Tips for choosing paper for pastels – Best Paper for Oil Pastels


How to choose paper for pastels?

For artists mastering such a painting technique as pastel, it is important to take into account many nuances in the choice of tools, and very carefully follow the quality of shading and smoothness of the lines. Only in this way, the work will turn out without a single flaw.

For artists who master such a painting technique as pastel, it is important to take into account the many nuances in the choice of tools, very carefully to monitor the quality of shading and smoothness of the lines. Only in this way, the work will turn out without a single flaw.

Pastel paper

Very important is a suitable “basis”, because what paper is chosen for oil pastels or drawings created with pastels, depends on the saturation of shades and the smoothness of color transitions. What paper is needed for pastels, we’ll tell you below.

A word or two about the technique

Pastel is a unique way of painting. It involves the application of sketches, sketches, and finishing touches on the surface with colored dry pastels, oil, or wax. Drawings made in this technique are quite expressive thanks to the bright colors and smooth lines.

To achieve the desired effect, you need not only to decide on what paper to draw with pastels but also to choose a suitable type of pastel:

  • dry: they consist of pigment and binding components – dextrin and gum arabic. They are better used by experienced artists because the work with dry pastels is quite sensitive;
  • oil pastels: they contain linseed oil and wax, which makes them easy to put on paper. Compared to dry pastels, it is less fastidious. Suitable for beginner artists;
  • wax: it is made with the addition of wax. This material has a saturated hue and a dense texture. It is considered optimal for children’s creativity, as it is comfortable to work with, does not flow, and contains no harmful components.

Choose the material for creating drawings, based on the level of training and the picture you expect to see. If your goal is to make drawings with clear lines and saturated colors, choose a material with an admixture of wax or oil. In all other cases, it’s worth learning how to work with dry pastels.

Pros and cons working with pastel

The pros of pastels:

  • The simplicity of work. By and large, you only need paper and crayons. There are no specific techniques or rules for working with this material. You can easily apply color, mix and remove.
  • Lightfastness. Unlike other materials, pastels do not burn out in the sun, do not fade, and do not change their color over time.
  • Color nuances. Pastel gives the soft transitions of color, it is easy to portray portraits that have subtle color nuances.
    Velvety. A layer of pastel gives a beautiful velvety surface.

The Cons:

  • Or rather, one disadvantage is that loose pastels crumble or smudge. It should either be painted on a rough surface or immediately framed under glass. Fixing the pastel surface with varnish leads to color changes.

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Base color

Now moving on to the question of what paper to draw with pastels for the novice artist. The first aspect to which it is worth paying attention in the shade of the base. The result depends on it. Masters in choosing the color of the canvas recommend adhering to four principles:

Refuse a shade that coincides with the main range of the drawing, otherwise, the picture will resemble a blurred spot. It is better to play on contrasts.

  • Remember that the color of paper makes the “related” shades more intense and expressive. For example, turquoise or blue lines will be more noticeable on a blue background, and burgundy or pink on a red one;
  • on paper in a neutral shade (beige, ivory) both dark and light colors look equally saturated;
  • white paper for oil pastels is a wrong decision because the individual fragments of the background will have to paint over for a long time. The only exception to the rule is the artistic intention of the master, providing for the presence of white spots on the canvas;
  • Before choosing a background shade, carefully consider what colors you will use when painting.


The second important characteristic is the texture of the base. It can be anything from velvety to grainy. Let’s consider each option in detail.

  • Velour: its surface resembles a soft, noble material – velvet. Available in rolls of different colors.
  • Sansfix: it looks like stock designed for taking notes. It comes in neutral colors. Beginners who are trying their hand at drawing and learning new techniques will appreciate it. Another bonus of working with Sansfix is that you do not need a fixer because the picture does not require additional processing.
  • Sandy: its alternative name is sandpaper. It is dense, practical, and has a rough surface. In its manufacture, bright pigments are used, which over time can burn in the sun or change their shade due to the impact of moisture. It is advisable to take these subtleties into account to keep the picture in pristine condition for as long as possible.
  • Cabinet: A canvas with a grainy surface, dense and stiff. Recommended for creating large-scale paintings.
  • Watercolor: It is hot-pressed and has a fine-grained surface. It is dense, resistant to direct ultraviolet rays.

Which pastel paper is ideal for you depends on the creative idea and experience with dry, oil, or wax pastels.

In any case, to have an idea of the features of velour or watercolor base, you need to work with them at least two or three times.

Composition and production technology

Choosing the basis for the future picture, it is desirable to study the composition of the canvas and the features of the technology involved in the production process.

In profile stores, you can find paper for oil pastels, made of cotton fibers. It is durable, does not absorb moisture, and retains the true color of the pigment for a long time.

  1. There is a paper made of 50% cotton and 50% bamboo fiber. It has a porous structure and a characteristic yellowish hue. When using this material, one should take care about the optimum temperature and humidity level in the room where the sketch is kept; otherwise, the colors will “float” or change the shade by a couple of tones.
  2. One more variant of composition is 10% of cotton and 90% of bamboo fiber. Such a base is considered ideal for drawings for which mixed techniques are used. Because the paper has a textured surface, the image looks expressive and bright.
  3. Some manufacturers offer products based on cellulose (100%). In appearance and quality, it is not inferior to products made of cotton, while retaining not only the brightness of colors but also shape.

As for manufacturing techniques, the most popular is considered to be a cylindrical printing machine, similar to hand molding. Thanks to the use of unique manufacturing methods, we get webs that do not deform over time, retain pigment color, are resistant to moisture, and direct ultraviolet rays.

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Best Papers for Pastel

Strathmore Series Pastel Pad

Strathmore Series Pastel Pad


  • 80lb / 118g/m²;
  • quality for advanced artist.

Faber-Castell Black Paper Pad

Faber-Castell Black Paper Pad


  • made from 50% post consumer recycled materials;
  • 110 GSM.

Canson XL Series Black Drawing Paper

Canson XL Series Black Drawing Paper


  • 92 lb/180 g;
  • highest grade pigments and fade-resistant dyes.

CANSON Mi-Teintes Pastel Assorted Colors Pad

CANSON Mi-Teintes Pastel Assorted Colors Pad


  • 50% cotton, gelatin-sized papers;
  • 98 pound/160-gram paper.

Clairefontaine PastelMat Pastel Card Pad

Clairefontaine PastelMat Pastel Card Pad


  • the paper within the pad is 360 gsm;
  • suitable for dry pastels.

Arteza Gray-Toned Sketchbooks

Arteza Gray-Toned Sketchbooks


  • 81 lb / 120 gsm;
  • fine-toothed for dry media.

U.S. Art Supply Premium Pastel Paper Pad

U.S. Art Supply Premium Pastel Paper Pad


  • For hard or soft pastel, oil pastel, and other mixed media;
  • 80 lb / 180 gms.

UART Sanded Pastel Paper

UART Sanded Pastel Paper


  • paper is ph neutral and acid free;
  • paper with consistent grain application.


Some artists avoid fixing their work as a whole because they consider the brittleness of the pastel and the brightness of the colors to be very essential. Undoubtedly, the use of fixative does degrade the surface qualities to a certain extent and also darkens the colors. This is especially noticeable when working on dark or medium-toned paper, as any light pastel colors are “absorbed” by the paper.

But it is known that images on pastel drawings can easily be smudged. Fixing really is a valuable means of protecting your work. Line drawings that have no layers can be fixed on the reverse side. This only affects the surface qualities to some extent, but such a method can only be used for thin paper. When fixing on the front side, use the spray as sparingly as possible to avoid dampening the paper excessively. Paper that is too wet can make the colors interact and penetrate each other. Two or three light sprays are safer than a single spray.

Fixers can also be used directly during the painting process if the pastel layer prevents you from applying further strokes or if you need to make corrections. Be prepared to wait for the paper to dry before applying further color.


Selecting paper for pastels (dry, oil, or wax) is a process that requires the utmost attention to detail.

In order to choose the right base, you need to pay attention to the composition of the canvas, the technology of production, the initial shade of the canvas, the texture. Also, you need to know the optimum storage conditions of a particular paper. Especially important is the required level of temperature and humidity.

How to Easily Blend Colors – Video

Additional Questions

Can oil pastels be used on pastel paper?

Yes, certainly. Oil pastels can absolutely be used on a variety of paper types, including pastel paper. Part of the beauty of oil pastels is their versatility. They are wax-based, which allows them to perform exceptionally well on both smooth and textured surfaces. This makes them suitable for pastel paper, renowned for its slightly rough texture that’s loved by artists. In my experience, using oil pastels on pastel paper delivers optimal results, regardless of your drawing style.

What type of tissue paper is best for blending oil pastels?

While it partially comes down to personal preference and the specific effect you are trying to achieve, the consensus is that a thinner tissue paper tends to provide a smoother blend for oil pastels. Personally, I’ve found thinner tissue paper to perform exceptionally well when aiming for softer, more seamless transitions between colors. But don’t rule out thicker tissue paper just yet, it can also be beneficial. It allows for layering, giving your artwork more depth and complexity. Conversely, you can get creative and use a variety of tissue paper types to play with textures and create unique looks.

Is mixed media paper suitable for oil pastels?

Indubitably, yes. Mixed media paper is not only suitable but is often the premium choice for both beginners and pro artists alike when it comes to oil pastels. With mixed media paper, you have room to experiment and test new materials, making it an invaluable tool for enhancing your art practice. This kind of paper is ideal for most dry mediums – oil pastels, crayons, pencils, and graphite included. Through years of working with different media, I’ve found mixed media paper to consistently deliver high-quality results with oil pastels, making it my go-to option.

Why aren’t my oil pastels sticking to the paper?

There could be a couple of reasons why your oil pastels are not adhering to the paper. The primary issue tends to be with the paper’s surface or ‘tooth.’ If the tooth is too filled, your pastels may struggle to stick. Likewise, if the paper has been treated with an oily or plastic-like substance, pastel adhesion can also be compromised. The prime culprit is usually a paper issue—either too full of previous pigments or processed with a substance that repels the pastels. This has been a trial and error discovery through my years of experience. A simple paper switch is often the solution.

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