to be applied in order to deposit colour on to a support than is required when working with soft pastels, less of the paper texture is visible as the colour will be deposited in the dimples of a textured sheet of paper. They can be used with soft pastels, and in fact most drawing and painting media if mixed media is your interest. Hard pastels can be erased or lifted with a putty eraser.
A Guide to Oil Pastels
How to Draw and Paint with Oil Pastels
Oil pastels are made of pigments bound in a non-drying oil and wax binder. They are thought to have been originally developed by Sennelier who were acted on the requests of Pablo Picasso, who wanted to find a painting and drawing medium that could be applied to ‘wood, paper, canvas or metal, without having to prepare or prime the surface". Oil Pastels are often favoured by artists who find conventional soft pastels too dusty or chalk for their liking. Oil pastels are creamier in their consistency, and the texture is noticeably more moist (a result of the presence of wax in their make-up). They are incredibly versatile and can be used to draw into oil or acrylic colour. Many artists enjoy working with them in mixed media projects.
What is the difference between wax crayons and Oil Pastels?
Artist’s oil pastels differ from children’s wax crayons as they have a far superior lightfastness classification (although this varies between brands). They tend to be softer than wax crayons and less pressure is required to apply colour to the surface you are drawing or painting on to.
Drawing and Painting with Oil Pastels – Hints and Tips
The consistency of oil pastels can be manipulated with heat; a cold oil pastel will feel harder and marks will appear sharper; more pressure is needed to deposit the colour on to your support. When an oil pastel is cold it is a better drawing material as fine and broad lines can easily be drawn; some artists keep their oil pastels out of doors or in a fridge in order to keep them hard in this way. An oil pastel that has been warmed up, either on a radiator or in your hands, will become more malleable, and the colour will glide on to your surface with less pressure. When oil pastels are warm their properties start to resemble those of oil paint, and as a result more painterly effects can be achieved. Oil pastel colour can be thinned with solvents, and extended with linseed oil, in exactly the same way that can be done with oil paint. Oil pastels are used by some oil painters to draw into wet oil paint, perhaps to re-establish a composition in a painting or to add texture or detail.
Mixed Media and Oil Pastel
Oil pastels can be used with media of any kind, the only thing to bear in mind is that it never properly sets or dries and so is a relatively unstable material on which to overlay other drawing and painting media – one would have to protect the work well by framing it under glass or by fixing it with a special oil pastel fixative so that the work did not deteriorate over time. Oil pastels are popular among mixed media artists as vibrant colour is easily applied, and blended into other material including soft pastel, watercolour, coloured pencils and graphite, without any adverse effects. Sgraffito is often used in oil pastel technique as its surface can very easily be scratched into at any point during the picture making surface – when the oil pastel is applied thickly, very little effort is required to scratch into the colour, which means that paper and other supports are not at any risk of being ripped or damaged inadvertently.
Professional Oil Pastels – Sennelier and Cretacolor Aqua Stic Oil Pastels
Oil Pastels are a useful art supply to keep in stock as they are so versatile. Oil pastels are wonderful for creating finished oil pastel paintings, but not only that; they can also be very useful in creating quick preparatory sketches and colour studies. The best oil pastels will be those with the highest pigment concentration. Because the pigment to binder ratio is greater, the properties of the pigment within the pastel will influence the behaviour and characteristic of each individual pastel, i.e. a French ultramarine oil pastel will appear more transparent than a Cerulean Blue oil pastel in the same way that a French Ultramarine oil paint would appear more transparent than a Cerulean Blue oil paint, and this is why the characteristics of each pastel in the range of Sennelier oil pastels more greatly vary than the characteristics to be found among the range of Inscribe oil pastels, for example. As well as pigment saturation, a professional grade oil pastel will have an even consistency that does not show any lumps or particles of wax binder when the colour is thinned over an area.
Sennelier Oil Pastels are very soft in their consistency and the colour glides on with the least amount of pressure out of all the ranges available at Jackson’s Art Supplies. However, because the colour is so saturated, the sticks last a long time as very little of the pastel is required to achieve bold marks, and even less required when applying the pastel colour thinly. They layer over each other and other media very well, and the opaque colours have unbeatable coverage. When heated up significantly, the Sennelier oil pastels can be used in an almost sculptural way; one can use a palette knife to apply and sculpt the colour on to one’s support. Sennelier oil pastels are available individually as open stock, as well as in sets of assorted and themed sets such as landscape, still life and portrait sets.
Cretacolor’s Aqua Stics are often compared to Caran d’Aches’s Neocolor II watersoluble wax pastel range, however the Aqua Stics do have oil content (unlike the Neocolor II’s). Another important difference is that when the Aqua Stics are thinned or spread with water, they retain much of the vibrancy of the dry colour in a way that the Neocolor II’s do not (these colours significantly lose their colour strength when diluted in water). Cretacolor market the Aqua Stic by stating that they can be used with watercolour and encaustic in mixed media projects, and will adhere to a variety of supports including cardboard, canvas, wood, leather, glass and mirrors. As with other oil pastels, sgraffito techniques (the scratching into colour) is very effective. Aqua Stics have been known to be a little crumbly and hard when cold; in my opinion they perform best when heated up in one’s hand prior to use. Aqua Stics are available in sets of 10, 20, 40 and 80. Cretacolor Aqua Stic watersoluble oil pastels possess excellent levels of light fastness.
Oil Pastels for Beginners and Students
The other ranges of oil pastels available at Jackson’s Art Supplies have lower pigment saturation levels, and are less lightfast. Their qualities vary between the ranges; here is a guide to the oil pastels available.
Derwent Academy Oil Pastels
Academy oil pastels are suited to children ages 9 and up as well as those looking for a cheap but well-made oil pastel range for experimenting in; for learning oil pastel painting techniques. There are 36 colour in the range and the colours blend with one another perfectly well. The pastels are individually wrapped in paper so that you do not have to get dirty hands when working and are available in sets of 12, 24 and 36 (all under a tenner!).
Daler Rowney Oil Pastels
Daler Rowney oil pastels are a good value range for quick oil pastel sketches and experimental mixed media work. In comparison to Sennelier oil pastels they are of a lesser quality in my opinion; this is because they sometimes have an uneven consistency within the stick. When the pastel is thinned there are sometimes noticeable lumps in the pastel colour – which are formed by the binder which has not been properly blended with the pigment. There are 37 colours in the range which perfectly match colour in the soft pastel range. This is convenient if you intend to try a mixed media work which incorporates both materials.
Pentel Oil Pastels
Pentel oil pastels have a large diameter and good 48 colour range, and many schools favour them for art lessons. They have good blendability and have good resistance to breaking even when used with larger amount of pressure. Pentel oil pastels are a cheap option for professional artists who need a basic set of pastels in the studio, but are equally well suited to children from ages 9 and upwards through to GCSE art students looking to explore colour and form in their art projects. They have relatively good lightfastness levels which enable finished work to be put on display on a classroom wall with most of the colours retaining their luminosity (some of the reds and pinks are known to suffer the effects of strong sunlight over longer periods of time).
Inscribe Oil Pastels
Inscribe are my favourite low cost range of oil pastel as they are reliable and have a lovely colour range. They have a slightly harder consistency than some of the other oil pastels and as a result are particularly effective in drawing lines. I like to use mine to draw into wet oil paint on canvas (the solvents I used to thin my paints break down the colour of the oil pastel and allow interesting textures to emerge in the quality of the lines drawn). They are only available in sets of 12, 24, 36 and 48, and all under £12! Highly recommended for a good combination of quality and price.
Pastel Pencils are a popular medium in their own right as well as being used to add intricate, controlled detail to conventional soft pastel paintings. Pastel pencils are watersoluble so colour can be blended to appear flatter, and less chalky and textured than when applied dry. Pastel Pencils have the advtange of being wood cased so that you do not get dusty fingers, which helps to avoid smudging and marking work inadvertently. Colours can be blended with one another by layering and using a colour shaper, brush or your finger. The pastel pencils available at Jackson’s Art Supplies are all relatively comparable in terms of quality, although there are differences in colour range and consistency – for example, the Pitt Pastel pencils from Faber Castell are thought to be a little harder than the others. Different consistencies suit different artists – here’s a guide to each range available at Jackson’s Art Supplies.
The Softest, Most Powdery Pencils for maximum colour saturation and expressive marks:
Caran d’Ache Pastel Pencils
Caran d’Ache seek the advice of practicing professional artists in order to manufacture the highest possible quality art materials, and these pastel pencils are highly regarded and incredibly popular. There are 84 colours in the range. The texture of these pastel pencils is soft and powdery thanks to ultra fine pigments being used, lending them to effective blending and good colour dispersion. Colours appear bold and saturated, and can easily be ‘knocked back’ with a blender or colour shaper.
Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencils
Stabilo CarbOthello Pastel Pencils are a little harder than the Caran d’Ache pastel pencils, but are soft enough to be incredibly versatile and popular among professional artists. The colours in the range are very strong with good covering power. Their saturation makes it easy to put down intricate lines that still show the colour strength of these pencils. Lightfast ness ratings are excellent across the whole range. Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils are particularly well suited to working with water. Sets are available as well as 60 individual colours.
Derwent Pastel Pencils
Another soft consistency pastel pencil which is powdery and with the ability to create expressive and bold marks. 72 lightfast, blendable colours in the range.
Slightly harder consistency pastel pencils for maximum control and fine lines:
Conte Pastel Pencils
Conte pastel pencils should not be confused with Conte crayons; these are pastel pencils that offer an effective tool for adding fine lines to a soft pastel painting. They have a slightly harder consistency than conventional soft pastels. Conte pastels are not designed to be layered or blended one another – they are best used as pure individual colour. If colours need to be blended then a hatching technique is suggested for the best results, as this will avoid any dulling in your colours.
Conte Sketching Pencils – Black Pastel, White, Sanguine, Sepia
These are very useful sketching pencils for expressive life drawing, and other monotone drawings. They are traditional hues that can easily be blended with one another. The Sanguine hue is a rich, terracotta colour and is made with a transparent pigment, so marks allow the texture of the paper to show in order to get the best from your art materials. Mix the Sanguine with the white pencil and you will find a sensitive flesh-like hue. The sepia pencil is a darker pencil akin to burnt umber, and is ideal for rough sketches both indoors and outdoors. The white pencil is perfect for use on dark paper, or as a means of lightening the other pencils in the range and blending.
Faber Castell Pitt Pastel Pencils
The Pitt Pastel Pencil range consists of 60 shades. They are a little harder than the Caran d’Ache pastel pencils and so some artists find them difficult to use, but they are still blendable as well as being useful for hatching and detail. The leads are compacted in order to achieve the highest pigment saturation.
Fixative is a clear liquid similar to varnish usually sprayed onto a dry media artwork to stabilise the pigment or graphite on the surface and to preserve finished artwork from dust. Most fixatives are available in an aerosol spray. Work can be fixed throughout various levels of completion. The work should be placed on a flat surface and excess dust removed. try and spray the fixative using an even amount of pressure over the whole work, holding the can the same distance from the work. Fixatives are known to sometimes darken colours. Fixatives are sometimes available in bottles without aerosol. When this is the case the fixative can be applied using a mouth operated spray diffuser. For those who wish to protect their work without using fixatives are advised to keep their work behind glass.
Pastel Painting Brushes and Tools
Soft pastels are usually applied by dragging the stick of colour over the surface being painted; the friction caused in the contact leaves a deposit of colour on the paper. Pan pastels are applied using either your finger or with the sponge tools available especially for this purpose. Wide sponges will enable you to make dramatic broad strokes of colour. The smaller tools look a little like eye shadow applicators and will facilitate the creating of finer detail.
Brushes for soft pastel tend to have quite short hair and a ‘stubby’ shape to the brush head, which lends itself well to blending pastels. Due to the delicacy of the medium, you will find that you will only need to use the brush very lightly as otherwise you may lose a lot of pastel dust from the surface. The brushes come in a variety of sizes to cater for both very fine intricate work and bolder, large scale work.
Colour shapers, tortillions, paper stumps and blenders all work on the same principle. These are tools that will move colour around, push it further into its surface, and allow you to blend colours together. With these tools you can create incredibly smooth effects and the subtlest of blending.
Colour shapers are available in a range of shapes and available with rubber or silicon tips. Tortillions and paper stumps are made from paper and do not last as long as the more resilient colour shapers. The rubber colour shapers are also available in a variety of softnesses; each will give a slightly different effect to your blending.
Pastel Painting Surfaces
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 collage. The 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 watermarked. Suitable for all dry media, especially soft pastels and pastel pencils.
Clairefontaine 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 techniques.
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 – it 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.
Pastel ground is a specially developed primer that can be applied to pretty much any surface. Once dry it is an ideal texture on which to apply soft pastel. Most pastel grounds dry with a light sandpaper-like texture. It should be applied with a thin and even layer (if you want a heavier texture best to apply multiple layers allowing drying time between each rather than apply one thicker layer), using a priming brush. Our tip would keep one priming brush aside especially for pastel ground.