View Full Version : Pastel paper questions

12-08-2005, 05:46 PM
I am new to pastels but would like to start working in color. Everything I do is in Charcoal at the moment and years ago, I worked in CP. SO, I have a few questions for the more experienced (if you don't mind).

I bought Colorfix paper and Velour paper the other day. I'm not interested in working on Wallis just yet. Are the two papers I bought acceptable? I also have Mi-Tienes but I've seen the reactions to it so I'm not sure I even want to try it. Everyone seems to hate it for pastels. Is there a paper similiar to Mi-Tienes that works?

The colorfix is 19 x 25 with a white border....is it possible to cut it down? Or should I leave it the size it comes in? I rarely work that large and the 9" x 12" size is just too small!

Ok, I think that's all of the paper questions! :)


12-08-2005, 06:06 PM

I've worked with both Wallis and with the Canson paper that you mentioned. I've not tried the Colorfix nor the velour paper, although I understand that both are good options. I can only comment on the ones I have tried, so here is my experience...the Wallis is excellent paper to work on, primarily because it can hold so many layers of pastel and because one can get a nice build-up of pastel, not unlike the quality of oil paint. However, the Wallis paper can be a little tricky to work on...at least, it took some getting used to for me.

As for the Canson Mi-Tientes paper...I find it to be a good, economical paper. I know a lot of folks in this forum do not care for it, but I've used it extensively and am aware of its potential. One has to keep in mind when using this paper that you have to maintain a VERY LIGHT TOUCH, so as not to fill up the tooth prematurely. Otherwise, you can get nice, soft edges and effects with it. I figure if the paper is good enough for Harley Brown and for Daniel Greene, it can't be all bad. :D

I hope this helps.

- Ann

12-08-2005, 06:14 PM
Hi Jessa,

«The colorfix is 19 x 25 with a white border....is it possible to cut it down? Or should I leave it the size it comes in? I rarely work that large and the 9" x 12" size is just too small! »

I don't know if by cutting it, will have any influence in the paper's conservation factor.
That white border is usefull since it will be placed under the mat. It's just a matter of not going much to the margins with your painting if you decide to cut part of the paper since some of it (just a bit of course) will be under the mat; or frame in case you don't want a mat. However a mat is advisable due to several factors.
Now about the Canson. Many of us (and I'm included) don't get along with Canson. But many people do great works in Canson. So, it's up to you to discover what papers, materials and techniques suit you best.
I also work with colourfix.
I've never tried velour, but here's a warning : after painting don't tap it, or lots of pastel will come off. At least this is what I read here. But nothing like doing a small painting and tapping it to see what happens.
A good brand of velour paper is Hanehmuhle (so?).
If you have any other doubt, please say so.
And if you're that new to pastels, check my October, November and December pastel links threads. I've gathered lots on info there.
Besides that you can also browse others posts and usefull links.



P.S. remember that the Canson paper can be used on both sides. See which one you like best. Or you can work on both, depending on the effect you desire

12-08-2005, 06:19 PM
First, by all means, cut down any paper you buy to any size you like! I don't think I've yet used a full size sheet of Colourfix, in fact. Like you say, tho, I find the 9X12 too small.

The type of paper you use for pastels is purely a personal decision. As long as it's relatively archival and sturdy enough to withstand the process, it's fine. Canson MiTientes has its champions and detractors both. You'll see plenty of wonderful work here done on Canson, while people like me tend to use almost anything else. A lot also depends on which type of pastel you choose to work with...very soft ones respond best to deep-tooth paper such as Colourfix, while the harder ones are more happily used on velour (don't quote me on that last, however...I've yet to use velour myself!)

Another consideration is whether or not you want a colored ground to work on, whether you want to "underpaint" color before switching to pastels, or is plain jane white alright with you? I tend to like the colored sheets.

One of the best moves you can make as a beginner in pastels is to try one of the paper "sampler" packs offered by various vendors such as Dakota pastels and Fine Art Store. These packs include an array of papers in all kinds of surfaces on which you can try out your pastels and discovered which suit you best before investing heavily in any specific one. I prefer Wallis and Colourfix, but I always keep other paper stashed away for experiments and variety. Many online vendors allow you to "assort" paper sheet orders so that you can pick up a sheet of this, two of that, etc. and try 'em all out.

Bottom line is to just have fun exploring your new and colorful pastel world! There are no "right" or "wrong" papers except that one shouldn't use those that break down too quickly via acid, etc. Any decent "artists" paper is worth trying.


Natalie NZ
12-08-2005, 06:32 PM
You can certainly cut Colourfix down - I usually cut it in half which gives two approx. 18 x 12 pieces. Depends entirely what size you prefer to do your work on.

Looking forward to seeing your work.

12-08-2005, 08:18 PM
I use Canson frequently, especially for portrait work ( in the sky blue color) and on the smooth side ( back). Allows one to paint the portrait without worrying about a background. I also use suede paper, ( made by hahnemuhle). Holds colors well, can be erased with a can of air and will take a thump on the back well. I also like to use the colourfix paper and the AS pastels, as they are made for this paper and work well. Hope this helps.


12-08-2005, 10:20 PM
Just a thought from another new pastel artist who has gone through "the search" for the proper materials in a new medium...

I would agree that a sampler pack of paper is the way to go. Take time and experiement with each paper because you will find that they each have different properties.
The paper (support) is just as important as the pastel so archival quality should be a concern.
Also, choose one that will be both a joy to work with and one that will lend itself to the whole piece.

After using several brands of paper I found that Arches Watercolorpaper 140lb cold press to be exactly what I needed for my work. It has qualities that are not liked by many (such as the hairs sometimes pill) but I feel that it gives my work a cloth like surface that just works with the mood of my paintings. Now, Wallis while being a high quality paper that is awesome in so many ways, just makes my paintings seem cold and stiff.

For me art has to have all the parts equal the whole for it to be a success.

Good luck.:)

12-08-2005, 10:21 PM
ditto on cutting any paper to size - forget about the border, just cut it off! The velour paper will handle differently than any other paper - it's best used as a blending surface using you hand - it will not take a build up of pastel but produces a very soft, muted painting - you cannot get straight lines on velour. If you are adventurous and want to try different papers, contact NY Central Art Supply or Artisan-Sante Fe - they have wonderful pastel papers.

The colorfix is a gentler wallis paper - it will not hold as many layers as wallis but it also will not deplete your supply of pastels as quickly - these papers are a form of aluminum oxide(industrial sandpaper) - if you use them and blend with your fingers, first wear finger cots or surgical gloves or you will soon bleed all over your pretty pastel painting! If you want to play with this type of surface, go to your local hardware store and get a few sheets of sand paper - it's cheap compared with 'artist quality' abrasive paper! For beginners, it's a good way to go!

12-08-2005, 11:24 PM
Since you are just starting with pastels, I'd say both papers are fine. As you become more comfortable with the media, you may decide to try some others -- I've experimented with about 6 different papers, and even canvas, with my pastels since I started 2 1/2 years ago.

I find the Mi-Tientes to be a fine paper for practice. As someone stated earlier, you must have a light touch -- Mi-Tientes does not accept many layers. The Colorfix is a nice paper. If you cut it, you'll simply lose a bit of the edge to the matte (that's if you even frame the work). Again, since you are beginning to use pastels, you may find you do not want to frame any works right away.

Experiment and enjoy! Hope to see some of your work in the Soft Pastel Studio!


12-09-2005, 03:39 AM
Several people have stated that Canson Mi Tientes won't accept many layers or the softer pastels, and yet it can if you want it too. I spent a whole day demonstrating at a new art store opening using Sennelier pastels on Canson Mi Tientes because the La Carte paper failed to arrive by the opening. It was a challenge, but by using Las Caux fixative every once in awhile I managed to get a lot of layers on a painting that then went on to acceptance in a major all medium competition and sold.
Red Earth full sheet Red/orange Canson Mi-Tientes paper, Sennelier pastels
(my apologies to you who have seen this before)

I know several professional artists who use this paper even though it is not archival. Archival is not a "sorta" condition. It either is or is not. Acid free doesn't mean archival. 100% rag, ph balanced, and/or inert properties constitute archival. However, the paper will probably out last most of us if it is properly framed and displayed in appropriate conditions (i.e. UV shielding glass and never displayed in direct sunlight or high humidity).

As others have already stated, the choice of painting surfaces is personal. Just because the paper is very expensive or very inexpensive doesn't mean you should or can't use it. Especially when first learning. The three you mention will give you a good range of effects to explore.


12-09-2005, 04:41 AM
I have to say I feel very defensive on behalf of Canson Mi Teintes when I hear it gets bad press.

I would like to say this loud and clear.

CANSON IS AN EXCELLENT QUALITY PRODUCT. Those people who bad-mouth it, are people who have not been able to produce good results on this paper. THIS IS NOT THE FAULT OF THE PAPER, it is simply that that the paper does not suit their approach.

All the images done at the base of this thread were done on Canson, which I used for many, many years, and produced hundreds of paintings on it, some of which won awards. I now tend to use Wallis rather more, because I like it a lot, and have lots of it, but if it did not exist, I would happily go back to Canson.

It just requires a totally different approach. You have to build up layers slowly, and thinly, on Canson. You have to brush off areas which don't work, rather than continue to add more colour over and over. If you do want to build up layers, you have to use fixative between the layers - this darkens previous layers, but it doesn't matter, because you add more colour over the top. You can start with hard pastels and finish with softies, or you can work, as I do, from start to finish, with top quality softest pastels like Schmincke, provided you adjust the weight of your touch as you work, starting with a light touch and gradually increasing the pressure as the picture evolves.

I use the smooth side, but others like the textured side. It is horses for courses.

Please people do not bad-mouth a product just because it doesn't suit YOU. It is jolly unfair to the manufacturer of an excellent quality paper.


12-09-2005, 05:47 AM
So far I have only used Canson mi teintes and liked the results. At the moment I am working on my first painting on Wallis paper and I really have to get used to it. It requires a completely different approach. All the pictures in my signature line are done on Canson

12-09-2005, 10:13 AM
I second Jackie's comments concerning the Canson product. I have used it and ColorFix and like both. You can't layer as many layers on the Canson without the judicous use of fixative but it is a very economical paper to use for studies and even finished works. Two sides to it as well so try them both (smooth back side and textured front).

Another very good artist that uses Canson is Lorenzo Chavez. He says he hasn't converted to the 'dark side' (meaning sanded papers like Wallis) as he finds the Canson does all he needs. See his work here: http://www.lorenzochavez.com/home.html

ColorFix is more economical than Wallis and I really enjoy it. I can find the smaller size in a multi-color pack at my local Hobby Lobby on a regular basis and they always have a coupon that can reduce that cost even more!

If you stick with those two for awhile till you get comfortable with how they both work, you will find a direction you like from using either one. Or you may have the talent to alternate between the two without sacrificing your style or vision for the finished image.

Good luck and shows your work!

12-09-2005, 10:32 AM
ok, i admit i have said canson is not good, but i recant...jackie is totally right here. i have done some work on canson that i am very fond of, too. i am a bit amazed that some of those 'major' artists get such super results on it all the time, cuz i do need to use colorfix most of the time, but like jackie said, that is only because of MY working habits, not the paper's fault!! (but then again, those major artists amaze me anyhow, i doubt the paper would change that!!) get some of each to try, then you will know which is best. those sampler sets are great. also, our sponsor, dickblick will send a tiny square of a sample of any paper you wish, just call and ask. i have the whole color set of canson, plus about 20 more other brands. some i knew i would never like, some i ordered a few to try. and canson is great to have on hand for experiements, and more sketchy type things, since the cost is low, i feel i can 'burn' a few sheets for fun without stressing out over it!!

12-09-2005, 11:47 AM
Thanks all! You certainly do learn a lot of here at WC! I was at Dick Blick last night (the only place I shop for art stuff). They carry a lot of the stuff they have on their website. If they don't have it, they can order it in. The only size Colorfix they carry all the time is the 19x25 sheet. Any other size, I would have to order. That's why I was asking about cutting it down. At least now, I know there's no reason to be afraid to cut it!

After reading the responses, I think I will try the Canson anyhow. I'll just keep in mind about the "light touch." I absolutely love Canson for my charcoal work. And I certainly have a lot of it! I'm going to experiment with the Colorfix. Just from what I've read, it'll probably become my favorite.

I have a pet potrait commission coming up that's supposed to be done in pastels...so I will be learning quickly! For Canson, a few of you mentioned spraying fixative in between layers...I'm assuming that's workable fixative?

Bluefish- Thanks for mentioning that you can't get a straight line on Velour. I didn't know that! I guess I would have found out the hard way! Not a good choice for pet portraits I'm guessing. :) And I never blend with fingers...maybe I should start?

Thanks again,


12-09-2005, 01:56 PM
Finger blending is optional, but not usually recommended because when you do that you break up the tiny "diamonds" of pastel pigment that give the medium its sparkle and freshness. Sometimes a careful "smoosh" of your finger is needed to loose an edge, but generally speaking blending with another stick of pastel is the way to go.

Yes, workable fixative is what is used. You will find there is a great deal of differences in the brands. Some don't spray evenly or come out in bigger spurts that can leave too much in one spot that can't be easily reworked. My favorite brands are Las Caux, Grumbacher, and Rowney. I occassionally use a final fix if I start by doing a charcoal value study, and for that I use Grumbacher or Blair.

Not to confuse you further, but I have a friend who does very good commissioned animal portraits, and one of her favorite papers is La Carte. It gives the fur a very nice look, but be careful because if you can get the paper wet the soft sanded surface will come off if you touch it. However, if that happens don't touch it! Wait a bit until it drys (the color will darken and stay that way). Then spray the affected area with a final fix (not workable). Once that is dry you can repaint it without a problem. I learned this the hard way! :o

You've probably already surmised that there are as many ways to work pastel as there are people using it. I hope you have fun learning your way!:)

12-09-2005, 02:45 PM
If you want to see a beautiful pastel painting of a cat go to the 'colourfix or wallis' thread and schrool down to #21 by KJSCL - she did it on Sabretooth paper - maybe this paper would be better for your commission!

12-09-2005, 02:53 PM
Peggy - now I know why pastel sticks cost so much - it's the "diamonds" of pastel pigment that run up the cost! Thanks for sharing with us!

12-09-2005, 04:03 PM
hmmm - Bluefish - hadn't thought of it that way, but maybe you are right! Then again have you ever priced pure pigments? :eek:

12-09-2005, 07:29 PM
Peggy - Yes, I use pure pigments in some of my 'frozen' watercolor work!

But blending- "diamonds" are hard and my hands are soft(baby skin!) so I really don't crush the pigments that much - been doing it a long time and never saw a 'crushed diamond' - but we all work differently - and I just love your work! Love to see a demo of how you work - thanks for all your input.

12-10-2005, 04:57 PM
In regards to straight lines and animals on suede or velour, please take a look at this work http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=311895


12-11-2005, 11:19 AM
For any new pastelist and even seasoned veterans, there is a very well done article entitled "Scatch the Surface" in the December, 2004 issue of the Pastle Journal. It was written by Deborah Christensen Secor and illustrates and demonstrates what it is like to work on all the most common painting surfaces we all use. It will save any new pastelist 20 years of frustrating trail and error. This article should be mandatory reading in the 'Pastel 101' course!

12-11-2005, 12:30 PM
I don't suppose this would be in an online format for reading? Nothing on Deborah's site.

01-03-2006, 09:21 PM
Jerry's Artarama is having a huge sale--very good prices on pastel paper and boards. The coupon is NYD1 for $10 off $100 (that's on top of the sale prices) and he has incredible gifts u can choose as well--1 for your $100. I can forward you the email if you would like. BUT my big question is Sabretooth paper which he is featuring among the others--has anyone used? Thanks.

01-04-2006, 01:20 PM
I have used a few different papers. I don't like Mitents. it's so thin and don't care for the feel. Wallis is okay but, for a good one, so far my fav is colorfix. It holds pastels well and like timex, it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.
Robyn, I think Jerry's is the cheapest right now. I was checking paper prices last night and I believe Jerry's is the cheapest.

01-04-2006, 06:10 PM
Hi! I love to use velour paper for soft pastels, but it would be harder I think with hard pastels. Velour gives a much smoother look while at the same time having lots of tooth, if you like the grainier look it wouldn't be any good. Velour is unforgiving in that you can't rub out a mistake and it is expensive - but it is beautiful. I have only used velour & Mes Teintes(sp?), never tried Wallis or Canson, must give that a bash!

01-07-2006, 09:19 PM
Regarding Canson Mi Teintes I think Jackie is right. I used it for many years before discovering sanded paper. It does take less layers and a light touch is needed. I used to brush off the first layer with a sable brush to make an underpainting and avoid clogging the tooth. This allowed me to build my picture up with less layers. I prefer the smooth side too. I dislike using fixative and never used it until recently when I started having problems with dropping off.

01-07-2006, 09:29 PM
You know, I forgot, you can buy colorfix in a jar. Get it in the colors you like and paint it on the size of paper you like and it's ready to go. Golden also makes a nice primer too.