View Full Version : HELP - Using Sandpaper as a Support

11-06-2002, 11:18 AM
I've heard that sandpaper is a very effective and inexpensive support for pastel.

Has anyone used sandpaper (glasspaper) as a support for pastel?

I'd like to know its pro's and con's.

Also as this may not be acid free, what about it's permanence?

Can anyone help with this, please?

11-06-2002, 12:16 PM
Hi Johnny....I've used the garden variety sand paper from the hardware store....the pretty fine grit 400 or so. My lesson when I first started using it is....DON'T use your fingers to try and do any blending. Lost several layers of skin the first time!

There are several varieties of sanded art papers, which would be much more archival, I would assume, than the wet/dry hardware store variety. I've used one called Wallis...which was very nice, but expensive.

You can also make your own "sanded" surface. There is a medium by Art Spectrum called Colorfix which can be applied to your base and gives a fairly toothly surface. Also, I beliveve Jackie had discussed in a thread using Marble Dust and mixing that with acrylic paint or gesso and applying that to your base.

I really like using the sandpaper as the pros are many....you can do underpaintings using pastel and turps, alcohol, or water. This allows you to establish your color base fairly quickly as it spreads the pastel into the tooth of the paper without much of a buildup. There was a really good article in the recent issue of International Artist magazine regarding this technique. The sandpaper also allows you to build up many many layers of pastel, holding much more than standard pastel paper. The con for me, is that you can go through pastel rapidly due to the extra tooth.

11-06-2002, 07:03 PM
Thanks for the information Karen. I'll take a trip down to my nearest builders merchant and see what I can dig out in terms of fine sandpaper. May even get some hardboard and try using that - I already have Gesso, so mixing some fine sand or somethin in there shouldn't be too difficult. I'll also Gesso the reverse of the bard to prevent warping.

I like the tip about rubbing in! I always use that technique. it's a lovely way to blend.

Once I've done something using either of the above I'll post it.

11-06-2002, 11:32 PM
I just read something in one of my pastel books...about using commercial grade sand paper. The author said "DON'T". Sandpaper from home depot or building supply stores are very acidic and won't last.


11-07-2002, 01:19 AM
Absolutely Carly, that is the problem with the hardware store variety, however, if you're just trying a sanded surface for the first time it's a little easier on the pocketbook to test out on the cheap stuff than the wonderful, but expensive Wallis or the other varieties. :D Anyway, that's what I did...played around with the cheap stuff but quickly decided that I liked the surface and invested in some sanded paper that would last.

11-07-2002, 02:55 AM
Okay, it's the voice of doom again.

Have you ever looked at an old roll of sticky tape ... or an old envelope? Have y0u noticed that the glue dries out and the tape is useless?

Well, sandpaper is tiny bits of sand - glass - STUCK onto a paper backing. If you use sandpaper, be aware that it is completely untested for longevity, and that there is every possibility that in due course, the glue will dry out, and the surface will become totally unstable.

I guess this is OK if you don't care about longevity - fine, then go ahead and use up your pastels at a rate of knots .

when you use pastel paper, you are working on something made of paper pulp, or sometimes it even has a rag content. It will not only absorb some of the pastel - the pastel will stay there indefinitely, and won't discolour either. Ancient pastel drawings have never needed retouching, unlike oil paintings.

If you want a slightly gritty surface, Johnnyred, then buy some MARBLE DUST from Cornelissen in London, a small pack goes a very long way. It isn't the same as fine sand - it looks like talcum powder, and yet it gives, when mixed with gesso, a wonderful surface for the pastel to adhere to. All you need is a teaspoonful to a cup of gesso, and paint a board thinly, with a couple of coats to get rid of any lines. You can even colour the gesso with gouache or acrylic paint.

The surface will have a satisfying "grip" for the pastels. Or, if you can afford it, try the Art Spectrum gesso, or the Art Spectrum ready-prepared boards, which come in lots of great colours. If you need a supplier, try Heaton Cooper in the Lake District.

Builder's Grade sandpaper is not advisable.


11-07-2002, 04:02 AM
Thank you all again for your invaluable advice. I'll cancel my trip to the Builders Merchant.

Jackie, thanks for the information regarding Cornelisson, I'll get in contact with them very soon. I don't know how others feel Jackie, but I wouldn't consider your excellent advice as 'the voice of doom'! All advice, I'm sure you'll agree, is worthwhile. Thanks!

I have used pastel card before and loved the richness of the finished work as well as the feel, but it is definately not the support for practicing on due to the expense.

11-07-2002, 04:43 AM
!! Well, maybe I am not exactly the voice of doom, but I do seem to chip in a lot, disagreeing with others!

For cheapness, and for practice, you really cannot beat the marble-dust/gesso combination.

For extra cheapness, I recommend you take a trip to your local picture framer. Ask him if you can take away some of the off-cuts he will have in a box (mine always does) - that is, the centres of the mounts he cuts. They usually keep a stack of these, which sometimes get used for smaller mounts, but more often, they get a bit beaten up at the corners and so not used.

These are perfect for coating with the gesso mix, ideally on the smoother side because some mountboard is very textured. You are right, it is best to do both sides if you don't want it to warp, but the other option is to put dry, one-sided, curved boards (!) under a pile of heavy books overnight, and they will flatten out.

Do treat yourself to a pot of the Art Spectrum pastel primer too. It isn't expensive, and is lovely stuff, particularly in the darker colours. You will probably find it on Heaton Cooper's website.

11-07-2002, 09:18 AM
Well, thanks again Jackie. I appreciate this advice. I've taken notes and when I get time I'll sort something out. In fact I do have a number of small mount card offcuts myself lying around, so I can play around with them.

11-07-2002, 11:14 AM
Thanks Jackie for the tip about marble dust. I have some, but I wasn't sure how to use it. I tried sprinkling it over wet gesso and made a terrible mess. My gesso seems to be rather thick but since it's acrylic, maybe I can thin it out a bit with water. I will try it and see how it comes out.
What paper do you use as a support when you do this? watercolor paper?

11-07-2002, 11:55 AM
jimb ... yes it is fine to thin it with water. You want the consistency of thin cream. It is better to put on several thin coats, rather than one thick coat.

As you will notice from the post above, I recommended you use mountboard ... to you US people, that is Mat board. But you can use absolutely anything ... cardboard, watercolour paper (I recommend the hot pressed smooth stuff) even MDF or thin ply, in fact, anything it will stick to!


11-25-2002, 11:18 PM
Canson makes a sand paper paper for all you pastelers.

11-26-2002, 07:37 AM
Very interesting thread!
Jackie: you're no voice of doom, but one of the few here who really dare to give advice, instead of just telling us how wonderful a picture is. Great.

I will try to look up all the advice in my local art shop, and figure out what I need.

But a question beforehand:

I've been using pastel paper (study quality Schoellershammer no.2) and find that it is too soft for my many layered heavy strokes. After a while, it will simply not take any more pastel, and the paper starts to look messy and broken. I can't make any hard lines anymore by that stage.
Do I need more tooth (afraid I might 'break' the tooth by heavy strokes)?


11-26-2002, 10:23 AM
I have copied [so I didn't get anything wrong] this information from an Art Spectrum products page - it may be useful. I honestly have no shares in the company - I wish I did!:D
"Art Spectrum Pastel Primer is a fine tooth, quick drying acrylic primer which bonds aggressively to practically any clean surface - all types of papers (300gsm or heavier recommended) canvas, card, ply, plastic, glass, timber, ceramic and metal. All colours are lightfast, permanent and non-toxic. Pastel Primer can be applied with brushes, sponges, rollers etc, straight from the pot. 16 colours are available plus Clear Pastel Primer.
All colours can be intermixed to create new shades. White or clear can be tinted with Liquid Spectrum Inks, Art Spectrum Gouache or even acrylics for new colour combinations.
The Clear Pastel Primer allows the natural surface or underlying colours to remain visible while providing extra tooth for more colour overlays. Use Clear and other Pastel Primer colours for mixed media techniques and experimental art and craft works. "

I have used both products and find them quite good but have no information on their longevity. The Clear one can give you really interesting effects if you put it over an already completed piece and then add highlights in pastel.

To give more tooth you can use fixative - but be careful and use it sparingly - it can make the colours go flat.

I have also experienced the fingerprint removal trick - not nice! I use a range of 'Colour Shaper' tools by Forsline and Starr. They look like a paintbrush but with a rubber tip and come in a range of styles, shapes, hardness and flexibility. I find that they give a very even and smooth blend ... and you can still feel with your fingers afterwards!

11-26-2002, 10:51 AM
Thanks 'Dragonlady'!
Very helpful.

I am realising (as a beginner in pastels) that heavier paper, sanded or not, and maybe a primer can give me more than a flimsy piece of pastel paper.
What exactly is the purpose of pastel primer on paper?


11-26-2002, 01:50 PM
No problems Soap!
Firstly, I'm still pretty much a beginner myself ... but I like to fiddle and experiment.:p
The purpose...ummmm... I just use it to turn different things into a surface for doing pastels. Someone else out there may be able to give you a more comprehensive and knowledgeable answer - sorry.
I find that the main reason I buy/use the primer on my own surfaces is that it is cheaper for me. I put it on various types of paper because it is either paper that I already have and I want to see the effect [good for 'roughies'] or I want a different size.
I must admit, I also like to put it on sheets of mdf, then I have a nice firm surface and I can put the hose on it if I stuff up! Can't do that with paper - lol.

11-27-2002, 03:57 AM
the only reason for using pastel primer, is to create a surface with enough "tooth" (texture) to accept layers of chalk pastel.

I recently watched a video of Tom Coates, President of the Pastel Society in the UK. He works on large sheets of cardboard, because he says it takes "lots of punishment". So for those who find paper too flimsy for their vigorous work, this might be a good alternative.

11-27-2002, 04:38 AM
Thanks Jackie and Dragonlady. I will experiment a bit with primer and other surfaces. I now wish I didn't buy that huge pad of paper, which was so expensive.......but it'll come to good use one day. Good for sketching on then

Soap:) :)