View Full Version : Different surfaces for OPs

05-24-2004, 01:37 PM
Thought it would be good to have a thread strictly about different surfaces for OPs. I think a lot has to do with the way the OPs are applied by different artists as some have great luck with some and others don't. So it would be nice to know what surfaces you have worked with and feel free to show some examples.

I've worked with a lot and find that different surfaces work depending on what I have as a subject. I also think the type of OP brand makes a difference...mostly my experience is with Holbein.

Pastel board...yuck...have not had one thing come out...surface does not seem to hold layers.

Art Spectrum...really like this, got a sample pack and mostly use it for WDEs. It's erasable, takes lots of layers and is blendable for the most part.

Bristol vellum...actually a pretty neat surface even though it's slick. It's really great for anything you want to blend...clouds, skintones etc. It's a very soft surface and any pressure with a pencil will keep it permanently dented, so need to be careful with sketches or colored pencil

Fabriano Tiziano paper...I like this too, comes in muted green and gray tones, has some texture to it, so there's a bit of 'hole' filing but a nice surface to work on.

watercolor paper...also has texture that can give you lots of holes but holds up well for layers, turps (though I rarely use them myself) and is nice if you want to lay an acrylic or wc wash first.

canvas...when I first used it I hated working on it. The acrylic gesso made it slick and didn't like the texture. It's now become my favorite to use since I started using acrylic gel mediums. I coat it with a marble/gesso finish which gives it nice tooth and lets it be erasable. Using the gels for texture, or for a matte protection in between layers means I can work it forever it seems. By using a final coat of clear acrylic I also don't have to worry about framing costs, although a gallery wrap canvas can be pricey it's worth it and much cheaper than framing and easier to store.

masonite board...I use the marble/gesso...it works great too, but it needs framed and is heavy.

That's pretty much all I've experimented with...what have you tried and what were the results?

05-24-2004, 01:53 PM
Well I will step in and add my minimal experience.

I have tried Mi Tentes and while the smooth side is great for soft pastels, I have found it to be not a toothy enough surface for OPs. I like a tooth so I can layer easily with some of the texture showing through and this paper lacks in it.

I have tried Wallis paper and while it does have a tendency to eat up the really soft oil pastels (like Sennelier), it is still a great surface to work on. Plenty of tooth and can be erased.

My favorite though so far has been the Art Spectrum papers. Enough tooth to hold plenty of layers really well, yet doesn't seem to consume that much of the softer oil pastels. Definitely what I like working on the most for oil pastels (though I don't like it at all for soft pastels).

I plan to try out Sue's recipe for making your own sanded paper, so I will have to get back to you on that once Dick Blick has marble dust in stock again.


05-25-2004, 12:41 AM
I forgot that I have used Hahnemule velour paper...it's pretty hard to work on but does have a neat effect if you don't overlayer.

I've also used plain sketch paper that wasn't archival and it took a lot of layers too, so good for practice. Senneliers might show some oil stain on the back but the Holbeins don't.

05-25-2004, 01:35 AM
:) OK couldn't resist I've used :D

Watercolor paper: I like the rough side of both 140 lb. and 300 lb. cold-press especially for landscape.

Colored Matt Board: In my early days of op I used all my end cuts of matt board for op painting. It has a nice texture that I really liked and I was able to use pieces I'd normally just toss.

All Pastel Paper: What ever brand works well with op smoother surface than the above mentioned.

Illustration Board: Probably my favorite cold press rough very tuff and stands up to a lot of abuse.

Black Sand Paper: Very very fine grit not known how long this type of non art paper will last and wouldn't recommend this for anything but experiments.

Wallis: Next on the list is to try Kitty's Wallis with op will let you know my thoughts after I try it. I've used it with soft pastel and loved the results.

Thanks Dyin, this will be an interesting thread and I think we all can benefit by it. :clap:

05-25-2004, 08:58 AM
I love Wallis!!! I have used it with Senneliers and with the cheapie water-soluble Portfolios. It has a great tooth that is refined, and doesn't seem to eat up my pastels. I haven't tried Holbeins or Caran D'Ache on it, which both seem thicker to me and might get heavy.

I am having a heck of a time fighting the Colorfix paper. In everything I do, it seems to suck up a lot of pastel, get muddy, and I can't scrape back. Maybe I'm just not using it right, but I don't like it as much as Wallis. Also, the Colorfix seems to have a larger grit, less refined. I do love the colors though!

I also liked the smooth side of Canson, which I used for the portrait of Sagan, my weenie dog. And I have used hot pressed watercolor paper, as well as Stonehenge, all of which have done just fine with OP's.

Stonehenge is a really nice paper, for those who haven't tried it. Very durable and a lovely surface.

I also have a sheet of Somerset Black Velvet waiting for me to try. Maybe this weekend...


05-25-2004, 02:13 PM
Fantastic thread....thanks Sue!

I'm glad to see that several of you like Art Spectrum for the OP's because I have a sample pack of the warm and cool colors. The size is so small that I don't take it on location (prefer larger paper for landscapes :)) and usually I give it to my students for them to try out. I'll get it out and do some OP's on it!

I'm rating this thread 5 Stars for excellent content!! Hope all of you will do this too.

Deborah Secor
05-25-2004, 02:51 PM
Yep, I'm rating this one too! Good thread. I know there are a lot of folks who'll want to know the different surfaces. It's interesting to see what their strenghts are, too.

Now, any suggestions for subject matter that's more suitable to a particular surface??? (I'm gonna run over to the SPS and post a similar thread starter there...good one, Sue!)


05-25-2004, 03:17 PM
Well, if you don't know already, I use Canson Mi-Tientes pretty much exclusively at this point. I like the smooth surface because I can move the OPs around easilty with a stump, and can get the detail I want. I've used it a bit with some careful application of turps, too, with no adverse effects. I was reading about the fact that it isn't archival though...disappointing, though I have noticed fading in my stored stuff. Not on anything that's been framed though.

I am going to try one on Colorfix though -- just getting it ready to go. I've done an oil painting on Colorfix, so I'm thinking there might be some brush and turps stuff going on! I want to be able to compare it to the Wallis when I get it, so thought I'd better get on it.


05-25-2004, 06:04 PM
Thanks Carly and Deborah! I like the vellum for soft things like clouds and the art spectrum is really good for a lot of things but really nice for quick strong sketch strokes too.
For me though, best all around is the marble/gesso finish.

05-25-2004, 09:33 PM
Okay, surfaces I've used :_
Water-colour paper, great surface, I generally lay a wash first with water-colour, must say I liked this surface for the softies too.
Artspectrum is a wonderful surface to use for Op's, very robust, and can take umpteen layers. love it.
Cansons, ... not one of my fav's, not bad, but not as good as others. okay for quicky's and sketch work.
Mount board; A good surface, it's smooth and the pastels blend well on this one.
Acrylic paper, unlike canvas, similar texture but smoother, takes Op's very well, especially with a turps mix, only discovered this recently, I was given a huge pad of the stuff, so still experimenting with it.

Canvas, Yummy, for me that is, as I blend my op's with turps and treat them like oil paints, love this surface.

Suede mount board, another yummy one, but can't get it here, I only tried it once and fell in love with it.
Somerset Velvet, another fav of mine will take layer after layer, and so lovely to use.
Probably there are lost more that I have used, but can't recall the brand names the ones above are the ones that come to mind easily at the end of the day, like anything else, it's a matter of personal choice and what works for you.


05-25-2004, 09:42 PM
Mo I still have those velour boards for you and was hoping to add a couple more before i send them on...so don't give up the ship! What did you do Johnny Depp on...the pirate one?

05-25-2004, 09:53 PM
Haha...Cap'n Jack:D.... He was done on Art Spectrum, fab paper, but then I've yet to use the famous Kitty Wallis paper, I know I can have a sample, but... other than that it's not available here, so have to stick to home, shipping costs etc.,.;)


edit to say.... Thanks for collecting those suede boards Sue, now what was I supposed to be sending to you? going off here mumbling and scratching my brains, or what's left of them.


05-28-2004, 12:12 AM
Linda, I use Canson exclusively too. It's inexpensive, readily available, and I love using the smooth side for portraits. The fading part doesn't bother me, because I've been completely covering it with ops anyway. Maybe someday I'll get adventurous and try one of these other surfaces. Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences!

05-30-2004, 04:34 PM
I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for the great info....being new to op's I wondered what supports would be good and what I might have on hand to try. Seems I have a few of these, so I'm off to play around!

Thanks again!! :clap: :clap: :clap: I will definitley rate this 5 stars....very valuable info!

05-30-2004, 04:38 PM
oh goody, you're going to play! Be sure and let us see what you do!!!

Harm Verbeek
06-07-2004, 04:22 PM

I most use Fabriano paper for Op. This moment I'm experimentig with different pastelpaper. I've tried Hahnemuhle Bugra. I thought this paper is for me a little to thin. You easily push to hard and the it wrinkle, it has an pretty rough side. It has protective sheets between the pages and several colors.
I've tried Rowney-Daler oilpastelpaper. This I liked better. You could better draw on it. It also has protective sheets
I also tried Schut pastel paper. Its between the former two and less rough.

Kathryn Wilson
06-08-2004, 07:53 AM
Here's what I've tried and how they worked out for me:

Art Spectrum - still a favorite for both oils and soft pastels.

Sennelier Oil Pastel paper - only comes in white, has a good stiff surface, smoother than canvas. Paper has been specially treated to prevent oil coming through to the backside, comes in several sizes of pads with interleafing of glassine paper.

Matt board - great for doing sketches on, inexpensive if you buy from a frame shop. Nice surface to work on.

Gesso board - a specially treated masonite used for acrylics and oils, but I really like this surface for lots of different treatment - scratching back, underpainting. Smooth surface that you can easily smudge, smear, move the pastels around on. Like this one a lot.

Wallis - I tried both the white and belgium mist with op's and preferred the white. Grabs the pastels nicely without being greedy, good layering.

Want to try Somerset Black Velvet - it was awesome with soft pastels.

06-10-2004, 03:29 AM
I don't think I'm really qualified to add my insights here, I mean, I only just realised that most papers have a rough and a smooth side!

I have however used Canson Mi Teinte, which I like, also Fabriano which was a bit too rough for my taste (should have perhaps turned it over :p ). There is also a local paper, well I think it's local, that I really enjoy called DuraCol, sorry not Duracolor as I initially thought. It's seems to work out just right - rough enough to take a few layers but smooth enough not to leave unfillable holes all over the place when I don't want them. I'm quite sure it's archival quality and acid free but I must check that.

Oh yes, the first piece I ever did was on canvas but I found it a little slick to work on and because it was stretched on a wooden frame it was a bit bouncy to work on. (laugh)

I'd really like to try Sue's gesso and marble dust recipe on canvas but it may have to wait a while till I have some cash flow again. I'm still looking for the perfect surface, it's part of the fun. I'm a bit like Carly, I like experiementing.

Lucky Lola
06-19-2004, 12:57 AM
Hi Sue,
Regarding your surface prep with the marble dust....how do you store that so it doesn't separate and the dust harden. I made a big batch of it but it is hardining.

06-19-2004, 01:09 AM
I haven't stored any for more than a few days, and then I shook it daily to keep it from settling too hard. I used a good sealed tupperware type container. Usually I just make up enough to cover 3-6 16x20 boards and do them all at once...

06-05-2005, 07:55 AM
Hey Sue... How goes it??? I've been lurking but not doing much art lately. Just thought I'd dabble a bit and was reading this forum... still have oily's that I haven't used yet! I keep seeing references to your "marble dust" surface prep stuff :rolleyes: - the real word is elluding me .... lol.... Where o' where is the reciepe? Really... I've looked ...because I didn't want to bother anyone but have not had any luck.... Thanks!!!

PS ... Great reference threads in the library! But could hardly find my way around when I came back with all the changes :confused: ... belated congrat's on having an OP section! :clap: :clap:

06-05-2005, 02:24 PM
I really like using printmaking papers for oil pastels, especially Rives BFK. In comes in a few neutral colors and takes solvents well. It's got a little tooth (more than bristol) but is pretty smooth, so colors blend really well. And it just feels rich to me. I guess it's an attachment formed in my printmaking days in college.

06-07-2005, 01:16 AM
Hi Sharon!
Sue is currently working in oil sticks and we don't see much of her anymore but you can find her recipe for the Marble Dust/Gesso mixture in this thread.


I've added this one to the index also so it will be easier to find. Many of the members have tried it and really like the surface to work on :)

06-07-2005, 01:17 AM
thanks for the Rives BFK recommendation. I've looked at that surface before but wasn't sure if I'd like it or not. Might give it a try now :)

06-07-2005, 09:43 AM
Thanks Carly... :D!!!

06-13-2005, 12:56 AM
I usually work in softies, but since I am moving, I decided to not add pastel dust to my packing mess and pulled out my oilies to work on my piece by piece project submission for this month. Having not worked in oilies very much, I wasn't sure even where to start. Thanks for the great info in this thread and I have one more to add.

St. Armand Sabretooth paper.

I hate the stuff with softies - am constantly fighting the texture. However, for oilies it was really nice. They just glided onto the surface of the paper and I could layer really well. The surface didn't eat up the oilies any more than the illustraton board I have used in the past. The paper is suited to wet techniques too, so one could use turps with it (mine are packed so I didn't get a chance to experiment - but I have washed soft pastel off this paper before and it doesn't seem to buckle when it dries)

So for all you softie painters out there who bought a bunch of this stuff and figure you wasted your money...give it a try with any oilies you have kicking around. I know I will be getting more use out of it than I thought I would be! :D

01-13-2009, 11:50 PM
I have always used Basingwerk, slightly off-white with a smooth, hard surface. I bought a large supply back in the 80's and have been using it up, but I don't know if it is still available.
I use OP with turp for laying in large areas. and when somewhat dry, use prismas for detail
I haven't noticed any deterioration of the paper, but my oldest piece is 1987.

02-02-2009, 09:46 PM
I'm fascinated and may try some of these new (to me) papers and the marble dust recipe. Currently I'm in love with Colourfix and the rainbow of Colourfix primers, which don't take any extra mixing unless I want to customize the colors. Clear goes over a watercolor underpainting really well on any 140lb watercolor paper.

It warps a bit when the paper is less than 140lb but not too badly for doing a sketchbook page if it's heavy drawing paper. Helps not to let it go all the way out to the edge and dry completely through (ie flatten) before adding the next layer.

02-21-2009, 05:45 PM
I have never heard of most of these support s- I guess they are only available in the US.

i use a lot of Winsor & Newton or Daler - rowney ordinary pastel paper.

I have worked a lot on Murano. I have also used canvas paper sheets intended for oil paint sketches.

One odd thing I tried, (I like to experiemnt) was a piece of plain cardboard off the back of an used pad, which I then covered with acrylic paper. I then did an acrylic background and worked in Ops on top. Gave an interesting effect, but not sure I'd do it again.

Paper is Ok for me as I never use WC underwashes and very rarely use turps. I tend to use my OPs raw.

Pat Isaac
02-22-2009, 11:51 AM
You might try watercolor paper as a surface to work on. Several OP artists use this and use it dry.


05-10-2009, 02:49 PM
I'm wondering about Ampersand Gessobord versus gesso covered masonite. Any big differences? Art Supply Warehouse sells both at staggeringly different price points. For example, an 18x24 Gessobord goes for $14, while a dozen 18x24 gesso covered masonite panels go for $66. Anyone have any experiences using either of them? Any help here is appreciated.

Pat Isaac
05-10-2009, 05:52 PM
Yes, I have used both. I recently purchased 24 x 36 gessoed boards from ampersand and then had DH cut them to the size I wanted. I then realized that I could gesso my own masonite a lot cheaper. Now I buy a sheet of masonite and DH cuts it to the size I want and then I apply a couple of coats of gesso.
Much cheaper and the result is the same.


Michele Nemier
04-22-2010, 07:58 PM

Successful surfaces include, old style St. Armand Sabertooth, Colorfix paper, Senneliers oil pastel pads. Self primed surfaces with acrylic underpaintings, Colorfix primer, Acrylic Gesso , acrylic gesso/marble dust, acrylic matte medium, acrylic matte medium/marble dust, matte medium/gesso/marble dust, matte medium/acrylic modeling paste (all with or without acrylic color mixed in) with either archival watercolor or printmaking papers, archival watercolor board, museum board, masonite panels, archival foam board (coat all on both sides to minimize buckling and/or warping) Also canvas paper, primed canvas mounted on masonite. You can also work over water based mediums given a barrier coat of clear acrylic medium, acrylic paintings sealed if needed, dried oil paintings or work done in oil sticks on the proper supports and grounds. Surfaces I stay away from because of lack of archival qualities and the possibility of the oil and thinners penetrating and destroying the support include any uncoated papers including the colored papers sold for pastel and drawing, regular matt board, canvas boards, regular foam core , regular canvas boards and illustration board. I've used these surfaces for play , practice, and roughs but not for finished pieces. If I can't find a colored support in the colored sanded or primed surfaces available then I just make my own. I usually coat at least three supports with my own mixtures. One for testing, one if I blow it, and the other for the finish or an extra for the future. Be careful, wear a mask when adding grits to mediums as to minimize inhaled exposure. You can use marble dust, silicas in different grits from sculpture supply stores, or if you want a super broken texture the sand used for mixing into paint for stairs and non slip surfaces can be bought at the hardware store. Liquitex, Golden Paint, and others now have mediums with all sorts of textures that you can use as a ground for your oil pastel work. Even collaged papers and materials ,given a sturdy support and a barrier type medium can enhance oil pastel pieces. There isn't really any boundries as long as you protect the best choice of support from the desintegrating effects of the medium and solvents you choose to use.