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Preparing Pastel Supports

Fox Bay, Falklands

In my explorations using acrylics and working with pastels on hardboard or grey board, I have experimented with using acrylic textures pastes and a variety of pastel grounds that are now available from art suppliers.

These include Golden Pastel Ground, sand texture and course pumice pastes, Golden Pastel Ground and Absorbent Ground, and Art Spectrum Colourfix™ Primer.

Golden pastes are usually white or opaque and their grounds are a sort of off white/greyish tone which are ideal for adding light or covering over areas.

Golden Pastel Ground dries clear so can be applied as a transparent layer over other painted surfaces. Artspectrum Colourfix Primers on the otherhand provide clear or tinted pastel grounds along with paper already prepared with their ground.

On the whole I find it more economic to buy the ground for application on paper, card or board.

The most cost effective method is using Artspectrum Colourfix clear or Golden Pastel Ground which is available in large tubs (60 to 250ml) and can be tinted with acrylic paints such as Golden Fluid Acrylics or Acrylic Inks. Or in some cases heavier body acrylics can be used.

However proportionally not more than 50% of paint should be added as it weakens the effectiveness of the pastel ground (i.e. results in too many patchy flat areas).

Pastel Ground mixed with acrylic paint
Pastel Ground mixed with acrylic paint


Both Golden and Artspectrum grounds have a sandy texture which can hold a lot more pastel when compared to pastel paper.

The Benefits

After having worked with Pastel papers, pastel mat & velour in the past it was nice to finally find a support which

a) Held several layers of pastel (enabling great colour and depth to be achieved)

b) Did not grip the pastel so tight it was almost impossible to blend with a brush or by hand

c) Provided the opportunity to add texture where needed

d) Opened up the possibility to work in a much larger scale (i.e. larger than standard pastel paper sizes).

I have found the Golden Pastel ground to be slightly finer and less coarse than Artspectrum hence more suited to fine detailed work.

How to use & prepare

This medium can be applied to MDF board, Canvas boards, grey or mount board, watercolour paper and other surfaces that can take wet working.

The ground or pastes can be applied using brushes, palette knives, rollers, scrapers.  Soft rollers and brushes are not very suitable for heavier pastes or mediums. I find that a good 2″ Motler brush gives a good event coverage of the surface. After applying the medium the brush should be run from side to side whilst partly bending the bristles to smooth out any ridges and bumps before leaving to dry.

When working on untreated surfaces such as MDF or grey board I normally sand and prepare the surface with 2-3 coats of gesso or two coats gesso and one coat of acrylic paint followed by gently sanding it prior to applying the medium.

I also apply a coat of gesso on the back of the working surface. This helps seal the support making it archival and acid free whilst also helping keep the surface flat where the support may have a tendency to warp or bend when dampened.

Prepared surfaces should be laid flat during drying and  storage to avoid warping or bending.

Example of use

In Fox Bay, Falklands below I used Golden Pastel ground mixed with Golden Fluid Acrylic paint and applied it to a canvas board panel with a palette knife and brush for the mountainous and rocky areas. This provided a good underpainting and helped me decide on the tonal composition for the painting.

Fox Bay Falklands, Pastel & Mixed Media, 65 x 45 cm (SOLD)
Fox Bay Falklands, Pastel & Mixed Media, 65 x 45 cm (SOLD)


When dried the painting was developed by scrumbling the area with pastel.  The texture and rough surface created using the palette knife made it easy to achieve the rocky and grassy textural effects.

The effects that can be achieved using a combination of texture pastes and pastel grounds is endless, so really recommend experimenting with some of these ideas for yourself! If you do let me know how you get on.

Where to get it

Most of the Golden texture pastes and grounds can be found at Jackson’s Art Supplies.  Visit ArtSpectrum to see the selection of colours and a list of distributors.






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