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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Pastel FAQ: All About Pastelmat Paper

'The Lazy Days of Summer'           11x14         pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available click here to purchase $175

It's Thursday and time for my new blog topic....Pastel FAQ.  Every Thursday I will answer one of the many questions I get from you my wonderful readers!  Today I want to share some thoughts and information on Pastelmat paper. Have you tried Pastelmat yet?

Pastelmat is a paper that I really enjoy but I don't use it much. I always forget how much I enjoy it though and need to add it to my next paper order. In this post I will answer some questions about the paper. Let me know in the comments if you think of any additional questions.

What is Pastelmat paper?

Pastelmat is a paper for pastels made by Clairefontaine. It has a unique surface that feels smooth and velvety but takes a surprising number of layers of pastel. It is acid free, archival, lightfast,water resistant and comes in 8 colors. Here is some information taken from their website:

PASTELMAT® is a premium card surface (360gsm / 170lb) specially developed for pastelists. Its unique velvety surface, made from a fine coating of cellulose fibers, has the ability to grab and hold multiple layers of even the softest pastels. 
PASTELMAT® significantly reduces the need for fixative, which means that colors remain vibrant and fresh once applied. It has the added bonus of being gentle on both fingers and blending tools. It is acid free and lightfast.
PASTELMAT® is ideal for use with all dry media - pastel sticks, PanPastel, pencils and charcoal. It is also water resistant which means that it can be used with wet media – such as acrylics and watercolor for washes and mixed media techniques.

Is it a sanded paper?

It is sanded paper but it feels much like very smooth sandpaper.  The surface is on a nice heavyweight card 170 lb. It is made from a matrix of finely woven cellulose fibers. (think sponge)

Does it take a dry wash/underpainting?

Pastelmat does take wet underpaintings and washes. I have experimented with the paper and report on my findings below. 
TIP: Wet underpaintings work best on white or very light color papers. They don't show up well on dark or even the middle value colors.

A piece of white pastelmat paper used for a cloud demo....let's experiment!
 I used a piece of white Pastelmat that already had some pastel from a cloud demo I had done. Before trying a wet wash I decided to try to do a dry wash. One of my favorite ways to start a painting is to simply blend in the first layer of pastel with a piece of pipe insulation foam. I like to have a soft out of focus layer that covers all of the white of the paper.

It didn't work so well on the Pastelmat. I had used a few layers of Terry Ludwig soft pastels. I tried to rub them in with the pipe foam. The paper had initially grabbed the pastel and refused to let go! It was difficult to spread the pastel out from the area where I had initially applied it. I found that the more layers there were the more readily I could blend and spread the pastel.

This ability to grab the pastel and not let go is a good feature if you are concerned with pastel dropping off the paper. I don't use fixative but I can see how this paper would allow an artist to use less fixative. It really holds the pastel!

I had a hard time blending out the pastel with the foam. It didn't want to move!

Does Pastelmat take a wet wash / underpainting?

Yes it does. I tried both 70% isopropyl alcohol and water with different results for each. But for both wet washes I didn't get the drips and happy accidents that I usually get on my favorite paper Uart. That is because of the cellulose fiber makeup of the paper. It is truly like a sponge. It grabs the liquid and doesn't let it move...or drip or mingle. So the wet wash allowed me to tone the paper but it didn't do anything interesting or exciting.
See blow:
I used alcohol on the left and water on the right.
 NOTE:  The alcohol wash side dried in under 10 minutes...longer than on Uart but much faster than the side washed with water. The water side took about 30 minutes to dry! It was like a wet sponge. The alcohol side also dried FLAT while the side washed with water had a buckle and wave. I was able to flatten it under heavy books.

I have also tried watercolor on Pastelmat in the past and the white paper was wonderful. The colors were bright and vibrant.  The sponge-like surface prevented any blooming or running so again no happy accidents. I happen to like happy accidents!

The water side buckled slightly while the alcohol side stayed flat.

Several layers later and still going strong. I did use some workable fixative for texture.

close up

Available Pastelmat colors

Final Thoughts:

Like any paper Pastemat requires a learning curve. It takes several paintings to get to know how the paper performs. I recommend buying a few sheets or a pad and cutting them into smaller pieces for more practice opportunities. I find that the softer pastels work very well on this surface. I don't use PanPastels but I have heard that the smooth surface is a wonderful fit for the Pans since it is kind on the sponge tools.

UPDATE: A reader wrote the following: Hi Karen, I just read your blog on pastelmat. Pastelmat is also available in four other colors. Wine, dark blue, light blue and sand. They add a lot of possibility. Those colors and pads don't seem to appear on pastelmat websites. They are available through Dakota Art Pastels and in their catalog. Much more striking than the catalog shows, of course. 

 You can read more about Pastelmat on the website here:
It can be purchased on any online art store. Try Blicks here.

Do you have any pastel FAQ for me? Ask them in the comments below.


Gaye Sekula: Impressions said...

Thanks for the very informative post.

KAS said...

This was a thorough introduction to Pastelmat for me. Thank you!

Unknown said...

I love this new Thursday post Karen. You work so hard and successfully to give us everything we need to know. You are an exceptional teacher.

robertsloan2art said...

Great post! I loved your test with wet underpaintings especially, since I haven't ever tried that on Pastelmat. I like the multicolor pads so that I've always got pieces in the various colors, it's worth paying for the convenience. The pads also come with a sheet of glassine per sheet of paper, something I find a huge convenience when it comes to storing the finished art!

I bought it for use with Pan Pastels and found the same thing you did - it's like painting on the sticky side of tape. Early marks will not move at all, enough layers and blending becomes possible. This works really well with Pans, those otherwise blend like paint so it becomes hard to get hard edges and discrete marks when I want them.

The other type of pastels I love on PastelMat is pastel pencils! Not the softest pastels, but the smooth sticky texture allows me to get very fine details with a sharpened pastel pencil.

Unknown said...

Hi Karen
I'm a beginner at pastels and just tried first I so alcohol underpainting on light toned pastelmat using TL and Rembrandt pastels. It felt dry but probably waited around 5 mins then attempted 1st pastel layer with same brands but it scratched off and I think has damaged surface of pastelmat. Any suggestions to repair or prevent reoccurring?

Karen said...

Pastelmat does take much longer to dry since it is a sponge material. I am guessing it wasn't quite dry. You can't repair the surface with the same material although you can use any pastel ground over the paper to create new tooth and fix the spot. You can use clear gesso to fill in the spot and add tooth but I would cover the entire paper since it will be a rougher grit than the pastel mat.