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Pastel Papers for beginners

by Michelle Therrien

You may be saying pastel papers are so expensive what can I do?

There are so many answers to that and if you ask that question in any art group on Facebook and you may be just as confused by all the answers you will get.

I want to help beginners make affordable choices so they too can enjoy a new art medium and not break the bank! After all, you can’t be sure if you like any medium until you spend some time learning and doing it.

This article will go over a few of the pastel paper options I prefer and used when I first learned pastels. Some cost a bit more and some are homemade affordable ways to have lots of pastel surfaces inexpensively.

I have included video links that I find valuable that tell you how to make homemade papers so you can choose for yourself what works for you.

I hope you find this information useful. I would love to see your art, feel free to join the conversation by leaving comments or questions below.

Uart Pastel Paper

Uart sanded pastel paper is a premium pastel paper that comes in 7 different grits. It is a light tan colored paper with a sanded surface to hold the pastel as you paint.

The grit options range from 240, 280, 320, 400, 500, 600 and 800.

The higher the number the finer the grit. The lower the number the coarser the grit. Just like sandpaper from the hardware store only made for art.

It is a lighter weight paper than pastelmat (another premium pastel paper) and tends to curl. I tape it down using green frog tape before I begin painting. I store it flat in an acid-free clear envelope once my painting is complete.

Paper that has a coarser grit may make it difficult to achieve fine detail.

The painting below was done on uart 400 and as you can see I was able to achieve great detail.

I prefer uart 400 paper because it suits detail just fine and holds a fair amount of pastel.

Sample packs can be found on Amazon or art supply shops if you want to try the different grit papers they offer and see which one suits your needs best.

Once I decided on Uart paper I bought the big roll which is 54 inches wide by 29ft long. This is a bit costly but if you are serious about your pastel art a worthy investment and money saver in the long run.

This was a lot bigger in person than it was in my head, but I laid it out and cut it into different sizes. Each sheet cost me under 1.50 per sheet which made it much more affordable to experiment with pastel painting.

You can also use store-bought sandpaper in similar grits. These sandpapers will serve as a pastel surface while you learn but they are not acid-free and will not be artist-grade surfaces you should choose. But if you are looking to work on the most affordable paper surface this one qualifies.

I personally have never used it but know of many others who have started here.

Paper cost is a factor

Pastel papers can get costly and that may inhibit some artists or beginners from using quality paper and experimenting for fear of wasting good paper.

I assure you good paper makes a difference in your outcome with pastels, so invest in the best you can afford or learn to make your own. Information of making your own can be found further down this article.

I don’t make my own videos as of yet so I am going to share some I highly recommend

Pastel paper review by pastel artist Jason Morgan. He is an accomplished pastel pencil artist I highly recommend also learning from. He has a youtube channel and a Patreon.com .

He covers Clairfontaine pastelmat, uart paper and senellier pastel card in this video. I love his art and his videos.

Clairefontaine Pastelmat

Pastelmat is a differnt form of pastel paper, it is made from a cellulose fiber instead of being a sanded paper.

It holds pastel well and allows you to get vibrant color. To me, it is one of the best papers for capturing the rich bright color and wonderful for details.

Colored pencil artists often use this paper for their art as well.

You do need to lay down a couple of base layers to cover the surface of the paper before things begin to blend well on the paper. It can be a bit tricky for first-time users.

The image below was done on white pastelmat and you can see the vibrancy and detail in this painting. I used soft pastels and pastel pencils in painting this jazz piece.

A little Jazz, pastel painting

Pastel pencil users may also find it takes a bit of finesse in laying down color, but once you figure it out for your painting style you will love this paper.

It is a thicker paper and holds is shape well and comes in white and I believe 8 other colors. I have so far only used white. It also will take water media for an underpainting with no problem.

Another Great Pastel Paper review by pastel artist Jason Morgan, I highly recommend his videos. He knows his stuff. He covers Daler rowney, Pastelmat, velour, pastel card, Canson mi-teintes.

I have not used all of these papers yet but Jason is well versed in all these papers and you will see how they each differ in this video.

Pastel paper Review by Susan Jenkins of Monet Cafe

Comic Boards

I found these 100 % acid-free papers that I could turn into a pastel surface cheaply with some Golden Pastel Ground. I like this option because if I did a painting that turned out good and I wanted to keep it I knew it would be on paper that was acid-free and worthy of framing if I chose.

Comic boards are slightly smaller than a sheet of paper, they are a bit firm like good cardstock and acid-free which makes them good for art.

Best of all they are very affordable. You can get a pack of 100 for about 15 dollars on amazon. This is a great surface to play and experiment on and learn pastels.

You have to use pastel ground or clear gesso to give the paper some tooth and make it a pastel surface you can paint on.

. It’s a very inexpensive way to make a lot of small canvases to paint on.

You can use tinted ground to add color to your board as an underpainting if you like. Don’t be afraid to try things on this paper.

Here is my first experiment on comic boards using pastel ground and soft pastels. I will talk about pastel ground below.

Making your own Pastel Paper with Pastel Grounds

Homemade pastel surfaces

Making your own pastel paper or canvas is a very affordable option for anyone who wants to save money and have lots of pastel paper to paint on.

You can use clear gesso on a variety of papers and surfaces.

Affordable surfaces make experimenting easier since you aren’t using your precious expensive paste papers. And the more you experiment and freely paint, the more you will do and the faster you will learn.

There are several things you can use for making a pastel surface and I will include some videos below.

My three favorites are clear gesso and Golden Acrylic Pastel Ground and Art Spectrum Pastel primer which also comes in clear and many other colors.

Clear Gesso

The best Clear gesso, in my opinion, is Liquitex. It must be clear gesso and not regular white gesso. You can apply this in a couple of thin layers on less expensive papers and create a pastel surface.

I also like to use hot press watercolor paper. I start with a drawing that I paint in as an underpainting with watercolors.

I put 2 thin layers of clear gesso, letting it dry between each one. I do one horizontal brushed layer and one vertical brushed layer for even distribution.

Now I have an underpainted road map and a clear pastel ground surface to add pastels on.

Here is an example: the left side is the underpainting with clear gesso on hot press watercolor paper and the right is after pastels were added.

Colourfix pastel primer

Art Spectrum colourfix primer is a great pastel primer and comes in a wide variety of colors and also in a clear version. The benefit of clear primer is that if you put down an underpainting the clear primer will allow you to see that through the layer of primer.

Colored primer be applied straight from the jar or you can buy the clear one and tint it with inks or fluid acrylics and make your own small batch of colored primer to suit your particular painting needs.

I have used this and I highly recommend it for having fun pastel painting and saving money creating your own surfaces.

You can use gator board, a wood board, Hard board you can purchase at your local Lowes hardware store. I am sure other different papers will also make a suitable surface. You may have to experiment with other surfaces as you go along.

Golden Pastel Ground

Golden Pastel ground is very affordable at about 13.00 for an 8 oz container and you can find it on amazon or an art supply store. It looks milky in the jar but dries clear.

I personally like the grit of this better than clear gesso as it is a bit finer and doesn’t eat up your pastels as much. Clear gesso can be a tad more coarse in my opinion.

Example of tinted Golden Pastel Ground

Rita Kirkman is an amazing pastel artist and you can see how she uses this pastel primer in her work here on her youtube video.

She tints the pastel ground with fluid acrylics and sponges it on and makes that her underpainting.

Check out her work.

I dream of being able to take a workshop with her. I love her work her paintings all have a wonderful golden glow.

Artist videos on making your own pastel paper.

Below are artist videos I found useful as a beginner pastel artist. Since I am not up to the video making stage I thought I would share with you my favorite artists learning videos on youtube.

Susan Jenkins of Monet Cafe on Youtube.

She has a wide variety of pastel painting videos and I highly recommend her. She is a talented artist who shares her knowledge for free on youtube and you can learn tons from her.

Follow her channel and be sure to check out her facebook art group.

These are some helpful videos on making your own pastel paper, it is fun and affordable and you won’t be afraid to play and experiment by wasting expensive pastel papers.

Because playing and trying is where you learn!

The most important thing is that you feel free to learn and play.

This information is a resource on how to make your own papers and have affordable options.

My thoughts on having inexpensive art supply options

Often times I hear many people say “I will use the good stuff when I know what I am doing”.

I get that I did that too! I soon learned that my skills were much better than I thought they were when I choose to use better papers suited to the medium I was learning.

Better supplies don’t always have to cost a lot of money. You can find affordable ways to work with good stuff and not let cost hold you back from learning and enjoying your art.

I do believe when you can afford better suppiles you should invest in them. If you are enjoying a particular medium and are interested in continuing to make art then it’s worth the investment.

I also believe that you don’t have to break the bank to try a new medium and work with decent supplies and have some fun.

Many times if you ask questions in art groups you will find many people recommend the higher end supplies. And better quality supplies are different than student grade, which is what many of us start with.

But you may not want to make a huge investment at first and this article is to give you alternative options that are cost-effective.

I want everyone to be able to enjoy art and try new mediums that is why I did lots of research and tried things so I could share different options with you.

Everyone should be able to enjoy pastels if they are interested and try it out without spending big bucks

My pastel journey began with the less expensive stuff, after all, I didn’t know if I was going to like pastels as a medium for me.

I could not afford all the best stuff in the beginning and I made perfectly fine art with the affordable choices homemade papers and inexpensive pastel options.

So don’t let anyone tell you you need top-notch supplies to do art cause you don’t. They are nice to have and to work with but not an absolute thing to be able to enjoy art.

If you have any questions I am always happy to help. Just contact me.

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Pastel Art on a budget March 11, 2020 - 1:31 pm

[…] So if you were going to invest in a better level of supply I would say start with decent paper. You will find it will make a lot of difference. You can also check out my info on how to make your own pastel surface or paper more affordably here. […]

Zelda Ella July 24, 2020 - 11:50 am

I don’t actually know what I bought… I am new to pastels and haven’t used UArt before. It took forever to receive the product and the package was opened with paint on the outside. It looked like a reused outer package.
When I looked at the back, it just says “400” on it. I don’t know out of ignorance if this is the correct paper or if it was bought from a hardware store. The paper also curls awfully making my paintings have a crease in the middle from trying to overcompensate the other direction to flatten the paper out.

Michelle Therrien August 9, 2020 - 1:43 pm

Paper for pastel work would not come from a hardware store. It would come from an art supply store. May I suggest you look for the group Monet Cafe both on facebook as a group and youtube as well. She has many tutorials and much info that would help you in your pastel learning journey.


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