View Full Version : PanPastel trouble

03-03-2008, 11:07 PM
I recently came back to Wetcanvas, after joining about 3 years ago, when I started to paint. I quit it soon after, due to some life circumstances.... now, due to other circumstances, I returned... to painting as well
I followed the fascinating thread on PanPastels, the one that Donna started, for many days before I jumped the horse and got myself the Painting set, and few tools, plus some Art Spectrum paper ( the all color sampler from Dakota) Got this paper because Donna and others are doing so beautiful things on it!
I finally got them!!!
I am having big troubles with color adhering to the paper, and I dont know what is wrong? I did a charcoal sketch, I fixed it lightly with workable fixative ( krylon) and now I'm fighting this paper like crazy, my sponges are superloaded, they literally SHAKE color dust, yet everytime I am applying the previous layer ( very transparent) lifts off! The tooth of the paper is NOT full! I particularly have trouble with the darks, or darkened colors. It's the second paper Im trying, and same story... what am I doing wrong? On the second paper I tried Winsor and Newton fixative, and it seems worse.. Please help, if you have any idea, thank you!

Deborah Secor
03-03-2008, 11:45 PM
If you haven't already done so, why not post this over in the long thread Having a Ball using Pan Pastels! (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?p=6592144#post6592144) I bet they will have some advice for you there... It could be the fixative you're using. I used PPs on Art Spectrum paper and they worked quite well, but I didn't use any fixative on it. That's all I can sugggest at this point.


03-03-2008, 11:53 PM
Check the adherence without the fixative. I just used some fixative and the Pan Pastel definitely did not adhere well on top.


03-04-2008, 12:18 AM
Thank you!!!!
I was sitting here hoping that someone would answer, I did not want to interrupt the Long Thread as it got the point that people tell stories about a wonderful workshop, and then me, crying that my PPs don't work ! I just got them! I am at the point where I quit ruining the AS paper and I am dabbing on plain writing paper , I'll give it another try tomorrow, I am thinking to sand down a little the expensive AS paper that I just ruined, maybe it removes the fixative

Deborah Secor
03-04-2008, 12:28 AM
I hope so, Adiro! I wouldn't worry about interrupting the thread...they have a lot of good info to share. But I do know how you feel! Hope it works to sand the paper...


WC Lee
03-04-2008, 01:10 AM
I personally don't like using fixative, even a faint smell gives me a headache. But what you can do is use those two sheets of AS with the regular sticks. Sanding it down in attempt removing the fixative might possibly smooth out all the tooth on the paper.

I usually sketch the subject directly with the pan pastels, but I think the pan pastels can be applied directly over the charcoal without smudging it too much. One of Donna's students uses a charcoal under drawing and that particular process is in Donna's thread.

There are some inexpensive paper that can be use to practice and experiment on: Fabriano Tiziano, Mi Teintes, and Strathmore Artagain. Those are a few that I have tried but I am sure there are more.

03-04-2008, 01:58 AM
I use Blair Matt fixative and it is reworkable, it does not darken the pastel and there is not problems with it. I use it all the time inbetween layers especially if I am moving it and it may touch something. Blair has no floracarbons but it still smells so I use it outside and wear a mask...allergies.


maggie latham
03-04-2008, 08:22 AM
:) I have been really quiet about PPs as I had a similar experience to you. After following Donna A’s fantastic thread I was very enthusiastic about pans, bought a full set and ...couldn't wait to get painting.

Yikes! They were so different from regular soft pastels, and didn’t blend the same, and (for me) difficult to work with on Wallis paper or heavily sanded papers,……. that I was immediately put off!

I did a couple of days experimentation on different surfaces, and found smoother surfaces worked best for my way of working. I was expecting miracles with this new product, but like any new material, you have to give it time and learn a way of working right for you through quite a bit of experimentation. As I am moving I have packed my pp’s away, and will really try working with them again when we are settled.

I think one of my problems was that I expected the same intensity and look of a very soft pastel, when pp’s are more subtle and probably need to be used in quite a different way to soft pastels (like Schmincke). In my limited experience with pans, the color seems to stay pretty much were it is put.

In Donna’s thread she did a very subtle landscape early on in the thread on soft etching paper…which I presume does not have much tooth…..and her landscape looked like an aged watercolor, and was beautiful.

For me, I think I will have to shift my thought process, and when I try pans again, not have any pre-conceived notions …….and have a month or two of just experimenting on different surfaces.

Don't give up.... experiment!

03-04-2008, 08:45 AM
I use the Prismacolor (formerly Grumbacher) brand with no problems. I only spray a couple very light coats and I have laid in my background (also in Pans). My board is actually an archival printmaker paper coated with AS Colourfix primer, but feels the same as the AS paper/board that I have. I hope you can get the problem solved, because I think these Pans are great!


03-04-2008, 09:32 AM
Where was this thread last night when I got excited and bought a set after sifting through the long thread on Pans?? LOL.

I am assuming these can be used in conjunction with regular soft pastels?

I only like sanded surfaces, is this going to be a problem?? My paper of choice is la carte.

03-04-2008, 10:04 AM
Mary, I don't know what your experience is with stick pastels, but for me this was my first introduction to pastels and I am just thrilled with them. But when I first played with them (my hubby gave me a set for Christmas), I felt kind of scared because I had never used a medium that felt like the Pans, I wasn't making art that I liked, and I so much wanted them to work, since my husband had gifted me with them. :eek: My "strokes" were more like blotches. However, after a few hours playing with them and much time spent reading the material in Donna's very informative and helpful thread, things began to start working better for me. And now, I just love the feel of stroking these Pans onto paper with good tooth. I use mostly AS Colourfix paper, but also use Wallis. I too like the sanded-type surfaces.

The next thing I want to try is adding some highlights with soft pastel sticks. I have bought some of them, but not used them much because I know they will feel different. I think "different" is key here.

Good luck!:wave:


03-04-2008, 10:27 AM
Thank you everybody for coming in to help, in three years I really forgot what I nice place WC can be!
I put a reply in the long thread, maybe this discussion can continue over there, as it pertains there somewhat.
I stayed until 2:00AM yesterday night trying to work on my little painting, I sprayed more W&N fixative and forget about Krylon as I remembered from the old days that it bothered me with soft sticks as well. I managed to get something done, but not like on virgin paper, in any case. I'll try to photograph it and post it today

Maggie, I too like bright vivid colors, and I find that it's difficult to get it with PanP, but maybe because I have 20color set, I keep on mixing and my tools are constantly dirty as well. I don't have too many tools. I totally understand you!

Maryeve, I am 99% sure that soft sticks would work well over PPs but my ambition was to complete something in PPs only ( including the details)

Thank you again, everybody!

Tracy Lang
03-04-2008, 12:17 PM
Adiro, rather than sanding your expensive paper, maybe you could try a coat of colorfix primer.

I love using my pans, but they did take a little getting used to :)

I use them frequently to block in a painting and am amazed by how fast I can get this done.


03-04-2008, 01:28 PM
Each different surface you use and who it is made by is done differently with the Pans. Sticks and pastel pencils can be used with the pans also. The Wallis sand paper is far to gritty for me to use the pans on because I find it tears my sponges apart, much like it does my fingers when I am using sticks.
I love the AS, canvas board with primer, now the velours or suedes I find have to be done differently depending on the make. I love the pans so much I worry that I may never go back to my sticks, which I have two new sets of.

I find my sticks work better on the Canson Mi Tientes or I like them better on it so far, better than the pans.

When I do my drawing in charcoal I use the sepia pencil, because it will not show through when I put the pastel on.

As Maggie said, don't give up, it takes some adjusting from sticks to Pans. I decided to try every surface with them to see the difference in how they feel and work on each surface. The last one for me to try is a canvas with the primer.


03-04-2008, 05:05 PM

I've never tried those, but one must remember that nowadays we artists have our life quite facilitated (sp?). Years ago - that is still done today, of course - pastelists will would work with pastel powder to achieve some effects/purposes. Namely on portraiture.
Untill you get a more complete technical answer, why not think where in a painting the pan pastels can be used with advantage ?
I'm thinking of things like water, sky..
Have you tried burnishing with the side of a very hard pastel ?
Like I said, I've never tried them, so these are just thoughts.
And what about checking Art Spectrum's website to see if they have some tips ?

Kind regards,


03-04-2008, 06:30 PM
The website one would want to go to on the Pan Pastels is www.panpastel.com they also have tips and techniques on the site. Pan pastels can be used for everything and you use the edges of your tools and sponges.

At first I thought I would use them with my sticks and pencils but I haven't yet.


03-04-2008, 07:47 PM
Having just completed Donna's workshop, I can tell you that in my experience there is no such thing as too many types of sponges! Donna even showed us how to modify some of them by cutting off tips or into the edges to create an uneven surface. Keeping the sponges reasonably clean is also important.

I can also tell you that although I didn't go to the workshop with all the colors, having all of them makes life - and painting - a lot easier. Creating new colors with the pans is most certainly possible, but having the whole set to do that from is very good too (no, I don't own stock in the pan pastel company! :lol: ) Creating brilliantly colored paintings can be done with pan pastels. Using different sponges it is also possible to create a lot of texture.

Others are correct when they tell you to treat the pp as a whole new medium when it comes to application. It has taken me a long time to get used to the idea that there is "something" between my fingers and the medium - namely a sponge! I've been accustomed to my "instrument", the pastel stick, immediately giving me color. Now I have to get used to dipping the sponge into the color several times before applying it to my Art Spectrum Colourfix paper, and then doing that again rather soon before moving on to another passage of the painting. Reloading the "brush" is something I'd not done in literally decades, and that's taken time for me to adjust to that practice.

I did a charcoal drawing on the first piece I tried, and painted directly over it without mishap. The pans react very differently over the charcoal than the sticks do. They don't "finger blend" well either, but then that's why there is the sponge to move it around. Stick pastels do work well with the pans, but mostly I've used the softer sticks. They will go over the pans nicely, but they don't "blend" easily with them. If you try to blend the pans and sticks with a sponge, the sponge just brushes the stick off. If you try to use your fingers to blend the stick into the pan, the stick just sits on top of the pan. Some of the pan colors are more transparent than any stick colors of the same of similar color. Hansa yellow is one of them (much as that color is transparent in oils or watercolors). This can be frustrating if you don't want that, but if you do and you use it as it is meant to be used, it is very useful to have a transparent yellow pastel.

I don't know why you are having issues with the fixative when others are not, but I suspect you are applying it maybe too heavily. Don't let the pastels or charcoal get wet with fixative. You can "save" you Colourfix paper by brushing off or rubbing with a kneaded eraser as much pigment as possible, and then resurfacing the paper with AS Colourfix primer. I have a couple jars of the clear primer - usually used to coat heavy watercolor or archival mounting board, but handy to "save" another paper that's already been abused with unwanted pastels. :lol:


03-05-2008, 10:25 AM
Thank you, Peggy, for taking time to answer so thoroughly!
I moved the discussion to the Big Thread, as it made more sense there. Yes, I wish I had the entire set, but I don't and no hopes for it in the near future.:crying: I also don't have that many tools. But I do have some! I will try the primer soon, I have a jar of White. I was actually thinking to apply it to watercolor paper ( cold press) this is what I have, it is fairly textured in itself. Give it a try!
I do have many gorgeous stick, and my first love goes to them! But the PanPs are my new toy! And so different!
For me actually it's not the fact that I have to use tools, as it's the fact that I have to keep cleaning them all the time that bothers me...
and yes, the look on paper is fairly transparent...

maggie latham
03-05-2008, 11:38 AM

I’m so glad you answered here, and had a good workshop.

I will definitely try to get to grips with pans after we are moved and settled. I was very frustrated with them when I tried them out a couple of months ago, but then I only gave myself a few days working with them. Do you have any examples to share from the workshop?


03-05-2008, 01:14 PM

I’m so glad you answered here, and had a good workshop.

I will definitely try to get to grips with pans after we are moved and settled. I was very frustrated with them when I tried them out a couple of months ago, but then I only gave myself a few days working with them. Do you have any examples to share from the workshop?


Maggie you can see examples of work from all the participants in the workshop over on the other thread. As usual, Donna's throughness included taking pictures of all the work. Most of it is "in progress", but you can see a wide variety of approaches. We spent the entire first day just handling the sponges and pans in a multitude of ways. Far more ways to use them then I'd first experienced, and some I'd not even thought of until Donna suggested it. However, I was able to show her something too :D . I'd been frustrated trying to "paint around" objects when I have a sky. This time I put the entire sky in first, and then used my kneaded eraser to "draw out" the places I wanted to paint something that overlaps the sky. You can see this technique in my painting on the other thread. The tree on the right is where I removed sky and have yet to apply tree colors. This is far from finished, but I think I'll be much happier now when I do finish it. Oh heck - for everyone's easy, here it is: