View Full Version : Which pastel primer do you like best and why?

06-12-2012, 11:49 PM
I'm thinking of trying a new pastel primer, and I figured I'd ask my pastel buddies what you prefer. The one I'm currently using is Art Spectrum pastel primer. I'm not in love with it, and I'm thinking of trying Golden Pastel Ground with the fine pumice gel added. I'm wondering if the Golden product is something I would like better than Art Spectrum, which is the reason for the poll.

I'd appreciate your input, and if you have something else you'd recommend, just select "other" and let me know what that "other" is :D !

If you could let me know why you like what you do that would be great. I'm not loving Art Spectrum because the surface it gives seems to feel too coarse for me I think. It doesn't feel anything like Uart or Wallis, and I'm not a big fan of Colourfix paper; I guess their primer is similar to that. Would you say the Golden product has a finer tooth? Is it similar to Uart or Wallis?

You people are always so helpful, thanks very much!

06-13-2012, 05:37 AM
i've seen/touched a sample chip of one of the Golden premixes
and my conclusion was ' too coarse ' .

the few supports that i have handmade use ' ff ' or ' ffff ' pumice .
the one i prefer ( ironically ) is 4f .

jewelry/gemstone and cabinetry suppliers have very fine grit materials
to be used for tumbling/polishing . some auto suppliers have fine grits for
hand-finished auto body work .


one description of how to make your own supports .

Ed :}

06-13-2012, 09:55 AM
For me, the prepared sanded primers that I have tried are all too coarse for my use. Currently having the best results with just a well brushed coat of Galeria Gesso. It is very thick in the jar and goes on easily. This produces (to me) a surface that will handle 10 to 12 light layers, is easy to recover the tooth if overworked. Works well on panels, heavy papers and fine linen canvas. Also W&N clear gesso produces a similar result, but will hold slightly fewer layers. (8 to 10).


WC Lee
06-13-2012, 12:28 PM
I like using a mixture of gesso and aluminum oxide the best, it produces a surface similar to Wallis and by adding acrylic paint, I can get a tinted surface.

06-13-2012, 01:15 PM
Thank you Ed. It seems I may need to come up with a formula that isn't premixed. I have tons of hotpress watercolor paper and I'm trying to figure out how to use it with my pastels. It's a shame to waste it, and I know I can figure out a way to make some nice pastel paper with it.

Thank you John. That sounds like it's better than the Art Spectrum, I'll be thinking about it. It could definitely be an option for me.

Thank you WC Lee. Similar to Wallis? Now you've got my interest. Where would I find aluminum oxide? I didn't see it at Dick Blick, or any other art supplier. And do you use any gesso? Would Golden acrylic gesso be a good choice? What is the ratio of aluminum oxide to gesso? I know, more questions.... this does sound like something I would try, so I appreciate your help :heart: . Thanks so very much.

WC Lee
06-13-2012, 01:59 PM
I brought mine from metlabsupply.com (http://www.metlabsupply.com/supplies/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=53_121). I mix it with acrylic gesso and water, and if I want a color tint, I would add some acrylic paint. Any artist grade acrylic gesso will work, I would avoid using the student grade ones. As far as ratio, that would depend on your preference, but one thing good about mixing your own is that you can add more of something if you choose to.

06-13-2012, 02:06 PM
Thank you WC Lee. Another question. I noticed the aluminum oxide at the website you recommend has different grit and goes to micron. I wouldn't know where to start, what do you use to achieve the Wallis-like result? I figure if I do this I'd start out with what you've used, at least I have some kind of recommendation to begin with. There are around 15 different versions! And yes, you're right, I can just add more of the aluminum oxide to achieve the surface I want. Thanks so very much.

WC Lee
06-13-2012, 03:56 PM
I am currently using the 400 grit size ..

06-13-2012, 04:57 PM
i looked at the above supply link .
> seems the micron #s go fine to coarse ( relatively ) whereas the upper section goes coarse to fine .

the following link is for a comparative chart ;


Ed :}

ps. basically , the lower the micron # , the smaller the particle .

06-13-2012, 05:02 PM
This was very informative. To get a paper that feels like Wallis!

Can I ask what kind of watercolor paper do you use? How heavy
does it have to be, or maybee it doesn´t matter?

Donna T
06-13-2012, 05:42 PM
Hi Chris, I voted for Golden Fine Pumice Gel. Like you, I find the Colourfix primer a bit too coarse. Sometimes I lightly sand the surface after I apply the gel to make it a little smoother. When you dilute it with water just add a little at a time and smoosh it around before you add more or else you end up with lumps that are a challenge to smooth out - like if you dump in all the water at once when you make soup from a can. :D

06-14-2012, 12:51 PM
Hey Chris,
I also voted "other" for clear gesso and aluminum oxide crystals. I use 240 grit, bought from an abrasives supplier. Mira gave me some 400 grit, but I prefer the 240 (this surface is similar to Ersta or UArt finer grits). It provides a more uniform surface than the pumice ( I find, anyway).

Also if you scrub your surface a lot, the pumice breaks down. Not so the aluminum oxide. Big caveat. WEAR A MASK whenever mixing this! You don't want pastel in your lungs but you REALLY don't want aluminum oxide dust in your lungs!

06-15-2012, 01:13 AM
Thank you WC Lee. I appreciate your help!

Thanks Ed, I appreciate the tip.

Hi AnnaLisa. I'm using Arches hotpress watercolor paper. I know you can use any type of watercolor paper, but I prefer the smooth surface of hotpress. I find the bumps on cold press and rough to be distracting for pastel work.

Donna, I'm now leaning toward trying the Golden pumice gel (thank you :D ), it sounds like a surface I would like, and it's an easy solution. I'll liet you know how I like it.

Thanks very much Kris. I was concerned about the dust from the aluminum oxide, and I'm thinking if I can avoid mixing the stuff up myself that would be best. I'm hoping the Golden pumice gel gives a uniform texture. If it's premixed hopefully it will. I'll let you know. I don't scrub all that much, and I'm thinking of using this surface for plein aire paintings, which should go pretty quickly, no time for scrubbing. In the studio I might scrub something out if I don't like it (I just did that today twice :eek: on a painting I'm working on, I'm using Wallis paper, and that does take scrubbing, thank goodness!).

06-16-2012, 11:42 AM
Chris, I only mix up batches of alum oxide a couple times a year, and store various dilutions of it in old gesso jars to minimize the exposure factor. I'd still recommend it if you find the gel isn't gritty enough. Another good abrasive is marble dust, also an inhalant danger, but not quite as bad as alum. It's a fairly fine grit. Lots of options!

06-16-2012, 12:13 PM
For those of you who are in Europe: the UK paper Fisher 400 is as good as Wallis pro for grabbing pastel.

Chris, I didn't vote, as I don't like to spend time on grounds, so I buy ready made papers. Which is my "other". :-)

06-16-2012, 12:34 PM
I have posted this several other times. Paul DeMarrais sold me on acrylic matte medium and alum oxide grit. One cup of acrylic and 1 tablespoon of grit. He sold me the grit. I use it on multimedia artboard and like it a lot. I cannot say how it compares to Wallis because I have not used that in a while since I started making my own.

06-17-2012, 12:41 AM
Thanks Kris. That makes sense, I wouldn't want to work with the stuff more than necessary either, not worth the risk. I think if the gel isn't gritty enough I will definitely give your formula a try. I'm leaning towards the gel because it's ready made and saves me some work.:D

Thank you Charlie. I agree that ready made papers are the most convenient. Because I have so much hotpress watercolor paper it seems a shame to not put it to good use. If I can find a ready made primer that I don't have to mix and I like, I think it shouldn't be too much trouble.

Thanks very much Sherry, I appreciate your formula!

06-27-2012, 05:30 PM
What kind of hot press paper do you have? I remember picking up some Arches 300# HP paper when Pearl closed on LI it seemed to have a little tooth.
troutbum a.k.a Boyd

06-27-2012, 10:58 PM
Hi Boyd,

I have 140 lb Arches hot press paper. I just tried the pumice gel on it today and it worked pretty good. I can see myself using this surface for pastels, especially for plein air work. I will try a studio piece on it before I go and use it for plein aire so that I can familarize myself with it. It isn't as rough as the Art Spectrum primer, it feels nicer to paint on.

I took the paper and securely taped it to foamcore. I thinned the pumice gel with water a little because it was a bit thick, then I applied it with a foam brush. It seemed to work well, and I have a few small pieces done so I think I'll play a bit. I'm thinking I could do a watercolor or gouach underpainting first, then pastel away. I did a very small landscape on it as an experiment, I thought it was pretty nice to paint on.

I think the hotpress paper doesn't have enough tooth by itself, which is the reason I wanted to try this primer. I don't really like Art Spectrum as much as I thought I did, it's a bit too rough. Hopefully this will be something I like, I have a lot of paper that I want to play with. Plus, it's just fun to try something new.

Here is what I came up with, it's only 5x7 (I didn't spend too much time on it, just about half an hour, but I could tell I probably will like the surface):


06-28-2012, 02:17 AM
This question is a good one for our materials series Chris! I'd like to copy it into the archives when it's run a bit more, if that's ok with you Chris?

Personally, I've only tried AS Colorfix primer...both for a base on a sheet of watercolour paper and as a fixer on accidental water damage on bare spots on Sennelier La Carte ....worked very well on both!:thumbsup:

06-28-2012, 10:47 AM
This question is a good one for our materials series Chris! I'd like to copy it into the archives when it's run a bit more, if that's ok with you Chris?

Personally, I've only tried AS Colorfix primer...both for a base on a sheet of watercolour paper and as a fixer on accidental water damage on bare spots on Sennelier La Carte ....worked very well on both!:thumbsup:

Of course it's okay Deirdre, I'm glad you find it useful.

There's nothing wrong with the Art Spectrum primer, I think it's just a matter of personal preference. The surface is just a bit too rough for my taste. I know Wallis paper has a reputation of being very tough, but the surface is surprisingly smooth in comparison to the AS primer. Even though it's sandpaper it's somehow smoother. I know it sounds crazy because in reality it's not 'smooth', but it's 'smoother' somehow. Again, personal preference is really what it comes down to. I think for those bare spots on LaCarte, I do believe the Art Spectrum is probably a better choice than the pumice gel. Knowing both of their consistencies, and I also have LaCarte paper so I know what that feels like, the AS primer would definitely be a better choice to do a repair job. Every product has their uses and their happy customers, which is why it is so nice to have choices!

02-07-2016, 08:45 PM
I like Art Spectrum Colourfix Primer because it comes in 20 colors and I used to have all 20 colors. They're probably still upstairs in the attic, ready to be used again. I got used to using it so never tried the Golden products.

My best idea for the Colourfix primers is something I still want to do once I find the stash. Do an underpainting with the primers in two or more colors, maybe a notan in black and white or complementary colors in good values by masses - it will be fun. Until then I just use watercolor or alcohol or water wash and prime over it with Clear.

Chris, that painting is so lovely!

I did find my Pastel Journal, a watercolor journal that I was priming pages with Colourfix before taking it out for plein air. Nice variety of colors in it so far but until I get into the attic, later pages will be Clear over Underpainting.