pastel pencil bee drawing

The Best Pastel Paper for Wildlife Drawings

In my last blog, I looked at the right type of pastel paper to create the best drawings possible. This time, we are going to delve a little deeper into the best pastel paper, (in my opinion!). Just a note, I am not sponsored by any of the materials I mention in this post.

Which is the best pastel paper colour?

Alright, so you have your Clairefontaine pastelmat paper or board but aren’t sure which colour to use for your drawing. This is a key stage of creating your work and shouldn’t be rushed. Using the wrong colour will make the process so much harder and frustrating!

The problem is that a lot of this is a personal choice, some people really like certain visual effects. However, there are a few technical points that will massively narrow down your options. To find which is the best pastel paper for your drawing, you’ll need to create some palettes.

Create your pastel palettes

The best place to begin is with a starter pack of paper, this will give you a few colour options. To start with, cut off a two-inch strip of every piece of paper and grab your pencils so that we can have a play. Next, we will need to create little tester swatches, as you do for wall paint.

It’s best to draw the swatches in the same order, so, start with your first pencil and create a little square on every page. With a sharp pencil note down the number underneath it. Keep going until you have a variety of little tester swatches. You can do every pencil in the tin or just those that you think you’ll need for the project at hand.

pastel paper
Pastel Paper Palette

I tend to have general palettes of my most used pencils laying around so I have an idea of what’s what before I begin work. Creating swatches of the greys and earth tones are most important unless you plan to draw many flowers or parrots?

Working out the best pastel pencil paper from your palettes

Now that you have a variety of palettes at your fingertips, you can see what a difference it makes. You’ll also see that the best pastel paper for the job changes depending on the subject you’re drawing. You’ll notice that the lighter papers, such as the white and maize, make all of the greys appear very dark. Even a lot of the yellow pencils look dark!

Hence, these lighter papers can be tricky to achieve bright and light-filled drawings, especially if, like me, you don’t add backgrounds. That’s something to consider, as light pastel pencils can’t overpower a dark pastel. So, if you get to the end and realise the whole drawing is very dark, it’s unlikely you can easily fix it.

pastel paper colours
Pastel Paper Colours

You have a similar issue with the dark papers. The dark blue, dark green, wine and dark grey make all of your dark pencils appear lighter than normal. The difference between the dark pencils can also be hard to tell, as they just fade into the same darkish blob. So, if your subject is a black bear, I’d probably steer clear of these papers!

You can also see that the dark pastel mats make bright colour pop right out. I use this to my advantage in some works, like the moths below. Here I use the range in contrast to make the colour of the cinnabar moth appear even more vivid!

Middle of the road

It might seem a little boring, but for many drawings, you need something that’s in between. It doesn’t make your dark pencils appear very dramatic like the white card can. Neither will it make your cinnabar moth pop out quite so much, but these papers give you the best range.

The papers which are midtone, (this means in terms of light and dark they sit between white and black 50/50), tend to work best. These are your all-round ‘best pastel paper’ as you get a good amount of contrast to make the light pencil bright and the same contrast to make the darks dark.

Equally, if we use something like Sand, which is a very neutral paper, then we get earthy tones back. This is why I use sand for many of my drawings as it helps things to appear natural. We get a lot of soft browns in nature, so some of this colour showing through is a good compliment.

Likewise, the light blue, although more colourful, reflects the natural world. This is another midtone paper and we often find blue reflections in our subjects from the sky. The blue will make its complementary colour, orange, a little more intense but we still retain a natural look.

The best pastel paper for mood

Pastel pencil fox drawing cub and mother very cute
‘A Mother’s Love’ which is an online class now available

The last thing to consider, and which might make your choice for you, is mood. Think about what you want this piece to say, how you want people to feel. If you want them to feel energised and cheerful, then the light blue would work nicely. If you want it to be dramatic or powerful then try dark paper instead.

Should you need the background to be supportive to the subjects but not overtake them, then the sand is a good choice. I used the sand for the fox online lesson because it is calm and soft. It matches the tone of the drawing very well. I could have used the light blue to make the ginger more firey, but it would have also made the drawing more energised.

Little touches like this can make the world of difference. So next time you reach for your pastelmat, just stop and think ‘is this going to help me tell the story better?’. You never know, it could be the making of your drawing!

Time to get drawing

If you have any questions or would like some feedback on your work, just drop it into the community. It’s totally free and I give out feedback to everyone every week! To find us click the button or search ‘Emily Rose Fine Art Drawing Class’ on Facebook and I’ll let you in.

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