Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Pastel Question: What Color Paper Should I Use?

'Good Morning Marsh'            11x14          pastel        ©Karen Margulis


It begins with a piece of paper. That is one of the first things I decide on before I start a painting. Will I use paper or a board?  Will I choose sanded or unsanded?  Will I be doing an underpainting or toning the surface?  My choice will effect the outcome of the painting.

I often hear students tell me they just choose the next piece of paper on the pile. Or Use up whatever scraps they have. Or use the cheapest paper because they aren't good enough for the good stuff (that's for another discussion!)

If you don't put thought into your paper choice you are doing your painting a disservice.  Paper choice can make or break a painting.  One of the biggest things to consider is the color of the paper.


Many brands of pastel papers comes in colors. I usually play it safe and choose the warm middle value colors. These warm grays seem to work well with most subjects and I don't mind having the color peek through the finished painting.

This is important!  The color of the paper will end up peeking through your layers of pastel unless you apply pastel very dense and thick.  So you want to be sure the color you choose will work with the colors in your subject.  These little bits of color can enhance your subject or help create a certain mood.

The color of the paper will also effect your judgement of values so this is something to be aware of when you choose a paper color.

So the question is What color paper should you use? Here are three pairings done with the same pastels but in different paper colors. Observe the subtle changes each color gives the painting.




(from top to bottom) Burgundy Canson, Brown Canson, blue gray Canson

There is no rule or 'right' paper color to use. It depends on the mood you want to create. The more you experiment and try different colors the easier it will become to make more intuitive color choices.

*TIP*  If you aren't sure what color will work best with your subject, take some time to do some quick color studies on the paper choices to compare and contrast. These little 4x4 paintings helped me decide which color I like best for the bigger painting.

3 comments:

BJR said...

What a beautiful painting! I've been using ink for awhile...it's about time I break out my pastels again. This painting really urges me to do that! I ALWAYS enjoy your paintings and thoughts. I learn so much here. Thanks!!

Karen said...

Thank you very much for following! I really appreciate it! Let me know how the pastels go! They are so much fun!

Claudia Lenoir said...

Your blog is quite a gift! I was stuck wondering which color paper to use and your advice to experiment gave me the "permission" I needed. Love your art, and your spirit.