Popular Pastelmat Paper and Van Gogh Soft Pastels Tested

Just when you thought you have tried out all types of pastel paper, along comes a new one that promises to be better. I have heard much about Clairefontaine’s Pastelmat paper, but I was a little sceptical. After all good pastel paper is plentiful. Would Pastelmat offer something different? Keep reading to find out plus check out the video review below.

Pastels and Paper

To test the paper I needed pastels. Fortunately, I had just received a new set of Van Gogh soft pastels from Royal Talens. The Van Gogh label from Royal Talens suggests a strong contender for top quality student pastels. This is a hotly contested market as artists look for the best materials at affordable prices. The Van Gogh products I have used offer excellent value for money. Would the soft pastels disappoint?

Pastels with a Difference

The first thing I noticed was the shape and feel of the pastels. They are somewhat thinner than typical soft pastels. The feel is firm and took me a few moments to get used to them. The pastels are machine-made and not hand-rolled, which accounts for their uniformity.

The next difference is the firmness of the pastel itself. When compared to Rembrandt artist’s pastels, also made by Royal Talens, this difference is marked. The Van Gogh pastels do not throw off as much dust and do not feel like they will crumble when you apply pressure. In contrast, the Rembrandt pastels feel softer, create more dust and will crumble if used too firmly. I am sure this will make Van Gogh pastels popular with most student artists.

Dust is one of the typical complaints made by artists using pastels so Van Gogh may have solved this problem with a firmer bound pastel.

Colour and Vibrancy

As you will note in the video Van Gogh pastels’ firmer nature does result in slightly less pastel coverage compared to a very soft pastel-like Rembrandt. Of course, you cannot expect the same pigment content in pastels costing a fraction of artist quality pastels. But despite this Van Gogh pastels are vibrant. There is also a large range of colours that should satisfy most artists.

The colour does not seem chalky nor do the pastel sticks want to slip over the paper leaving flat spots like cheap pastels often do. So far so good. How do the pastels perform on Pastelmat paper?

Unique Pastelmat Paper Surprises

The set of paper samples that I worked from included a large range of colours. From warm to cool the light to dark, the paper tones should satisfy most artists. The second thing I noted is the thickness of the paper. This is pastel card weighing in at 360g which means it will not easily tear or buckle. It has the expected archival properties too which means you can frame this paper and be confident that it will not warp or deteriorate in the frame.

Feel the Difference

When you touch the Pastelmat paper there is a big difference too. The paper has a fine-tooth but does not feel like a sanded surface. There is also a feel of some type of sealer that keeps the surface protected. You will know what I mean when you try out the paper for yourself. This is also apparent when you read Clairfontaine’s claim that fixative is not required between layers.

Also, the paper does not have a saturation effect after multiple layers. Big claims indeed. One of the chief frustrations with pastel paper is the saturation effect especially if you like a bold and heavy application of pastel.

A Paper Apart from the Pack

It was when I started using the paper that the difference stood out from typical pastel paper. Pastelmat creates a strong application of colour. The Van Gogh pastels looked beautiful and vibrant against the Pastelmat paper. Despite repeated layers, the pastel kept taking well. There was also very little dust build-up.

Usually, dust is falling across pastel paper after a few layers. But with the Pastelmat paper, I noticed a substantial reduction in dust build-up. Also no saturation despite many layers of colour. Of course, lower layers do influence subsequent colours, but the pastel kept working fine. No slipping or flaking took place.

Easy to Mix Pastel Colours

I did smooth and blend layers of pastel with my finger and the colours mixed easily over the smooth surface. The surface could still take pastel layers over the rubbed surface. It is unusual to find paper this easily workable.

A Winner for Pastel Papers

I have no hesitation in suggesting that Pastelmat is the best pastel paper that I have tested so far. For a professional pastel painting, I can see no rival. For the beginner, this paper may be more forgiving to errors and therefore make beginners feel more confident. The paper can be reused more often which will save money too.

Pastelmat works with other typical drawing mediums like pencil, charcoal and the like.

Van Gogh Pastels Value for Money

While these pastels are not going to take on the professional artist market they are going to be popular for beginners and enthusiasts. The strong colour and firm binding of the pigment means fewer breakages, dust and crumbling. A real plus for artists in my view. Add to this the reasonable price for a box of pastels, you have a significant reason to try these pastels.

YouTube video

Leave a Reply