View Full Version : Best Surface for Pastel Pencils

04-23-2010, 11:50 PM
Hi everyone! I'm wondering if someone can give me advice as to what the best surface is for pastel pencils. I already searched the forums and couldn't find anything. I completed this bird painting on Ampersand Pastelbord, and I love that surface. My concern though, is the cost. It would be rather expensive to purchase often. Is there any other surface that anyone has used that is very smooth? I was wondering if velour paper would work, but I've never tried it. I'd appreciate any advice! Thank you!


Paula Ford
04-24-2010, 12:43 AM
I love your bird Angela!! I use Ampersand Pastelbord, or Uart. They are both fabulous surfaces. Don't know about what to use with the pencils because I don't use them.

04-24-2010, 06:54 AM
Hi Angela, great bird, very lovely!

Velour is used by many pastel 'pencillists'. And several swear by Clairefontaine Pastelmat. I've tried both, and to me the Pastelmat is superior! You can brush off a 'stinker', and reuse the pastelmat, too. Erase with an eraser, that's working fantastically well (can't do that with velour). Re-using a paper can make the cost per sheet go down considerably. (You can even wash it off, as long as you treat the suface gently.)

Now, I mainly paint with sticks, but I'd choose Pastelmat for pencils, no question about it.


04-24-2010, 09:24 AM
Thank you both for your advice! I'm definitely going to purchase some pastelmat and give that a try!

04-24-2010, 10:07 AM
Hi Angela,
Great job on the bird! You will love pastelmat for sticks and pencils alike. And Charlie is correct in that it becomes much more affordable if you can re-use it for a new piece. I have started allowing myself to purchase pastelmat, wallis and uart because of that. Love them all!

04-24-2010, 02:48 PM
Nice bird! :clap:

I've not used Ampersand Pastelboard, but I do use Uart, Wallis, and on ocassion, Art Spectrum Colourfix. My favs are Wallis and Uart, and the things I like about them are a.) you can cut the paper to the size you want, and use your smaller pieces of paper for smaller paintings, (no waste), and if I get a stinker (I get lots!:lol: ), you can rinse and reuse until you have a keeper. Definitely worth the price! Art Spectrum Colourfix can also withstand multiple washings, I just prefer the surfaces of Wallis and Uart a little bit more (just a personal preference, the quality of Art Spectrum is superberb).

You might want to try Uart's very fine grit (800 I think) for the pencils, it just might be something you like.

04-24-2010, 09:00 PM
Very nice bird!

My opinion, is cost wise, the Colorfix would be great for pencils. It takes liquid, so you can do an underpainting then use the pencils on top.

04-25-2010, 07:24 PM
Another vote for Clairefontaine Pastelmat for pencils. Works well with stick pastels, but pencils glide over the surface beautifully. And as Charlie pointed out, errors can be lifted off with a kneaded rubber then erased with art gum (that's the system that works for me anyway).

In fact I've got a mostly Cretacolor pencil on Pastelmat going right now!

04-25-2010, 08:11 PM
Well I really like UArt...but have used the pastelmat board and like that as well. Not sure about the cost difference though. UArt is pretty pricey.

Hope to see more of your post soon...the bird is beautiful. BTW...what kind of pencils are you using?


04-28-2010, 01:50 PM
I think velour is a great surface for fur, and soft effects, not so much sharp and crisp detail, though some artists seem to do fine with detail on it. A cheaper but similar surface to pastel board is Colorfix, and it comes in a much bigger color selection. I like it for birds and other things that I use pastel pencils on.

04-28-2010, 02:05 PM
hi Angela: I have been using the smooth side of Canson for quite some time now with Conte, Pitt and carbothello pastel pencils inexpensive and great results. My "Rooftops" in the pastel gallery was done on the Canson with lots of pastel pencil.
Good Luck, Derek

04-29-2010, 12:49 AM
Thank you all for your compliments and for your tips! I think I'll try a little of everything, and see what works best.

Pam, for this bird painting I used Faber-Castell pencils.

Thanks again!


04-30-2010, 12:34 AM
Hi Angela,
I use several different papers and each has its place depending on the effect I want to achieve. I use often pastel pencils to start a painting and then add hard pastels and finally softies over that. I will then use the pastel pencils again as shapers to tidy things up or to blend. In general the following works for me,
Uart 800 seems to be the best for really high details - Very precise
Royal Sovereign and La Carte for fur - Underlayers stay put making it easier to work over the top and blend into the underlayers without making mud.
Ingres, Murano and Canson for portraiture - Once the underpainting is rubbed into the tooth then upper layers are easy to dust off and move around which makes adjusting and subtle transitions easier. This especially true for Ingres paper and the heavier weight stuff is definitely better.
Hope that helps

04-01-2012, 03:52 PM
Since I am doing portraits, I have decided pastel PENCILS, rather than sticks are the only way to go.....however, I cannot buy open stock here, nor can I find Clairefontaine Pastelmat or Uart or Wallis, just Canson M-T.

I live in Vancouver but most companies in the US mail to Canada.

Does anyone know of a really good reliable company that one can order from......that has lots of different stock and where you can buy open stock of pastel pencils?


04-01-2012, 05:00 PM
I have been ordering from Dakota Pastels and Dick Blick for about five years and have never had a problem with either company. They both carry open stock in pastel pencils as well as pastels. There is a delivery charge, but they email you with the exact cost of delivery and get your okay before putting the order through. The charge can be steep, but it is usually less expensive than buying in Canada, that is if you can find what you are looking for in Canada. I have never been charged duty on art supplies from the States. You will still have to pay HST on deliver.

Just for a comparison, Carb Othello pastel pencils prices: Curry's from Toronto $2.29, Dakota $1.50 US, Dick Blick $1.28US and if you buy 12 or more $1.28US. I think Curry's is free delivery in Canada for orders over $100.

So as you can see, there is a lot to figure out. Our American friends don't know how lucky they are to have such a great selection of art supply store. It's slim picking up here. Hope this helps you.


04-01-2012, 06:28 PM
Doug....hello fellow British Columbian!.............and thank you SO much for the info.

I will look into those 2 companies and get the show on the road.

I'm surprised Opus or DeSerres in Vancouver keep such limited stock of pastel pencils and certain papers.


04-01-2012, 06:48 PM
Hi Emmaji

I agree with you about Opus. I just bought some frames and gouache paint from them, but anything to do with pastels I just buy from Dakota or Blick. I don't know if you travel down to Washington, but if you do, I believe Dakota Pastels is situated in Mount Vernon and they have a store there.


04-01-2012, 08:16 PM
I hope you can get PastelMat from Curry's or by paying international shipping to Blick. That's my favorite surface now for pastel pencils. It's as smooth as a smooth paper but very grabby and lets me layer pastel pencils beautiful. My current pencils are Carb-Othello and they're very soft.

04-01-2012, 08:48 PM
Hi Doug.......it's nice to know Mt.Vernon is so close to home.....I shall certainly be contacting them.

Robert......does the pastel mat come in different brands? I have only heard of ClaireFontaine. Also, I've heard that the Carb Othello pencil is soft but you can still get good details.

I got really carried away in studying the various pastels and got so much info off this site.....BUT when it gets down to it......for the detail I want, I am going to stick to the pencils and leave the sticks until later when (and if) I want to do more expressionistic work. I feel like a lot of time was wasted, but so what? I just lost some perspective..............

Now life is simple.....pastel pencils and paper.

Onward and forward.....


04-02-2012, 12:06 AM
Emma, there's ClaireFontaine PastelMat and there's a similar surface now called Art Spectrum Colourfix Suede. Just those two brands of the sticky coated paper that's good for extreme details. Carb-Othello pastel pencils are great for fine details, so are many hard pastels brands like NuPastel or Cretacolor Pastels Carre, but the pencils keep your hands clean while you use them.

Another product that works well with pastel pencils is Pan Pastels, when you want to cover broad areas with loose color and then detail over it.

04-02-2012, 01:08 AM
Angela, beautiful bird!

Re: PastelMat ...took me a couple of years to find some in Canada. Ordered it from http://pastelstudio.ca/pastelsurfaces.php (ttp://pastelstudio.ca/pastelsurfaces.php). They carry quality pastel products. The order was paid via paypal with a couple of emails back and forth for order and order confirmation. Really didn't expect it to be here by Christmas, but it was, and beat another of my orders via Curry's which was placed the same day. Two years to hunt it down and have yet to play with it (looking for something special to paint on PastelMat with the PanPastels I got at Curry's)

PS ... as I orderd a few other things from Pastel Studio the PastelMat worked out cheaper than Dakota's sale at the time given shipping/duty etc.

04-02-2012, 04:39 PM
I haven't actually tried it but you might want to try the newer colorfix suede. It is smooth, similar to pastelmat in feel but i think it may be cheaper and I have heard of others that love it for pencils. Just a thought:)


04-05-2012, 04:44 PM
Thanks so much for all the above replies......I take all of them seriously and make notes on the most popular materials.
Nell from Genelle......thanks for the info about the Pastel Shop in Cambridge Ontario........next time I will look into them since you say it's cheaper being in Canada.
Wow! This site never fails to amaze me with the info that would take me years to figure out on omy own!!!

04-28-2012, 07:47 PM
I received the Pastel Mat paper in perfect shape from Dakota......... no fat UPS man had sat on it!! Plus I got some Carb Othello pastel pencels which I thoroughly enjoy.
However, I'm finding that I cannot BLEND colors easily on the Pastel Mat......I think THAT paper is used more for subsequent coats of pastel, either side by side, or one on top of each other rather than trying to blend one color with the color beside it....I'm speaking about EDGES here where I want a soft edge.
I think that canson etc has more tooth and is easier to blend.....also you can let the paper show through, whereas I think PastelMat was meant to cover fully with many coats of pastel.
Any ideas here?

04-28-2012, 08:50 PM
I really never tried pencils very much but the little I did do. I found that 800 Uart worked really well. so I would have to say 800 Uart maybe 600 also.

04-28-2012, 11:03 PM
Emma, when I want to blend a soft edge, sometimes I lay down both colors adjacent and use a transitional color to shade back and forth between them alternating the direction of my strokes. If you put a couple of layers on the colors will blend easier than they do at first, it's later layers that stay put and don't blend as much. You can also try blending with a soft Colour Shaper, again working back and forth across the soft edge.

I'd still try a transitional color, something that's between them in hue and value when doing that, because color areas are so distinct on PastelMat. It can work though, it just takes a bit more layering.

04-30-2012, 12:04 AM
I use Canson MT paper for portraits and use Carb Othello pencils and have no issues. light touch of the pencils to build layers works great. it's also pretty much the cheapest paper too. if i don't like how it looks then brushing it off with a bristle brush let's you kinda start over.

04-30-2012, 03:08 PM
just used Pastelmat for the first time and have to say really enjoyed it. I haven't used many pastel papers so don't have a large frame of reference. For something that fills smooth it sure can hold a lot of pastel.

I'm going to buy a sheet of Art Spectrum and Fisher400 to try out soon.