Surface matters when painting with pastels. Consider texture, color and thickness when choosing a surface for your pastel masterpiece. Similar to watercolors, pastels do best on specific surfaces. Where acrylic paints can be used on any surface from paper to canvas or wood, pastels work best on paper. Beginning artists will be come easily frustrated if they simply use paper they snagged from the printer tray. Treat yourself and your creative muse to paper with texture, colored paper and homemade textured paper.
Pastel Painting for Beginners: Which Paper Should I Use?
Rough vs. Smooth
Perhaps you like the way watercolor paints look on smooth paper rather than rough. That does not mean you will feel the same way about pastels. Which is better for your pastel working style? Beginning pastel artists will need to experiment with both types to get a feel for which paper suits their emerging pastel painting style.
Smooth Pastel Paper Quick Tips
– better for fewer layers
– ideal for detailed work
– holds soft blending well
Rough Pastel Paper Quick Tips
– better for heavy layers
– pick rough if you have a heavy hand and press your pastels hard into the surface
– suited for more expressive paintings
Unusual Papers for Pastel Painters
One of the coolest papers for pastel painting is velvet paper. High end art stores will carry this paper, in large sheets. Black provides a solid and dark background for beginners who want to try velvet paper. The results are different than you will find on regular pastel paper. A word of caution: the velvet pastel paper may tear easily in any area you have overworked. Sketch in your image first with a hard pastel to minimized having to rub out major mistakes later.
Watercolor paper offers rough or smooth textures, but is not the cheapest choice you can find for pastel painting.
From the Dollar Store to the hardware store, to the toolbox in your basement, the beginning pastel painter can get their art-happy hands on some sandpaper. Fine sandpaper offers beginning pastel artists a fully-textured paper, which the pastels love. Ideal for large strokes, not so good for blending, try experimenting with some fine sandpaper. The drawback to using sandpaper is that you will go through a lot of your pastel sticks quickly. The sandpaper may be cheaper than other surfaces, but you may end up spending more on pastels. Do not choose sandpaper to save money, choose it because it’s a good surface for pastels.