View Full Version : Techniques for your Pastel Surface

Laura Brito
05-31-2002, 02:25 PM
I have some regular masonite boards (I bought them at the hardware store and had them cut up into specific shapes, these are smooth on both sides). I have gesso (the gumbacher type and rabbitskin glue) I read in a book that I have to prepare the board first, and it says first to make the rabbitskin glue per the directions on the box, then paint a layer on the masonite board, then once dry, put a few layers of gesso, then seal it again with rabbitskin glue. Is this how others do it? Or do I need to sand the board first (although two book contradict each other on this matter) because one book says not to because it will cause the board to swell, the other book says to do this because the board will have better tooth. Do I need to go the whole route with the glue and gesso? Wouldn't it be too smooth if I seal it wiht glue after it is gessoed? Plus couldn't I just use Acrylic Gesso instead and forgo the whole glue thing? How many layers of gesso should I use and should I use multiple layers of glue?

As you can see there are alot of questions, I am sure there is probably no "right" way, but many "ways" but I do not want to work alot of one of these things only to have it fall apart after some years.

My other questions are, I have a variety of pastel papers like Artagain which is black and Mi-Teintes in various colors. What kind of treatment do I give these papers when it comes to insuring they will survive time? Do I mount them on a board? If so how do I do that?

I have also done some Pastels on Watercolor paper. Is this ok? Or is any type of surface ok for the most part? Again what do I need to do to it other than fix it? I have been using workable fixative between layers, do I need to use anything else at the end? Or is that ok? Do I need to lay it on heavy or light? I usually do light between and heavier at the end. I tried to use Matte finish spray first when I started and it would make me loose my layer almost completely that is why I switched to the workable type.

Does anyone do Pastels on Strectched Canvas? I would think that would not be a good idea, but I am curious.

And lastly, I have read and read time and time again that you do not mix oil pastels with soft, I only work in soft currently. But I see here that some people do mix both. Is that ok? What can happen if you do this? Will the art last?

Thanks for all the help!


Laura Brito
06-05-2002, 03:40 AM
Wow I am quite surprised by the response to my thread here. I would have thought that many would jump on this one since it really does pertain to pastels overall. I am sure many wouldl like to know how others do it too.


Rick R
06-05-2002, 03:58 AM
I'm fairly new to pastels, and have never used masonite. That being said...

I don't think you'll have a problem with soft pastels on archival watercolor paper.

As far as oil pastels go, someone mentioned a problem here a couple of months ago with oil pastels staining their paper. Not sure what to make of that exactly, I've read articles about some pastel artists who have been working with oil pastels for many years, and they didn't mention anything about that.

Anyway, you could get around that possible problem by using oil pastels on acrylic gesso I would guess.

I wish I could remember that guy's name, it was in one of the pastel magazines not long ago, and it was their first issue that covered oil pastels. That artist does in fact combine soft (what he calls "dry") pastels and oil pastels in the same piece.

Anyway, hopefully someone with more knowledge on this stuff will chime in...

- Rick

06-05-2002, 07:03 AM
Hello Laura,

I am also not an expert, but if I give you some wrong advice, then I'm sure you'll get more replies! :)

I use masonite boards, and usually put a coat of acrylic gesso on both sides, and along the edges, then put a coat of Art Spectrum pastel primer as the working surface. I think it is important to "seal" the board to keep moisture out.

I think the rabbitskin glue etc is probably something used for oil paints???

Pastels should be framed under glass for protection; a professional framer should be able to give advice on correct care / mounting of your pastel paintings.

I can't help thinking I have read that some of the black papers are not light fast, or something. This may not be a problem, since you should never expose your paper, or pastels, to bright light.

Acid free watercolour paper should be great for pastels.

I try not to use fixative much at all. Some folks will say never use to use it, others will swear by it. It is probably one of those things you need to try, and see if you like it. I definitely don't like using it at the end - maybe newer brands don't affect the pastel as much, though.

Never tried canvas, don't know how it would go.

I have seen in work in 'Pastel Artist International' magazine that is supposed to be a mix of oil and soft pastels. It should be fine to try.


06-05-2002, 08:59 AM
Masonite sometimes has a slightly oily surface, it is worth washing first with a light detergent like washing up liquid. The modern product is unlikely to swell unless you leave it completely submerged in water for quite a while. You are unlikely to do that. Suggest you lightly sandpaper the surface with fine paper before gesso. You can apply gesso when the surface is damp, I usually give it a watery coat first, sometimes using flat acrylic to start with. Have read where the gesso is mixed with a pumice powder, some tint the gesso as well. Dependant on the size of the board, you may get a slight bow unless you seal both sides, nothing to worry about usually straightens out in the framing, and yes you have a space between the glass and board surface. sometimes a gap for any powder to fall through. Go for it and experiment with pieces you do not mind spoiling. Good luck:clap: