View Full Version : Coloured paper or not to have coloured

09-18-2004, 08:45 AM
As i'm new to soft pastels, my experience as been rather limited to sketching on smooth white paper.
It's only natural that I go to buy some quality paper for pastels, and to look for the colour and style that i've thus far been used to. Hence i've been looking for a slightly textured (because i'm led to believe that textured is best) white and of course cheap paper. The card tends to be more expensive, and as i'm practising, i'll keep to the cheap stuff for the moment.

In the art shops that i've been into, they seem to have plenty of pads with all assorted coloured pages. No, black, red and various other colours don't inspire me....I've just found a shop that had some 80gms textured paper that they called ivory, a light cream colour.
Am I displaying complete ignorance of the medium in looking for white?
I've seen pastel pictures on white enough times, i'm sure...

I might get the ivory, but I think I would be happier with white, with a slight texture perhaps...

Is there something dreadfully wrong with using cartridge paper or other smooth paper pads that are readily available in the art shops.



Paula Ford
09-18-2004, 09:28 AM
Hi Brad and Welcome to the Pastel Forum!!

Personally, I LOVE using white, off white or cream, light blue, and beige. Dark colored papers seem to distract me.

I assume by "textured" you mean sanded? Does it feel like sand paper? Now that I've used sanded papers, I'll never go back to the smooth kind.

There is nothing wrong with using white...Albert Handell uses white!!, nor is there anything wrong with using the smooth papers from your local art stores!!

My suggestion is to use the best quality papers you can so that if you turn out a masterpiece, it will stay a masterpiece for a very long time.


09-18-2004, 10:03 AM
Welcome, Brad! I thin you've come to a great place for information about pastels.
Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide what you like to use and how you want your paintings to look! That said, I think most of us here do prefer using some sort of textured paper with some color.
I assume by textured paper you mean just that, paper with some texture, as opposed to smooth paper, like "cartridge" (I think you are referring to "typiing" or "Computer" type per). My guess is you will have trouble with the pastel adhering to the paper. The textured papers help the pastel to adhere to the paper.
Here is a link to many threads here about pastels papers:

Read some of those and if you still have questions ask away! And in the end...use what you like!


09-18-2004, 12:27 PM
Hello Brad... I know what you mean about finding paper (esp. the card and textured papers) expensive. It's a challenge to me to relax and just paint for fun and for learning when I'm thinking about the $5 sheet of card I'm painting on. But I found a solution that works great for me. I use scrap board, foamcore, or any other stiff surface - and I paint it up with gesso. You can use gesso plain, or fill it with some pumice, or crushed marble. Either way, you get a surface that will take many layers of pastels...and for a really cheap price. The only trouble is that you have to prepare surfaces for painting later...requires a little forsight. Good luck.

Kathryn Wilson
09-18-2004, 01:22 PM
Corleone, I just realized you are in Raleigh! If you haven't visited Jerry's Artarama on Old Wake Forest Road, you need to treat yourself. For paper, I would suggest Art Spectrum's Colourfix pack of 10 (8x10 size) for around $10.00. They have two packs - one with cool colors and one with warm colors.

And don't miss Jerry's "Art in the Carolinas" in November - wonderful buys on everything you need and workshops to boot.


09-18-2004, 01:36 PM
I, personally, love working on a coloured paper. Cream seems to make the painting sing! It takes a while to figure out what colours work best for what subjects, but a coloured aper can really compelment a pastel painting. If you can pick up a pad of canson and a pad of ingres paper, you can give them a try and see if you might like them.

Another thought, if you are really set on white paper...get some cold-pressed watercolour paper with a rough texture to it. It will have some tooth to hold the pastel and you can always get it in white!

09-18-2004, 02:33 PM
Thanks, for the information, you've really give some great advice.

I have some white boards that have been prepared for oil paint, they are like Daler Rowney boards, and a few like it for water colour. Given your advice, it would seem that this would be just fine...


I will look for the paper you've recommended...


09-18-2004, 07:49 PM
Brad, it's entirely up to you which paper you use, but that being said, it's sometimes much easier to try something new. I personally can't imagine trying to do a pastel painting on smooth white paper...kinda gives me the shivers thinkin' about it! But you may like it a lot and more power to ya! I think you've gotten good advice tho...if cost is a big factor, Canson and Ingres types of paper are relatively inexpensive and they can be had in white or off white easily enough. Art Spectrum (a nicely textured paper meant for pastels and often on sale at places like Hobby Lobby) also comes in white, as does the be-all and end-all of pastel papers, Wallis sanded surface paper. White really isn't an issue so much as surface quality. If you can swing just one sheet of Art Spectrum (in white, if you like), I think you'll understand the difference we're talking about.

All that aside, we do have folks in here who paint on anything they can get their hands on from typing paper to paper bags and they do very nice work on these surfaces in SPITE of the limitations. The main drawback is that the work done on these surfaces is extremely delicate and not expected to hold up well over time. But for practice, this might not matter to you.

The main thing is...ENJOY yourself! :D

09-18-2004, 08:44 PM
All that aside, we do have folks in here who paint on anything they can get their hands on from typing paper to paper bags and they do very nice work on these surfaces in SPITE of the limitations. The main drawback is that the work done on these surfaces is extremely delicate and not expected to hold up well over time. But for practice, this might not matter to you.

The main thing is...ENJOY yourself! :D

Well said! :clap:

I was just at an art supply store this afternoon and thought i'd let you know that I saw some charoal paper that came in pads of just white...that should work well for pastel as well.

09-19-2004, 12:57 AM

When I first started working in pastels I was overwhelmed at all the different supports that were used by the pros. The best thing I can suggest is purchase a sample pack of different brand of papers from Dakota Pastel( I think there are 14 sheets). The way I approached this delimma was to pre-mount each of the 9"x 12" sheets so that I didn't know what brand I was using until after I finished a piece. I found this to be a cost effective unbiased way to find out what worked for me.

As far as color...I prefer a flannel or gray color in that you can readily see the lights early on as well as the darks.....but that isn't a hard and fast rule...I just bought some black Art Spectrum, (inspired by Kat and Jackie)

Welcome ..we are glad you are here!

09-19-2004, 06:31 AM
Brad, I have been teaching pastel painting for many, many years: I have written several books on the subject, and I write regularly for The Artist magazine. I organise pastel workshops, and have done loads of them.

When you use pastels, you are stroking almost pure pigment onto a textured surface, a surface that will "grab" the pastel pigment. If you use pastel paper, this surface has little pits and hollows, and the pigment will sit on the top of the paper, and the little hollows will show through the pastel marks. If the paper is white, you will get lots of little white "dots" showing through the pastel stroke. If the paper is coloured, it will blend more with the pastel, and have less contrast.
I would never start my students with white, or even cream paper. Here is the reason why.
top one is purple on rough side of white pastel paper. Second one is purple on smooth side of white pastel paper. Bottom one is same purple, on mid blue pastel paper. See how much "softer" the bottom one is, no white speckles! It is easy to add white WHERE I WANT IT TO BE, and IF I want it at all.

I have watched many a student struggle with white or cream paper, fighting to get rid of the white speckles in coloured areas where they look all wrong! It is, please believe me, SO MUCH EASIER to start with a mid-toned paper. It will complement anything you do Yes, there are white sanded papers, like Wallis, they are good because they will take layers and layers of pastel, and so you can fill the "tooth" and get rid of the white speckles quite easily. And if you use Wallis, you can underpaint with a colour, which also solves the problem.

If you want to create an image with a full range of tones from dark to light, you will do battle to get those dark tones, without speckles, if you work entirely on white, or cream. If you want to create an image with lots of LIGHT tones, a light paper is OK.

Of course, if you are only doing a drawing, you might like a white surround. But I defy you to keep it clean and white with pastels!

ps See if you can find my book "pastels workshop" or the one for beginners "pastels workbook" in the library. Either will give you stacks of info.

Incidentally, all the images below were done on a mid-toned pastel paper.