Updated May 2018
Over the years I have worked with quite a few pastel papers and found some personal favourites. There are a lot of pastel papers out there and for any beginning pastel artist it could be an overwhelming amount of choice. So in this post I’d like to introduce you to my favourite pastel papers. I can update this post when I try new ones out to let you know how I fared.
So without further ado these are my favourites:
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Colourfix is my favourite pastel paper. It comes in pads as well as large sheets of 50x70cm and is 300gsm. For larger surfaces you can buy the primer in a pot and apply it to your own support. I have never tried the primer but the sheets are wonderfully hardwearing. It can take almost endless layers of pastel. It can take wet applications, it can take different materials such as acrylics, ink etc. It comes in a range of wonderful colours. I like the greyish tones and the earth colours most. Best for pastel paintings with a lot of layering and multi-media applications.
Sennelier La Carte is a very soft and beautiful pastel card. Like Art Spectrum, it has a good tooth and and can take many layers of pastel. It is 360gsm card. So it is really suitable for full-on pastel paintings. It comes in sheets of 50x65cm and pads. The tooth is made up of some type of vegetable fibre, I believe, and therefore not waterproof. This paper must be kept away from moisture at all times and cannot be used with wet media. I have heard that not all colours are very light resistant so it would also be important to cover the paper with pastel. I am not sure this is true though.
On the up side, this paper is extremely soft and very beautiful. It has a hint of velvet about it and it particularly nice for soft and gentle portraits. It is one of the more expensive pastel papers out there. Best for pastel paintings with a lot of layering, portraiture.
Daler’s Murano papers come in sheets of 50x65cm or pads. It is 160gsm paper, so a lot thinner than the pastel card by Sennelier or Art Spectrum. It is a texture paper with enough thickness to be able to take quite a bit of pastel. Although you can layer a bit, it is really most suitable for drawings. It is not suitable for wet media. It comes in lots of colours and is affordable to use.
Ingres paper is a type of paper and can be bought from various brands. Good brands are Clairefontaine or Hahnemuhle. Ingres paper is a beautiful laid paper with a gentle texture and regular horizontal lines. It comes in weights around 100-130gsm. Because it is so thin it is definitely only suitable for drawings. You cannot put many layers of pastel on this paper. The paper is very beautiful and works well when left exposed. Best for sketches and light drawings.
Canson Mi Teintes is a very well known paper because of its particularly recognisable texture. It has a mottled, honeycomb texture on one side and a flat surface on the other side. You can choose which side you prefer to use. It comes in gummed pads, spiral pads and loose sheets and is 160gms in weight. There are lots of colours available. This is an excellent paper although I find the honeycomb texture too pronounced to use. Great for sketches, drawings and light paintings. It can take some layering but not too much.
On the recommendation of an artist friend I tried Mi-Teintes Touch and loved it. It is a heavy card (350gsm) with a suede-like textured surface that is very soft to the touch. It can take a good amount of layering and is suitable for very fine detail. See for my review of this paper, this blog post.
Velour paper is not for everyone but some love it. It is a heavy card of 250gsm in weight and has a fluffy velvety texture on it. The texture is so high and soft that it is hard to make sharp and strong lines as everything gets automatically softened by the texture of the paper. The effect is soft and sometimes even fuzzy, but used well it can create beautiful pastel paintings. Some fixative might be required as pastel particles could stick to the tips of the texture and not be very secure on the paper. It is a fragile support to use for pastel paintings but if used carefully and right can give great effects.
Pastelbord is a very popular support for pastel painters. It is a hardwood surface of about 3mm thick. It has a special finish to make it suitable for pastel. It is a fairly rough surface (fin sandpaper texture) and so can take a lot of pastel layers. It can also take other media such as acrylics, pencil and much more. Its rigid structure makes it easy to frame and transport. It comes in white and grey only (in the UK, more colours in the US) and is not a paper but a hardboard panel with a layer of granular marble dust. It is suitable for wet media and totally archival. It is more expensive than the other pastel papers.
Hugely popular amongst pastel artists, Pastelmat is a heavy weight card (360gsm) and has a velvety or suede-like texture to it. It is very soft to the touch. Painting on it gives a very slight fuzzy effect and hence the paper lends itself very well for atmospheric pieces. It can take a surprising number of pastel layers; while working on it I cannot fill the tooth. It is suitable for wet media as well as pastel so multi-media artists can work with watercolour and acrylics as well.Comes in various (mainly cool) colours, pads, sheets and 3mm thick boards.
Popular sanded pastel paper in 7 different grades, Uart Pastel Paper comes in only two colours: black and off-white. The 7 grades vary from very coarse to very fine, but all grades can take numerous layers of pastel. The paper makes the pastel glide onto the paper, giving it a very soft and velvety feel. Comes in pads, sheets and boards.
I would love to know if you have any experiences with some of these papers or perhaps you have a favourite I have not mentioned? Do add your comments below to complement and complete this article for all readers. I look forward to hearing your experiences!
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Further Reading ...
I recently heard of an art college that banned soft pastel because they thought it is toxic and should not be used. Although I find this an exaggerated, extreme and totally unnecessary measure (at an art college of all places!),
Canson Mi-Teintes Touch is a new pastel paper to me. Not too long ago I wrote a blog post about the best pastel papers on the market. Fellow artist and friend Jane Gardiner suggested Canson Mi-Teintes Touch which she uses regularly
Again and again people seem to refer to soft pastels as chalks, chalk crayons, chalk pastels and so forth. Even large art institutions seem still to be doing this. It creates the impression that chalks and pastels are the same
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