Mounting Pastel Paper

24-vacuseal-press.jpg Wonderful questions keep coming in to the blog and I hope to answer many in the future. One of the most frequently asked questions is about mounting pastel paper—especially Wallis pastel paper—to a support before painting, and whether or not this has to be done professionally. The purpose of having paper mounted is to add stability and to facilitate the use of water-based underpaintings. When deciding whether to do it ourselves or whether to have it done professionally, we must consider cost versus archival standards.

Expense is always a concern, especially when we’re experimenting and going through a lot of paper, but certain techniques simply require the use of mounted paper. In addition, mounted paper is easier to deal with when framing and looks more professional when presented to the public. If your technique of applying pastel is “stroke” driven, versus the tactile “swipe” (my preference), pre-mounting and having the paper perfectly flat is not as important. Artist Kitty Wallis, the originator of the Wallis pastel paper, explains a simple procedure of tacking down the four corners in the literature provided with Wallis paper. That may be all that’s necessary to provide a flat enough surface for a stroke-driven pastel technique. Contact your Wallis paper supplier and ask for the Wallis paper user’s guide.

If, however, you plan to employ a water-based underpainting and require a perfectly smooth surface (like I do), you’ll need to pre-mount the paper before painting. When mounting paper, the main concerns are the longevity of the painting and the ability for future restoration procedures to be performed, if needed. For these reasons, my preference is the professional heat-press method, utilizing archival adhesive tissue and 100% rag museum board as the support. I rest assured that the galleries and clients who acquire my paintings have the very best in product. This requires professional equipment (see photo of large, professional vacuum heat press) and a bit of training, but is the standard utilized by professional photographers for decades and recognized as the most secure.

There are two sources for pre-mounted Wallis paper: Dakota Art Supply (tel: 888/345-0067) has their paper archival mounted to a 100% rag conservation board (which is a little stiffer than rag museum board) leaving practically no mounting board boarder showing around the edge; and Central Art Supply (tel: 800/863-1444) utilizes 100% rag museum board, leaving a boarder around the paper that makes it easy to attach to a drawing board (adding support and making it less prone to warping when using a wet technique). Both of these companies have high standards and are a pleasure to deal with.

In next week’s blog, I’ll discuss methods for mounting pastel paper ourselves, utilizing PH neutral adhesives (and a little effort!).

Photo courtesy of Central Art Supply

Richard, who has long been a contributing writer for The
Pastel Journal, is now a regular columnist for the magazine’s Pastel
Pointers column. See his first column of 2008 (about staying motivated
in our art-making) in the current February 2008 issue.


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3 thoughts on “Mounting Pastel Paper

  1. Chris Coyle

    Hello: I’m trying to figure out how to mount my Wallis paper and have questions about your dry mounting method. I have a dry mounting press (a Jumbo 150) and Seal MT5 left from my previous days as a photographer. Can I use this press and adhesive to mount my Wallis paper? Or is there a different type of adhesive tissue that works better? I’ve been looking at all the available products but don’t know which adhesive paper works best. Also, my press is not big so I have to press large pieces in two steps – do you think that’s OK? I’ve done it with photos but not Wallis. And one more question… can you dry mount a painting that has already been painted (without ruining it?). Lots of question! Thank you.

  2. Richard McKinley

    Bill, Welcome to the pastel community! I use soft pastels exclusively, so that is what I would recommend. Oil pastels are really a separate medium. You will gain a lot of insight from the Pastel Journal Magazine, these web sites, and the pastel forums on the Wet Canvas site. Enjoy, Richard

  3. Bill Delahanty

    I am just starting out painting with pastels. Please tell me which kind of pastel sticks I should buy when just starting; oil or soft ?

    Thanks, Bill Delahanty