Pastel Pointers | Commercial Pastel Primers and Grounds

At the end of last year, I posted a couple blogs about “Homegrown Surfaces” on December 12 and December 19. These covered the topics of substrates and the components required to make a homemade pastel ground. With the ever-increasing popularity of pastel, a number of commercial vendors have manufactured pre-mixed pastel primers/grounds. These ready-made commercial products make it easy for a pastel artist to prepare their own surface without having to amass ingredients. They have a long shelf life; keep the grit particulates suspended well (requiring little advance mixing); often come in a variety of hues, tints and shades; and can be altered to accommodate individual tastes.

pastel pointers on commercial pastel primers and grounds

A sampling of various commercial pastel primer/grounds.

Each pastel primer and pastel grounds brand has its own unique characteristics. A few that are readily available and worthy of consideration are:

  • Art Spectrum Colourfix Pastel Primer: Available in 20 lightfast colors, including clear, these primers can be intermixed. Additional acrylic paint, watercolor, permanent inks and gouache can also be added to create various color outcomes. It is fine-toothed and bonds well to a variety of substrates. Art Spectrum has closely matched the primers with a selection of Colourfix Pastels, adding to the possibilities.
  • Golden Acrylic Ground for Pastel: Made specifically for the pastel artist, this ground is heavier in viscosity and generally needs to be thinned with 20-40% water. Thicker applications will produce a painterly texture. Acrylic paint can be added for effect and it is well suited for acrylic or oil underpaintings due to its high acrylic content.
  • Golden Fine Pumice Gel: This gel is less course and thinner in viscosity than Acrylic Ground for Pastel. It can be thinned with water (up to 20% is recommended) or used directly to produce a more painterly texture. It is also compatible with underpaintings created in a variety of media.
  • Liquitex Clear Gesso. This is a very clear ground that allows the under-surface to be visible. It accepts various underpainting media and can be colored with acrylic paints, producing a translucent effect.
  • Lascaux Pastelground. This ground is made in the Swiss tradition of exacting quality to conservation standards. It is ultra smooth, uniform in consistency, fine toothed, buff-white in color, and can be mixed with acrylic colors to produce various shades and tints.

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No matter the primer/ground utilized, and whether it be homemade or commercially made, the substrate will play a major part in the final tactile nature of the surface. It’s wise to do sample testing in advance of undertaking a major surface preparation session. Otherwise, you may end up having to redo the surfaces. Begin by preparing a variety of substrates and primer/ground combinations, making note of what you used and in what proportion. Grant yourself the luxury of experimentation, without the intimidation to produce a masterpiece, by taking a composition you are familiar with, possibly from a successful painting you have already done, and paint it on the various surfaces. You’ll learn which suits your artistic temperament best. Then, you can prep additional surfaces in various sizes to have at the ready when the inspiration strikes.


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