Apply Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer to practically any surface to create an excellent painting substrate for soft pastels. The fine tooth holds a lot of pastel without being too gritty. It creates the same surface as the popular Colourfix papers, which are card with the primer screenprinted onto the surface in a thin even layer. You can create custom colours by tinting the clear primer or the coloured primers or by mixing different colours of the primers together. Get just the colour you wish you had!
Colourfix is an acrylic primer which bonds aggressively to practically any clean, dry surface – all types of papers (300 gsm or heavier works best), canvas, card, plastic, glass, wood, ceramic and metal. You can now get creative with the surfaces you use for pastel painting! It dries quickly, the time depends on how thickly you have applied it and if you thin it with water. A thin coat begins to dry in just a few minutes, similar to acrylic paint and will be ready to use in a couple of hours. The primers are available in 18 colours plus White, Clear and Supertooth. All colours come in 250ml pots and the White and Clear are also available in a one-litre size. The colours are permanent, acid-free and non-toxic.
Creating Custom Colours
The Clear primer can be easily tinted. I used Lascaux Aquacryl watercolours, creamy watercolour in a squeeze bottle. I used only one drop of Ultramarine Blue to tint the clear for the blue swatch on the plywood panel. For the Transparent Green primer on the panel I used two drops of Lemon Yellow and two drops of Ultramarine Blue.
The universal primed rough jute canvas panel below has two colours of primer – Elephant Grey and Elephant Grey modified to a cooler grey with about 20 drops of Lascaux Aquacryl Ultramarine Blue. This shows that the pigment level of the colour in the primer is high, as it took quite a bit more watercolour to tint the coloured primer than the clear primer. But the tinted clear wasn’t as opaque so steaks of brush marks showed where it was thinner and thicker.
On Bockingford paper I applied the Elephant Grey with a palette knife and when it was dry applied a second coat but of a transparent yellow colour, similar to a glaze. The second coat was the clear primer with a few drops of Lascaux Aquacryl in Lemon Yellow. As with most acrylics the white colour of the binder dries clear, so as the white leaves the colour darkens a bit and become more transparent.
Application Method and Tools
I tried applying the Colourfix Primer both with a brush and with a palette knife. The brush leaves brush marks, the palette knife is much smoother but leaves some marks where the palette knife overlaps. Some artists deliberately make swirling texture marks to add more interest to the surface. The brushes washed out easily with soap and water, but don’t let the acrylic dry in your brush. I have also heard of it being rolled on or applied with a sponge. You can sand the surface if you want it very smooth, like any primer, but sanding removes some of the grit. Overall I didn’t notice the brushmarks or ridges once the pastel was applied.
Be aware that as you apply it, if you wait a few minutes and brush more it may have already started to dry and you will drag dried clumps across the surface, so apply it and don’t brush again, let it dry. For those familiar with acrylic paint, it is similar to that. Also like acrylic – if you speed up the drying time with heat you risk cracking the surface in all but the thinnest areas. I applied some primer in thick coats with a brush and with a palette knife and it dried well, and did not crack as it dried. I also applied it in two thin layers in cross directions which seemed to help with getting an even coating. I also tested for just a single coat both with palette knife and brush. The thinner coats showed steaks more as the thick and thin areas showed the surface through in parts. It seems like at least two coats is best for appearance and for a good even gritty surface for pastel painting.
Surfaces To Use
I tried the Colourfix Primer on five surfaces. It can be applied to practically anything so you can get creative with the surfaces you use for pastel painting!
- An unprimed smooth plywood panel. A rigid surface can be quite nice for pastel painting. Using the clear or lightly tinted clear on unprimed wood allows the grain and warm colour to show through underneath a pastel painting.
- A universal-primed rough jute canvas panel. The canvas texture of the surface is still visible but now the panel will accept soft pastel.
- A clear primed linen panel. Using clear Colourfix Primer on this lets the brown linen show underneath the pastel for a nice colour and texture.
- Bockingford Watercolour Paper 140lb NOT. The paper curled as it got damp but then mostly flattened out again. Painting the whole sheet helped, where I did smaller swatches on the paper leaving areas un-primed it curled unevenly. The texture of the NOT paper can be left visible if you brush the primer on thin and can be obscured if you apply a thicker layer with a palette knife.
- Pieces of bare wood with interesting grain.
Using Pastels or Multimedia on the Newly Primed Surfaces
The super-fine grit holds a lot of pastel, so you end up with less pastel being wasted on the floor.
It is labelled as a multi-media primer and I have read about oil painters using it as their painting ground because it gives just the right amount of tooth and absorbency.
Click on the underlined link to go to the current offers on the Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer on the Jackson’s Art Supplies website.
Postage on orders shipped standard to mainland UK addresses is free for orders of £39.
I just used it to fill a small hole in a pastel
painting mounted on gator board. I did not
see the “cracking” part until after I applied
it. The hole did not go completely through
the gator board but it was most of the way.
Do you think it will crack over time? I was
going to fill it with acrylic medium but I
thought this would work better since I
would not need to further ruin the painting
with gesso etc. What is your opinion on
this cracking in the future? Should I dig it
out before it dries?
I say in the article that I applied it thickly and it did not crack. It only cracked when I tried speeding up the drying process with heat.
So you should be fine.
If you do find that acrylic or gesso ever cracks you can successfully fill in the cracks with more of the acrylic or gesso using a palette knife.
I have used the art spectrum deep black
colourful primer on a large board as a
background colour for a pastel piece.
However I am finding that I can’t even
touch the dry primer without it leaving a
white mark, changing my background
from black to grey. I can’t even pick the
board up with leaving fingerprints, even
with fabric gloves. Anyway around
this??????? Much appreciated, Nadya
None of us had heard of this before so I contacted Art Spectrum. This is their reply:
“We have not heard of this before.
Colourfix™ can act like a sheet of sandpaper when in contact with other surfaces because of its abrasive nature and remove material when scuffed up against them but this sounds like a different issue.
The only thing we can think of is that the primer needs more mixing before application as the pigment and the heavier “tooth” will settle to the bottom of the container over time. This could lead to the primer, when applied, having less pigment and more medium in the mixture which may cause the problem.
Please let us know if this fixes the artists’ problem.”
Ive just ordered colourfix pastel primer to paint on a large canvas. Can I colour it with acrylic to kill the white before I paint it on
the canvas please?
Yes, it’s very easy to tint the Colourfix primer with acrylic or watercolour. But it comes in a large range of colours, so you could just buy it coloured.
Hey. I bought in 2019 through Amazon
“colorfix primer-pastel & multimedia primer”.
Super product that I would like to buy again.
On the Amazon website I am told that you
will not ship to Denmark. Is that right?
It is a great product, isn’t it!
I checked with our person who manages our Amazon sales and she says we now only trade with 4 EU countries due to issues with prohibited commodity codes for various countries. (I don’t know if it’s something to do with Brexit or a new complicated Amazon rule, or what.)
But we sell the Colourfix Pastel Primer on our website. We are out of stock of a few of the colours (so we’d be out of stock on Amazon as well) but it looks like we are expecting a delivery in 2 weeks. If you choose from the drop down menu at the flag in the upper left corner you can choose to see the website in your currency. If you login so it can see your delivery address then you can see the shipping charges.
I hope that helps.
This is a most useful article. I have just bought some Raw Sienna to prep some mount board for a pastel piece. Reading the instructions it states “may be thinned with a little water”. What ratio of water/primer? Finally does the grit also settle in the clear version of this product. I’m assuming so, but thought I’d check
Thank you, I’m glad you found it helpful!
It takes very little water to thin acrylic or primer just enough to spread better. Usually the max is 10%, but it may only take a spoonful of water to make your primer brush out better.
Yes, you may need to stir the grit back into the primer a bit in all colours.