All pastelists have their favourite papers. Of course, an acid-free
paper is a must to preserve the image and the stability of the pigment
on the surface. As artists we owe that to our customers.
Once that issue is taken care of though, it's a matter of tooth, or the actual surface of the a paper, we are most concerned with. Papers come in a range of colours, although again, it's a matter of preference and intent.
• If you tend to employ a more painterly approach to the use of pastel, the lightly sanded paper varieties are excellent. Kitty Wallis and Art Spectrum, for instance, hold more pigment and can take different treatments such as liquids and sprays. Pastelmat is a new paper from France with a satiny surface that surprisingly holds many layers
just as well as the more familiar sanded supports; it can be worked wet, scraped and generally handled roughly as long as the moisture doesn't spread to the paper support.
• La Carte, with its beautiful velvet-like surface, holds the pigment well too, but will not suffer any liquids or spray.
• Jack Richeson & Co. offers a premium pastel surface available on three different substrates: Gator board, hardboard and heavyweight paper that has a 'toothy' finish. Pastels can be applied with ease as the surface grabs and holds the pigment, layer after layer.
Rtistix and Uart are newer brands with sanded surfaces, solid backings and several degrees of fineness.
• Canson and Strathmore series are good papers to work with as well and can tolerate small whispers of sprays. They work quite well for vignettes and drawing in pastel.
• Watercolour paper (300 lb arches cold press) is a sturdy paper that can really take a beating and still come up looking great. You can start off with watercolour media for the underground painting and finish off with dry pastel on the surface. You can even make big changes right up to the final layer and take advantage of the undercolour when applying the final layer of pastel. A word of warning though — the tooth of the paper is wide and shallow and can support only a few layers of pastel.