View Full Version : Is it me, the paper or the pastels?

08-27-2003, 10:10 AM
I just made my first pastel painting last monday, although it actually turned out 'nice', I had alot of problems finishining it!
The first layers of pastels worked well, but come the 3rd and succeeding layers I can't apply the pastels anymore! Applying the pastels feels like im doing it on a smooth surface and doing so just smoothens the surface even more, what's wrong? I'm using conte soft pastels, is the problem with me, with my pastels or my paper?

08-27-2003, 10:15 AM
Welcome, and congratulations on your first pastel painting!
YOur problem could well be the paper. What type were you using?SOme papers hold the laers of pastel better than others.


08-27-2003, 10:19 AM
What kind of paper are you using? It sounds like you filled up the tooth. Some papers will take more layers than others. One should start with a light touch to allow more layers. You can remove some by brushing it off or a light layer of fixative will give a little more tooth. I'm sure there is alot of advice also in the Hall of Fame threads.

08-27-2003, 10:22 AM
yeah, i was hoping it was the paper, im not really sure what type of paper i used with it, but what can you suggest?

Craig Houghton
08-27-2003, 11:31 AM
Yep, sounds like you 'lost the tooth.' I actually stopped using regular paper. I prime surfaces with an acrylic pumice primer. This makes the surface like a fine grit sandpaper, and that means more hills and valleys to fill with pastel. There's lots of sanded grounds out there -- you can buy paper that has been prepared in advance, or you can (and this is what I do) buy the primer and do it yourself. I find that by just getting some primer and doing it yourself, you can give yourself a chance to work pastels on surfaces you otherwise might not have used.. like wood. Primed matboard (the sort you buy for frames) has taken my prize for the best all around surface waiting to be primed.

Golden makes a pumice gel. I water this down a bit and prime matboard with it. It's clear so you get to see the matboard color below. You can layer pastels on this without worry.

Colourfix primer by Art Spectrum is my favorite. I use it straight from the jar and apply it with a roller.

Also, both the papers and the jars of primer are on sale at Jerry's (scroll to the bottom of the page for the primers) http://www.jerrysartarama.com/shop/Products.asp?Parent_ID=3046

If you'd rather a ready-made surface, try the Colourfix papers. They're on that page as well.


08-27-2003, 11:54 AM
Thanks Craig, that was very concise! I'd check on those materials, gain thanks:clap:

08-27-2003, 01:03 PM
Another thing is start with harder pastels, like nupastel or Rembrandt and put softer ones on top layers. Soft can go over hard, but not the other way. Sennilier fixatif works well for me too. Wallis paper is great.

Craig Houghton
08-27-2003, 01:09 PM
Originally posted by beebear
Another thing is start with harder pastels, like nupastel or Rembrandt and put softer ones on top layers. Soft can go over hard, but not the other way.

Unless of course you're using a pumice ground or something similar. I use the harder stuff late in the game quite often because I like the way it cuts through the layers instead of always piling up.

Also, jramoyo, you might want to look into underpainting if your surface can handle it (careful because some things, like la carte paper by sennelier, will dissolve, and other things will buckle from the wet). Usually underpainting (especially if you just wet regular old dusty soft pastels) will cover the surface well without killing the tooth (plus it saves time and material).


08-27-2003, 02:51 PM
Cutting through the layers and actually layering to build up color are two different animals in my book.

Craig Houghton
08-27-2003, 03:10 PM
Definitely. I should clarify. I mention the use hard over soft to cut through layers to note that hard can physically go over soft (so long as you have the right surface). But yes, it's definitely for a different effect and not for scumbling or anything like that.


08-27-2003, 04:15 PM
Did you use fixative? Using fixative between layers will help the pastels adhere. I never use it on the last layers, however, as it darkens and flattens the "magic dust".
Another thing I just learned is to do an underpainting in charcoal, defining your dark darks, then spraying that with fixative. Then you don't need to use so much pastel when trying to make deep rich colors. You can also do an underpainting with acrylic or watercolor ( I use a Fabriano or Arches WC paper; see my "broken color" posting.

08-28-2003, 04:07 AM
I am a fan of the Art Spectrum Colourfix paper. The only problem is that if you blend with your fingers you wear away your skin a bit. It is a fantastic surface though and holds heaps of pastel.
You can buy A4 sized pieces to try and it comes in a variety of colours. I use the largest size.
I only use fixative if I'm feeling arty and flambouyant; when I want to use the darkening effect in my painting or playing with colour.
You can buy colour shapers to help blend and move pastel to create detail. www.colorshaper.com (American spelling:p) I think the link is. I have several.
I look forward to seeing your work here.

08-28-2003, 05:10 AM
another point worth mentioning.

If you work on paper, you need to be conscious that there isn't a lot of tooth, and work accordingly. Most people work unthinkingly, slapping on the pastel.

If you start with very THIN layers of pastel, WORKING WITH A VERY LIGHT TOUCH with soft pastel, this will be fine for the earlier layers. You can spray these layers with fxixative knowing that even if the pastel darkens a little, it doesnt matter, because you plan to add more.

Gradually, then, you can add further layers. I'd still recommend keeping a light touch, until the final highlights, which can be put on more firmly.

If you paint passages you aren't sure about, instead of working over the top to correct, simply brush the pastel off with a stiff brush. This saves any overloading.

I work on paper most of the time, and rarely overload the paper with pastel to the point of shininess, tho it has happened occasionally on a well-overworked painting.