Art Spectrum make Colourfix paper, the great micro-toothy surface for coloured pencil and pastel. This year they added a smoother surface called Colourfix Smooth. Coloured pencil artist Judith Heilbronn-Crown has tried the paper and shares how to best use it.
Art Spectrum Colourfix Smooth Paper and Coloured Pencils
As a signature member of the UK Coloured Pencil Society, I love using coloured pencils, and like to try out different papers.
The new Colourfix Smooth an interesting paper, that is very different from most to use. It does have a strong tooth that usually grabs colour, so it is very easy to lightly colour over the surface. If one wants dense saturation it is harder as one has to press firmly so that the surface colour does not show, but it is probably faster to work on this surface even with having to do that. Some of the coloured papers are easier to work on than others.
I was not able to get strong whites on the Colourfix Smooth Black paper without using a little water, and also using the Light Umber I did not feel that there was as much contrast as I would have liked, though I was quite happy with my picture. You can see in my picture of reflections at the Jephson Gardens, Leamington Spa that I dampened the end of the Derwent Watercolour Chinese White to be able to get the very white sunlit branches and used it dry for the highlights on the tree trunks.
I experimented on a piece of Storm Blue. I only did a bit of colour testing rather than a drawing and found that to get bright colours one needs to use white first, but that white did work very nicely on this colour paper. To get bright yellows or reds, for example, colour first with the white, and then go over with the yellow or red. It would seem that the different colour papers tend to vary as to what results they produce, so you would have to experiment to see what colour paper you like best.
I think one can produce a successful picture on all the surfaces, but with varying degrees of happiness and different methods! My favourite of the papers, so far, is the white, which I enjoyed using. I like working on black paper, but have been spoilt by having bought a good supply of the St Cuthbert’s Somerset Velvet before it became unavailable, (it is no longer made) and no other black paper is as good – in my opinion!
I have been testing the pencils mainly for use with coloured pencils, and my pictures are produced with the pencils used dry without water. I found that it is best not to erase on them as doing so tends to remove the tooth so that it is harder to colour on. This means more careful planning of pictures.
I tended to mostly use the Derwent pencils for the picture of “Surprise View, Derwentwater”, with a mixture of Coloursoft, Drawing and Procolor. I used cotton buds to smooth the sky as I had used the pencil so lightly that it left a graininess to the surface. Some of the pencils smudged on this paper, so if one is working at random over the surface, one needs to make sure that completed areas are covered with paper if one is likely to rest one’s hand there.
One interesting thing with this paper is that it is designed for many purposes. The surface is covered with a thin layer of acrylic based primer. This means that one can use a lot of water to work on it without worrying about the paper distorting. I had a quick go with watercolour pencils, using them dry, and then going over with a wet brush. This worked very well. I also tried flooding the surface and then drawing over it with the watercolour pencils. I am not sure how good this really is for the pencils, but it was great fun, and the paper stayed nice and flat. It works on the black paper too! Derwent Inktense, Derwent Watercolour or Caran d’Ache Museum would be good on these papers, used with water and with this way of working, this paper would be ideal for people who have arthritis or hand problems, but like to be creative as minimal hand pressure is required.
If one has made a mistake when using dried coloured pencils, and after erasing one is not able to work on the area, one could change the picture into “mixed media” and correct with a little watercolour! It is possible to work dry pencils over a thin (dried) wash of watercolour, though I think there is a bit less tooth. If one wants a very dark area, this might be the best solution.
I had the opportunity to test a piece of the black paper in full sunshine in the Mediterranean for four months exposure almost perpendicular to the sun, and under these conditions there was no change in the colour of the paper. Normally under these conditions, if the paper or pencils are not of the highest lightfastness, there will be noticeable changes.
Click on the underlined link to go to the current offers on the Art Spectrum Pastel Papers in the Coloured Pencil Department on the Jackson’s Art Supplies website.
Postage on orders shipped standard to mainland UK addresses is free for orders of £39.