When working with pastels, you have to consider not only the tools in your hands but also the surface you’re working with. Pastel paper, which is textured and thicker than copy paper, can make or break your final artwork. A good-quality sheet should have excellent grabbing power, with enough tooth to hold on to the pigments of your pastel. The amount of grain to choose, though, will depend on whether you are working with oil or chalk, dry or wet, and how many layers you intend to build up. Pastel paper is sold in pads as well as sheets, which are a convenient form for ready-to-display work. Our picks below will help you find your go-to brand for the latter.
1. UART Sanded Pastel Paper
Available in seven grades offering a wide range of toothiness, UArt’s paper is at the top of our list for its durability and reliable responsiveness to all kinds of pastel media. The sheets are sanded and made through a computer-controlled coating process that results in a tough surface that is uniform and consistent. Whether you are using sheets with a superfine texture or a larger tooth, you’ll find that the grains accept both hard and soft pastels without easily degrading. You can freely layer and blend without building up dust or getting muddied results.
2. Canson Mi-Teintes Drawing Sheets
Canson’s 98-pound papers are a popular option among pastel artists for their ease of use and variety of color options. Made of paper with a 55 percent cotton rag content, which helps prevent your works from deteriorating, these sheets are compatible with hard or soft pastels as well as dry and wet processes; they retain their form quite well with little warping. They also offer flexibility, having a rough texture on one side and a smoother texture on the other. As for the preexisting colors, these result from vat-dyeing the fibers and won’t be influenced by any colors you apply.
3. Art Spectrum Colourfix Pastel Paper
These papers are coated with an acrylic primer formulated with coarse-ground pigment and a mix of silica. The resulting surface, available in multiple colors, has a fine tooth and is very hard wearing: You can use a heavy hand, whether erasing or drawing, without ruining the sheets. This paper also stands out not only for its various colors—saving you the effort of making your own pastel surfaces—but for its white border. This can serve as material to slip beneath a mat board, or as a practical surface to hold without touching your creations.
4. Fabriano Tiziano Paper
Made in Italy, these are top-quality papers that deserve your finest work. While thinner than Canson’s product, these sheets are a touch more durable and can handle more layers of pastel. They are made of 40 percent cotton and are slightly rough, with a grainy surface that looks natural rather than mechanically woven. Colors look luminous, while details from shading and layering don’t get lost. You can blend, erase, and paint to your heart’s content without overwhelming the fibers or ending up with a buckled sheet.
5. Strathmore 500 Series Pure Paper Tints
Black paper is a great option if you gravitate toward pieces that largely have dark values. If you use a lot, we recommend Strathmore’s sheets, which are a deep and rich black. Made of 40 percent cotton, these acid-free sheets have a good amount of tooth to hold a lot of pastel, and they allow bright colors to really shine. They are quite thin, however, so are better used for drawing rather than painting; the surface can buckle if coated with too much liquid.