View Full Version : Questions about contÚ

06-17-2003, 09:37 PM

I don't know if this is the right forum to ask in, but I'm not sure where else..

I began learning to draw recently, and as I'm used to working with colours it's getting quite tiring with just black and white. I don't have a lot of funds to put into art at the moment, but I thought a few contÚs could be a good start - sticking with drawing rather than painting, but with some colours! I really enjoy the look they can make.

So, can anyone recommend a good quality brand? How do you sharpen these exactly? Can you use blu-tack to lift it off like graphite? How about contÚ pencils? Which paper is good to use? Also, do you spray on fixative during the process to keep it from smearing?

Sorry for all these questions, I'd just like to put my money to good use instead of getting the wrong stuff :)

06-18-2003, 03:58 AM
Originally posted by marc

So, can anyone recommend a good quality brand? How do you sharpen these exactly? Can you use blu-tack to lift it off like graphite? How about contÚ pencils? Which paper is good to use? Also, do you spray on fixative during the process to keep it from smearing?

Most brands of Conte pastels are fine to use, they are all quite similar, and this applies to the pencils too. It is only when you start to move into soft pastels, that there are big differences, manufacturer to manufacturer.

I would always recommend Canson Mi-Teinte paper, you can try both sides of the paper, they differ, and it's fun to discover which you prefer.

Blu-tack won't lift the pastel in the same way that it lifts graphite, so try a putty rubber.

Yes, you do spray with fix to stop it from smudging.

The sticks are more versatile than the pencils, because you can break off pieces and use them on their sides to achieve large areas of colour ... moving you gently away from drawing and into painting!


06-18-2003, 04:57 AM
hi Marc. ContÚ is a brand name ~ 'ContÚ à Paris' ~ and the original hard pastel, so you won't go far wrong if you pick up a box of 12 or 24 of their little sticks :) They come in a shallow plastic box with a hinged lid ~ very practical to carry around with you.

I find some of their colours a bit scratchy, but that is from a 'painting' point of view [I prefer the softer pastels] ~ for 'drawing' they're ideal!

Look forward to seeing your first contÚ drawings! :)

06-18-2003, 05:38 PM
Hi E-J and Jackie :)

Thank you for the info. I thought contÚ was used as a general name for hard pastels, if there's just one brand I guess I should be ok. ;) No good art stores in the vicinity here so haven't been able to see any. I might have to import the paper too.. How about Stonehenge or hot press watercolour paper?

What do you use for sharpening? I tried some charcoal earlier and found it impossible to keep sharp edges, so soft.. as soon as it touched the surface the edge was gone. Is a razor or sandpaper useful for contÚs?

Bummer about the blu-tack. Before I got the blu-tack I tried a kneaded rubber and all it ever did for me was smear the paper and make icky gooey marks everywhere. Blu-tack was a relief, the thing actually works (with graphite)! I guess I'll just have to not make mistakes that need erasing :D

Vegas Art Guy
06-18-2003, 08:47 PM
You could try dickblick.com or cheapjoescatalog.com for the conte crayons if your local art store does not have what you need.

06-18-2003, 08:58 PM
I might have to, it's just expensive with shipping and customs fee here..

06-19-2003, 06:10 AM
Marc -if you are UK based,(? sorry, I am not good at flags) try ARTEXPRESS and JACKSONS ART, both have on-line catalogues, or you can ask them to send you one. They are both good mail order people. Art Express is freephone 0800 7314185 and jacksons is 0207 359 7718. Another good one, with an amazing catalogue the size of a telephone directory, is GREAT ART - call them on 01420 59 3332.

You can use hot-pressed watercolour paper, but it is WHITE, and it is generally easier to use a toned paper, a mid-tone like a pearl grey or a soft blue or soft ochre. Pastel always skips across the surface of the paper somewhat, and when the paper is white, you will get white sparkly bits everywhere. If the paper is a nice mid-tone, you won't notice the colour at all. You can get smashing papers thro the mail order catalogues, and the colour reproduction in the pages isn't bad at all. Good makes are Canson (Mi Teinte), and Fabriano - I suggest Tiziano. I would steer clear of Ingres papers, they have "laid lines", which show when you work. I also do not like Winsor and Newton pastel papers, they have a hard, mechanical texture.

By the way - Conte a Paris make both soft pastels, and hard pastels. The soft pastels are round, the original hard pastels are called Carres, and are square. In fact, most thin, square stick are hard pastels.

Cretacolor make hard pastels, they are good.
Faber-Castell make "Polychromos" hard pastels. Also good.

06-19-2003, 08:42 AM
Although Conté is a brand name, it has also become the generic name for the type of hard pastels which were, I think, pioneered by the Conté company.

The confusing thing is that you can get conté crayons made by other companies, and other media (e.g. soft pastels) made by Conté. My experience of actually using them is so far limited to a set of what I think are conté pencils made by Derwent and sold under the name of "Drawing Pencils". There are 6 pencils in the tin - black, white and 4 shades of brown. They are essentially like fairly waxy coloured pencils with quite thick leads.

I'm thinking about getting some cont&eacute pastels too, but I'm not sure whether to go for the same classic drawing colours, or a wider range of colours for more painting-type purposes.

BTW Great Art, which Jackie mentioned, do seem to have quite an impressive range of contés. However, I don't know anything about Danish art suppliers. :)

06-19-2003, 01:19 PM
Hi Jackie and magnus :)

I dropped by a shop with a limited selection and they had a few open stock contÚs - one really thin of contÚ a paris as well as some different gretacolors and I think a faber-castell thing.. not much selection colour wise, but I took a greta and a contÚ a paris just to try it out. They only had derwent and ingres papers (no sheets), so didn't want to spend money on that when not recommended.

I'll try to fool with these on a plain white sketchbook that has some tooth to it for now.. Again, I'm looking for how you guys sharpen these things.. anybody??

The original incentive for me to try contÚs was that I love the look of the old pastel drawings.. Or I assume it's pastel anyway, at least it would give a similar look. Just two shades of pastel on toned paper can really give a very vibrant look.

Jackie - hey maybe we are part of the UK here in Denmark, or maybe it's the other way around.. seeing that we conquered you (briefly) about a thousand years ago :D (let's not talk about how nelson clobbered us later, ahem).

06-19-2003, 01:56 PM
Hi I use faber castell pitt pastel pencils and sharpen them with a craft knife then a small piece of sand paper.
You could use sandpaper for the hard pastels too......just get a fine paper.

06-19-2003, 02:02 PM
I remember my first conte experience. I was in a drawing class and was getting tired of charcoal and wanted something different. I was intriqued by the old master's use of Sanguine, but I couldn't find the real thing. I bought some conte Sanguine and WOW! What a difference in look. It's harder to work with, doesn't erase very well because of the waxiness of it, but a portrait or figure done in sanguine is just gorgeous. Try it. Have fun!

06-19-2003, 02:26 PM
angeline - ok I'll try a very fine sandpaper :)

jimb - yep I also love those sanguine drawings, that's exactly what I was thinking about :) (and that's the colours I picked up today)

06-19-2003, 03:16 PM
Aha - Danish eh - do you wear one of those nifty metal pointy hats with horns? Or are they from somewhere else? Norway or Finland? All the same to me........................

Seriously tho, I am sorry to have muddled you up, and hope you can find what you need. Why not go online to try those people I suggested, they might well send stuff to you anyway. Great Art, claim to be "Europe's largest and brightest catalogue for art materials, they originated out of Bonn - a company called Gerstaecker Verlag GmbH. I don't think they have a website, but you can email them and ask if they supply Denmark......try [email protected]

Sanguine and Sepia conte pencils are just wonderful to work with, and will be fine on white paper, for drawings. You can sharpen carefully with a craft knife, and for an extra fine point, use fine sandpaper.


06-19-2003, 06:34 PM
I found a small sandpaper thing that doesn't wear out. It's supposed to be permanent. You can wash it out (blowing is'nt good for our health altho I'm guilty of it). I really like it for my pastel pencils. I haven't brought myself to actually sharpen my pastels. The square ones make a nice line for awhile with the corner or one edge.

06-19-2003, 06:41 PM
jackie - those horn helmets never really existed, but they're part of the viking myths (denmark, sweden, norway) :)

I will probably buy online, thanks for the info. It's not normally any cheaper for me to buy from UK than US - although with heavy objects there's obviously a greater postal fee..

Artistammy - is that a particular artist sandblock or something? Got a name so I can look?

07-06-2003, 09:41 PM
I just saw your question. The sandpaper thing doesn't have a name on it. I think I bought it at an arts & crafts supply store but I'm not absolutely certain.