View Full Version : Pastel Papers

08-13-2004, 09:43 AM
I hope you don't mind a beginner's question, but I'm confused over the types of paper and can't seem to find a thread that ties it all together. To make it worse, I'm probably going to mix trade names with paper types, but here goes: What are the differences, and when would you choose one over the other among Vellum, Bristol, Velour, Charcoal Paper, Canson Mi-Tienes? Also, is regular construction paper a suitable support?


08-13-2004, 10:44 AM

Have a look at the above thread, it will give you plenty to chew over.

Construction paper is not at all like proper pastel papers, which tend to split into various categories:

velour - soft and furry. Some people rather like it. I find it less than durable, a quick knock, and your painting drops off!

pastel paper - Canson Mi-Teinte - good quality all round paper, slightly rough surface one side, smoother the other. Ingres - lighter in weight, and has "laid lines" which annoy some people. Fabriano Tiziano - good quality, nice colours, cannot go wrong with this. Just depends if you can find it!

All pastel papers have "tooth" - sufficient texture to grab the pastel particles. You can blend easily on them, and the come in all sorts of colours, so you can choose a colour to complement your picture, for instance, a warm paper under a cool scene works well, provides a tiny touch of warmth.

Sanded papers - Wallis, Ersta, Art Spectrum. The Rolls Royce is Wallis. Art Spectrum isn't bad, it has a "stiffer" surface but comes in lotsa colours. Eersta is similar to Wallis but is not archival.

Pastel Board- Sennelier La Carte - this is kind of velour-like, but grabs the pastel better. Gives a soft look. It is made of a kind of vegetable matter stuck onto card, hard to describe. Less wicked to one's fingernails than sanded.

You really need to experiment to find out what suits your style of painting. It's fun - try a bit of everything. I think the link above willpoint you to a sampler pack.


Deborah Secor
08-13-2004, 02:17 PM
I've just written an article about my opinion of various pastel papers so you ask this at a time when I've thought about it a lot! As a very, very broad generalization--and I really mean broad--you could choose the paper based on the subject matter or finished look you hope to achieve. So, for instance, if you want to do a furry kitten, choose a furry paper like velour. If you want to do an architectural rendering with crisp lines and details, choose a machined, crisper surface such as Wallis sandpaper. If you want a soft, moody atmosphere, choose a soft paper such as Somerset Velvet.

Now, (before all the experienced pastelists jump on me!) let me quickly add that it's my belief that it's the skill of the artist (or lack thereof) that works with the surface of the paper to make the resulting image. A skilled artist can use differing papers and bring her experience to it, so that she overcomes the limitations of the paper and uses its strengths to the best advantage.

Jackie is right--you have to try a lotta paper to find what appeals to you for your kind of image making. There are no shortcuts, no magic answers, and no one paper that does it all! Having said that, I'll HIGHLY recommend you try Wallis, which is the paper I start my students using. It's a very forgiving surface that lets you repair mistakes easily. I know from other threads that Jackie favors starting her students on a paper that's much less forgiving (Canson, I think) so they learn procedures. (Hope I spoke well for you there, Jackie--if not, please correct me!) :)

My best advice: get a sampler packet of paper from Dakota pastels and give 'em all a go! See what you like and why...


08-13-2004, 09:08 PM
Thank you both for your prompt and helpful replies. I've just started with pastels, mainly as an alternative to oil and acrylic paints. The results are pretty horrible yet. I expect that. But one thing I learned from painting is it's difficult enough to learn the medium and increase one's skill, so it's important to start off with the right supplies. My first efforts were on construction paper.
Now I have a variety of hard and soft pastels (and I've already noticed a difference in the brands) and a pad of Strathmore Bristol vellum. Does this sound like a good combination?

Thank you again.

By the way, I looked at your websites again and it's work like that which inspired me to try pastels. Beautiful work.

08-14-2004, 12:27 AM
My best advice: get a sampler packet of paper from Dakota pastels and give 'em all a go! See what you like and why...


I agree with this as a way to decide which papers work best. One thing I would also suggest is that you go a head and premount the papers so that you do not know what surface you are working on (the name will be written on the back) ...this will allow you to have an unbiased opinion...I had heard so many pros and cons about the various papers that I tried this procedure for myself and came to some interesting conclusions. It was also neat to be held in suspense...( amazing the things one will do for entertainment :D ) It was also interesting at how soon in the painting process I realized which papers were not for me!

Good luck and have fun in your pastel paper research!

Deborah Secor
08-14-2004, 12:57 AM
Well, for my personal taste the Bristol vellum will be awfully hard, though it has some tooth. It isn't a very responsive surface. It won't give you much depth for building up layers, which is one of the strengths of the medium. Let us know how you like it--but if you get frustrated, try another paper!


08-14-2004, 02:25 AM
Dee is right, I do tend to advise my students to start with Canson, mostly because a) it is more economical than sanded surfaces in that it doesn't eat up your pastels, and b) the technique of blending is easier and c) it forces students to learn to use a light touch, because if you do not, then you fill the tooth too quickly. However, if Dee's students get good results from the word go, using Wallis, then I daresay there may be different benefits in using a sanded surface from the off . I think you should try everything.

I cannot believe I forgot to mention Somerset Velvet, and here I am, doing a workshop for the manufacturers today! Smack on back of hand.

Somerset Velvet is a very nice surface to work on. It isn't, strictly speaking, a pastel paper, it was originally produced by the manufacturers, St Cuthbert's Mill, as a paper for printmakers, but they thought it might work for pastelling, and I was lucky enough to be one of the first artists to be asked to test it for that purpose. I gave it a thumbs-up, having enjoyed its surface; it is very nice to underpaint on with watercolours or gouache, for instance (not too much water or it cockles), and I sometimes use spirit-based felt-tips on it, they are good for getting the main elements of an image down; it will take quite a few layers of pastel and more with fix in between layers. Their black paper is very interesting to work on, the results can often be quite different to working on a lighter coloured paper.

The Dakota sample pack sounds like a good idea.