View Full Version : beginner: choosing right color for background

10-05-2003, 09:44 AM
well, i m a beginner with pastel and i have some trouble to choose the right color for background => color of the paper. i usually choose Canson.

is there any rules ?

thanks in advance for your help


10-05-2003, 09:48 AM
Ive been wondering that myself. So far I just GUESS and see what happens, sometimes its ok, sometimes...

If I am working with a still life I try different colors behind it with a cloth paper. If you scan the picture you can try using a graphics program like adobe to try different background colors.


10-05-2003, 09:53 AM
Has anyone ever seen any problems with breakage when you order pastels (individually or in sets) online? Just curious. Thanks.

10-05-2003, 09:59 AM
Duh. Sorry, meant to make this a new thread. :o

10-05-2003, 12:27 PM
If you have a light-ish subject, it's best to choose a darker toned color paper- the clash between the two tones will make that light subject POP! out at the viewer. A darker subject needs a darker tone. As for hue- it's nearly a matter of taste- if you leave lots of paper showing, as a watercolorist does, you'll need to pay attention to compliments and only paint red apples on green paper when you know you want that green ground to be a part of the whole.

Neutral grays are a great answer, though, because you get the best of both that way. Not to sound like a paid sponsor- but Schollershammer Translucent Gray is SUPERB. DickBlick carries it- it's great stuff. Sennelier has come out with some pastel board in a fine grit surface which holds lots of pastel, and it's in some very rich colors- but it's pricey. A lot of folks here recommend using white paper and giving it a tonal underpainting in watercolor or acrylic before you start to lay pastel- sounds like a neat solution, too.

To me, choosing the paper is the best part- I love paper.

10-05-2003, 02:30 PM
If you want the overall feeling and atmosphere of the picture to be very gentle, with lots of light colours and not a lot of strong contrasts - choose a lighter coloured ground.

If you want strong contrasts, and brilliant colours, choose a strong coloured paper.

And yes, as suggested, it can be fun to choose the "complementary colour" to the main colours in the image....provided you know your colour wheel!

If you want to paint a pic with loads of dark passages, using a dark paper is helpful, because then the darks are easier to apply, and you do not end up with those tiny sparkles of light, from the texture of light-coloured pastel paper.

As suggested, a medium-toned grey is always a good answer, as it will not fight with the lights in the pic, or with the darks. I use Canson all the time (preferring the smooth side) and often choose their "umber" paper, which is rather warm in tone, for landscape pics; then I also like their cool blue-greys too, which I might use if I know my picture will be predominantly warm tones. I like to use the opposite "temperature" to the main temperature of my pic. So, for a warm pic, I will choose a cool coloured ground; for a pic with lots of cool colours, I will use a warmer coloured ground.

Experimentation is the key. If you are confused, stick with greys and umbers for now, and gradually try other colours, slowly.


10-05-2003, 10:36 PM
This has been really helpful. I've been planning to try pastels and this was one of the big questions on my mind.

10-06-2003, 02:54 AM
just leap in....that'sthe best way with pastels. They are SO forgiving, easy to correct, and in general, easy to use.