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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Tips for Working on Canson Paper

'Forest Reverie'             9x12             pastel             ©Karen Margulis
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 It's the paper we love to hate. It is often the paper we use when we first discover pastels. Canson Mi-Teintes paper. It is inexpensive and readily available. We often choose it over sanded paper because of these reasons. It is the 'training' paper of choice. But when we discover sanded paper it is often hard to go back to Canson.

I happen to love Canson Mi-Teintes paper. It wasn't always the case. I struggled with it. It seemed as though my colors weren't as fresh. I filled the tooth too quickly and my paintings quickly turned muddy and dull. I stopped using it and turned to sanded papers.

Curiosity and seeing other wonderful work done on Canson encouraged me to give it another try. This time I was ready for it. I had learned more about pastels and refined my touch. That was the key! Now I understood how to get the effects I wanted. I loved the soft feel to the paper. It is now one of my favorite papers.

Give it another try! Here are 3 tips to get you started:


 1. Choose the correct side.  Canson has a smooth side and a bumpy side. The official correct side is the bumpy side. Most pastelists prefer the other side which is smooth. If you like a regular texture throughout your painting then you want the bumpy side. If you don't want any texture choose the smooth side. TIP: Hold the paper under a light to better see the little dimples of the bumpy side then tape it down right away! (before you forget which side you want)

2. Work with a LIGHT TOUCH. Canson paper does not have much tooth or grabbing power. It is easy to get too much pastel on the paper. When that happens you are finished! The more you try to add the muddier the painting will be.  If you start the painting with a very light touch and whisper your pastel strokes you will be able to build more layers. Let the tone of the paper show through. If you can't see the paper in your beginning layers your touch is heavy. For more layering... whisper don't shout.

The heavily applied pastel looks thick and muddy. The lightly applied pastel looks light and airy.
3. Use Softer pastels. You can certainly use hard pastels such as NuPastels and Rembrandts on Canson but they don't give you the same look as the softer pastels. I have more success with softer pastels such as Terry Ludwig pastels.  Diane Townsend pastels work especially well since the pumice in them opens up the paper.

A light touch with softer pastels on the smooth side of the paper is my recipe for success.

Bonus tip: Try lightly sanding the surface of the paper to rough it up some and provide more tooth.

Here is some information about Canson Mi-Teintes from the Canson website:
Canson® Mi-Teintes® is a pulp-dyed colour paper that has won worldwide recognition for its qualities. An authentic art paper: it is gelatine stock-sized which limits the absorption of pigments in order to show colours at their best.
It has the highest cotton content (more than 50%) on the market, combining mechanical resistance and a sensuous feel. In addition to its qualities as a drawing medium, Canson® Mi-Teintes® complies with the ISO 9706 standard on permanence, a guarantee of excellent conservation.
Furthermore it has the advantage of having a different texture on either side: a honeycombed side characteristic of Canson® Mi-Teintes®; and fine grain on the other.
It boasts the richest range of colours on the market, with 50 light-resistant tones.

3 comments:

robertsloan2art said...

Love this article! Canson Mi-Tientes is one of my favorite papers. I had the advantage of working with it for decades before discovering any sanded or coated papers.

What I do to distinguish the smooth side is lightly pencil the color name on the bumpy side. When I cut the sheet, I mark all the pieces while measuring it to keep the labels on the bumpy side. If I really want to paint on the weave side I can just erase that, or leave it because I usually do it right at the edge anyway.

But I'm more likely to do that using the pads. The weave side is up on all the bound pads, which is annoying. Occasionally I'll use it and use the effects but I'll mostly use the smooth side.

ChrisD said...

I started with Canson paper too, years ago. I still have a few sheets. Prompted by your article, I went into my old collection of work and pulled out things that I'd done on Canson paper, mainly with harder pastels (because that's all I had in 1990).
Looking at them, I realised that I could probably tackle the paper better now, being in possession of a bigger range of hard and soft pastels....I don't have a heavy touch, so I ought to follow your suggestions and have a go with it again. There are some lovely colours in the paper-range.

D S Brickler said...

Thank you for your blog on Canson Mi-Teintes paper. That paper is purposely created with two textures so th artist have a choice. Traditional artist wanted a heavy texture for building layers of pastels and or charcoal. Degas and Picasso both used the textured side but Matesse liked the smooth side for his Blue Nude.

Ed S Brickler
Education Director
Canson Inc.