View Full Version : HELP! Blending Problem

04-24-2010, 06:27 PM
I took a picture of these "bumps" that I keep getting in my pastel paintings. I was working on a background today (on Pastelbord) and it got so bad that I had to wash everything off. So, I let the board dry and tried again - same thing happened (which is what I took a picture of). I know it has nothing to do with the surface because I've had it happen on several different types of pastel paper. It's driving me crazy because it completely ruins my work. Once it starts, any layers of pastel that go over top of it, make it look worse and there is no way to get rid of it. Does anyone know what this could be a result of? I usually blend with my fingers (which are clean and dry). Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't. I'd really like some advice please! In the meantime, I'm going to wash this off again!

04-24-2010, 08:21 PM
Which pastels are you using - and are you sure you have no oil pastels mixed in there? I can't imagine what else this could be.


04-24-2010, 08:29 PM
I'm using mostly Mt. Visions, but some Sennelier's too. I'm not using any oil pastels. I actually managed to scrape off the "bumps" with a razor blade, but when I reapplied pastel, it just did the same thing. It's like a build up of pastel, but I have no idea what causes it. I use the same pastels all the time, and some times it happens, and some times it doesn't. It just doesn't make sense. I thought it was the paper, but I know it's not. Hmm.. I guess I'll just have to figure it out somehow.

04-24-2010, 08:33 PM
If it happens on all surfaces then it could be the pastels you are using and the pale yellow could have too much of some ingredient that comes off too waxey. (Like kaolin.) You can use Viva paper towels to blend or foam brush or a bristle brush and see if you get a better blend that way, but I'd try a darker stick too. For example start with the dark green then go to medium green then to medium yellow, etc.

I've used pastelbord alot and sometimes you can get a faulty board. When that happens I recoat it with either a gesso and pumice mix or a ready made pastel primer. (If you want a smooth surface use a foam roller.)

04-24-2010, 08:35 PM
Senneliers are sometimes crumbly, so I wonder if your getting tiny little pieces of pastel in the mix. On the other hand, there are a few Sennelier greens that have tiny hard bits in them, so I wonder if they are digging into the paper and causing the bumps. Those are my guesses.


04-24-2010, 08:48 PM
Doreen - You might be on to something because when I scraped the built up pastel off with the razor blade, and went over it with a color I hadn't used yet, it blended very smoothly. Maybe the problem was with the combination of colors. But they were all the same brand - Mt. Visions.

Don- I went back and looked and I actually didn't use any of the Sennelier's. They were sitting there, but I never used them.

I do wish that I could figure this out though, that way I can avoid it in the future.

Thanks for all of your advice!

04-24-2010, 08:55 PM
The lightest colors have the most filler (kaolin) - the super soft pastels, like Mt. Vision and Sennelier probably use kaolin as their filler. That's what makes then so buttery. So when using those very light - very soft sticks - save them for the very last.

Just for informational purposes here is a typical recipe for pastels:

True Pastels Recipe:
• Gum arabic or gum tragacanth (binder)
• Distilled water
• Pigment
• Chalk or kaolin/China clay (filler)

Step 1: Dissolve the binder in the water in the ratio 1:20 (one part binder to 20 parts water).
Step 2: Mix filler and pigment in the ratio 2:1 (two parts filler to one part pigment).
Step 3: Add the binder liquid to the filler/pigment slowly, until it has the consistency of dough or putty.
Step 4: Roll out and dry as described above.

• Gum arabic makes a harder pastel than gum tragacanth.
• Damar resin mixed with plenty of white spirit or turpentine can be used as a binder.

Paula Ford
04-24-2010, 09:36 PM
That happens to me when using Rembrandts, but it's never happened using Mt. Visions on pastelbord. Sorry.

Phil Bates
04-26-2010, 12:40 AM
Angela, this looks a lot like the nature of warm green and greenish yellow pigments. These pigments tend to be sticky and don't go on real smooth, especially the soft buttery brands like Ludwig, Great American, Senellier and Schminke. My guess is it's your Sennelliers. I used to fight with these colors alot. Now, when I need to lay down a mass and blend greens or yellows, I use the hardest sticks I can find (like Creatacolor, Nupastel, Faber Castell) because they use extra binder that disrupts the "stickyness" of the pigment.

Not all pigments act alike, and these particular colors can be challenging.

Let me know if that helps,

04-26-2010, 10:53 AM
I have had this problem several times on different papers, My experence is that it comes from either a bad pastel or from rubbing them in to the paper to hard which tends to heat them and makes a wax like substance, but I kind of like the effects, as it creates texture to the work. It tends to happen only with the yellows.

04-26-2010, 11:06 AM
To me, that's life with Pastelbord. Its tooth fills easily and I use most all brands of pastel.

To break things up (not necessarily just Pastelbord), I use a small make up brush meant for eyeshadow. A small pounce on a place I don't like knocks it right off. I also use it if an edge is too hard.

04-26-2010, 12:03 PM
Yellows, greens, some reds, some purples, especially of the softer brands tend to do this. Works better the more aggressive tooth you have to the paper.

Might be because of the properties of the pigments, and of the fillers. I know Schmincke uses quite a bit of talc as filler/whitener. But as it usually is just a few colours (the same few colours, regardless of brands), my guess it is in the pigments. Yes, the softer the pastel, the worse it is, but even an ArtSpectrum yellow is difficult to put on top of other layers. Cad yellows doesn't seem to have this problem.

I've decided to like the extra texture... If you can't win, join. :-)


04-26-2010, 06:31 PM
I agree with Charlie - I've decided to like the texture. I use Mt Visions exclusively and in my experience this bumpy texture build up occurs when I've nearly filled the tooth. The pastel I rub on top sticks to tooth in some areas but not others, thus the bumps.

I work mainly on Art Spectrum colorfix and this happens to me as well. My best advice is be careful not to fill the tooth too quickly.

04-26-2010, 11:54 PM
Thanks everyone for your tips! I've dealt with this unavoidable texture with some paintings and it didn't bother me, but when I want a really smooth background, I don't like it at all.

A few of you mentioned that this happens when the tooth has had about all it can take. In this case, it happened during my first two layers of pastel. I was blending my first two colors together. So, I'm convinced that it has something to do with the pigments. I have had this same problem with yellows, reds and purples before too.I think from now on I will test colors on a separate sheet of paper before I apply them to the surface I will be working on. Unless I'm going for texture!

Thanks again everyone! - Angela

04-27-2010, 07:17 AM
Angela, try blending the gooey bumps in with a really hard stick, that might work.