Tips, Tricks and Facts about Clairefontaine Pastelmat | Materials GuideApr 21, 2023
I am a big fan of Pastelmat, but artists tell me all the time that they're struggling to get used to it or they have questions about what the surface is like, the colour options, and the difference between the sheets and board, amongst other things. So, let me explain…
Difference between Pastelmat Sheet and Board:
When deciding between using Pastelmat sheet or board, it really is completely up to you and your personal preferences. The board is a lot thicker and sturdier than the sheets which means it's less likely to get creased or damaged and with it being so rigid it means you can stick it on canvas if you wanted to, but in terms of surface it's the same sheet just backed on a 1.8-millimetre board. Personally, I have found the surface to be a little more consistent on the board compared to the sheets, but with Pastelmat being manufactured the way it is, some are smoother and some are a little grittier, depending on the batch. This is something that doesn't bother me too much though because I love the surface so much and the opportunity it gives you to blend light over dark.
If you're wanting to purchase the sheets you can buy them in pad form, each pad with 12 sheets inside. There are six different pads of varying colour options, you can see me show you these options by watching the video here, and a couple of different size options. They also come with a sheet of glassine paper between them to help protect the delicate surface, because that is one thing you do need to be careful of with Pastelmat. You don't want any scratches or indents on your surface! These pads are a great option if you want to experiment with a few different coloured surfaces but don't want to commit to buying a large amount.
Pastelmat sheets can be easier to cut than board, but don’t let this put you off trying the board because as long as you have a nice sharp knife it can be just as simple. The best way is to use a steel safety ruler, a cutting board and a knife, how sharp the knife needs to be, depends on whether you're using the sheet or board. You can hear me talk more about how to safely cut Pastelmat at the end of the video here.
What Techniques to Use on Pastelmat:
One of the comments I hear most often is that people are struggling to get used to Pastelmat or the techniques they’re using aren’t working on it. The first thing I will say is that it’s a very different surface, especially if you're coming from a very smooth surface like Fabriano Artistico Hot Press or something like Bristol Smooth. Pastelmat is classed as an abrasive surface so the techniques you use are going to need to be different or you’re just going to get frustrated with why they’re not working.
One technique that you don't need to do is burnish, so you don't need to be pressing hard to try and get the pigment into the tooth instead, one of the techniques I use to help with the graininess, is layer light over dark. This may sound a little counterproductive, but by gently layering the light over the dark you will smooth and blend the colour beautifully. With the surface being grainy it's unavoidable that at points your drawing will appear, well grainy, but it really is about understanding that it's just the way it is and to trust the process!
To hear more tips and facts about Pastelmat you can watch my YouTube video here, and if you want to learn some more helpful techniques and how they differ from the techniques used on other surfaces, watch the video here.
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