View Full Version : Newbie Paper Questions

08-18-2005, 01:31 PM
This is my first post and I'm not sure if I picked the correct forum, but I thought I'd give this one a try first.

I am just starting with pastels. In the past I had only used charcoal and my first pastel painting was done on charcoal paper. I bought some Canson Mi-Teintes paper for my next project. I have read some debates about which side of the paper to use and I'm not sure which would be best. How do I decide which side to use? Also, how should I decide which color to use?

The painting is of an area that has a large wooden play yard with a green slide and yellow swings. There are many trees and shrubs and overall had a very wooded feeling. Strong light where the sun is peeking through and strong shadows. I also had my oldest son posed at the bottom of the slide.

The colors that I do have are: Steel Gray, Sand, Tobacco, Ivy, and Light Green. I am leaning toward the Sand, but I don't know if that would be best. Suggestions do not have to include one of the colors that I already have.

Thank you,


learning to paint
08-18-2005, 02:16 PM
Speaking only for myself, the best side of Canson paper to use is neither. Instead, I have come to realize that the only paper to use is Wallis. Canson is stubborn when it comes to layers, and requires fixatif. Wallis can be layered and layered, and does not require fixatif. For me, it's an easy choice. I think you can even try some Wallis paper for free -- poke around Wet Canvas and you'll find some sort of an offer.

If you decide to to work with your existing paper, it's best to work the color that's the most opposite from your finished work--on the other side of the color wheel from the image's most dominant color, or as dark as possible for a painting with a lot of light colors.

Hope this was helpful. I'm beginning to develop some strong opinions, but I'm really just an advanced beginner.

08-18-2005, 02:58 PM
I use Canson a lot and prefer the smoother (or what's considered the back) side of the paper. I also use a fine grit sandpaper to wipe across the surface of Canson to raise the tooth a bit more allowing for more layers of color.

Which side you use depends on what you want to achieve with a painting. I use the grid side of Canson sometimes to allow the paper surface to show thru more but in some paintings, I wouldn't want that. The reverse side is smoother and you can cover more of the paper without blending it in.

Just as with the side of the paper, the toned color can make a big contribution to your overall color scheme. I often use the complimentary color of paper to the subject. For example, a summer landscape of blues/greens would make the poppy or burgundy red Canson, a good choice for me.

But I also like to work on darker values, too. My surface color choices come from experience. Everyone has to try some of the colors to see how they like the results, so no given formula will work for everyone.

You might like to test some colors from your landscape on a corner of the papers you're considering and see how they look...sort of a thumbnail of colors :)

K Taylor-Green
08-18-2005, 03:16 PM
Hi! Welcome to the Pastel Forum! The paper question goes on and on and on. What it comes down to, in the end, is personal preferance, and the way you like to work. Try different ones, you'll find something you like.
For a sample of Wallis paper, just send Kitty Wallis a pm, and she will mail you a sample.
Dakota Art Supplies sells a sampler pack of different papers.
Hope all this helps!

08-18-2005, 03:48 PM


I use Wallis and both sides of the Canson and am just full of opinions on this.

First, I vote for smooth side sand for what you describe and you have it right there. Nice warm summer feeling. You can always do another when you get your Wallis.

I can get many nice layers on either side of the Canson without any fixative at all. Especially if I start out with the harder pastels and save the really soft for the icing, so to speak. I don't have to underpaint and sometimes I don't want to. Mountains look really cool on the rough side of Canson and even portraits. I have tortured this paper, believe me, and it has survived way better that I expected. It's not nearly as sturdy as the Wallis but really does have many, many benefits, IMHO. Price, lots of colors, good pad and sheet choices, texture choice, doesn't have to be taped really, comes on card, too. This paper does not like water but misting alcohol on it is fun. You can also throw down a bit of marble dust or pumice on it and fix it if you want texture only in certain places. My imagination takes off on that.

The Wallis is excellent, too. Sometimes it takes me longer to get coverage on this paper. Sky, for example, if I don't want a lot of background showing through, just a bit here and there, I can get that quickly on Canson but have to build up more pastel on Wallis paper to get the look I want. Underpainting this paper takes care of that tho and makes the whole painting go quicker. This is fun and can be done ahead, if you paint elsewhere. You can just tone the paper, block in or do detailed under painting with just about anything. It is a must have for sure. Colors are especially brilliant on this and it does come in pads, sheets and rolls. And you can wash this off with a wet sponge. I heard someone hosed theirs in the driveway. I have one right now that need hosing for sure, lol.

They both can serve you well and the only way to know what YOU like is to try them.

I have used fixative on both :eek: Yes, I am the only person on the planet to put fix on Wallis. It was cool! Nice stucco texture. I like experimenting with fixative as a texture and darkening tool, and heck, makes the pastel stick better too. I may use it on 1 out of 4 or 5 pieces for one reason or another. The rest of my work on Canson is completely UNfixed. not a word, I know

Some of the softies that around these days can stick to plastic almost, LOL


Yes, yes the paper sampler - good idea

Paula Ford
08-18-2005, 10:16 PM
Welcome Lee!!

The colors that I do have are: Steel Gray, Sand, Tobacco, Ivy, and Light Green. I am leaning toward the Sand, but I don't know if that would be best. Suggestions do not have to include one of the colors that I already have.

Actually, each one of the colors you have would probably work just fine. Personally, I stay away from the dark colors and I use the smooth side of Canson, but haven't used it in a long time (because I use Wallis primarilly and Art Spectrum).

BTW, do you have a photo of the painting you are going to do?


08-18-2005, 10:34 PM
Yes, I have a photo and here it is. I am not including the toys under the play yard in the painting and I am also considering eliminating the near tree. I am naming the piece "Nobody to Play With".


08-19-2005, 12:15 PM

This picture is great! What a fun project. I'd like to see this, hope you post.

The Art Spectrum is a fave of mine too now. Some of it comes in the sampler.


Paula Ford
08-19-2005, 10:03 PM
Since this is basically a landscape with lots of greens, why don't you try the green paper or the sand.

08-20-2005, 11:42 AM
Thank you everyone for the wonderful information. Yesterday I got a color wheel (yes, I am that new at working with color) and started looking at the colors in the photo and the paper and comparing them to the wheel. After considering this and the suggestions I received, I have decided to go with the sand color and I have decided to change my son's shirt color from yellow to red-orange. I think the color change would work great with the blue-green slide. I really want him to stand out, but he needs to remain a small part of the painting because I want to emphasize how big everything is around him to give more an impression of loneliness.

Does anyone have any opinion about removing the near tree in the photo? I'm afraid that it would be a distraction moving the viewer away from the true subject.
If anybody would like to see it, I could post the progress of the work in a seperate thread in the Soft Pastel Studio. Also, since this is only the second pastel painting I have ever done, I'm sure I will need some guidance along the way.


Paula Ford
08-20-2005, 01:53 PM
Hi Lee,

Absolutely put your painting in the Soft Pastel Studio forum and you will get lots of help there.

I'm not sure what to say about removing the tree. Why don't you get going on the rest of the painting, and if it needs a bit more, put it in later.:D

Can't wait to see your painting!! Hurry hurry!


08-21-2005, 03:19 AM
I'd remove the tree. And maybe add two empty swings same color as the slide in the space between one part of the playset and the other.