Jackie Simmonds tries out Clairefontaine Pastelmat and finds that, although very smooth, this pastel paper has a good tooth and is a pleasure to work on.

About Pastelmat

Top features:
  • Good choice of colours available
  • Holds the pastel well
  • Smooth surface
  • Water resistant

Pastelmat paper combines the advantages of both gritty and velour surfaces – its smoothness is very surprising, given that the paper is coated with a very fine cork grain that grabs and holds the pastel well.

A first pass with a stick of pastel leaves a layer on the surface that will not easily shift, despite the fact that the surface allows for blending with a finger. When you do blend, very little pastel is lost.

Blending with a tissue proves that despite feel and appearances, there is plenty of tooth to the surface as bits of tissue are shed, so it is not be to recommended. But unlike sanded surfaces that will take the skin off your fingers, Pastelmat is smooth, and gentle on the fingers.

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Where to buy

Clairefontaine Pastelmat can be purchased from Jackson's Art Supplies by clicking here and from art shops and other online retailers.

Working on Pastelmat

Test one

Pastel Landscape

Landscape, pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat natural sienna coloured paper, (30x24cm)

The lovely earthy tone of the natural sienna Pastelmat paper, a cross between grey and brown, worked as a good foil for the six warm and three cool colours (see below) I chose to draw the landscape above.

The side of the pastel gave me good coverage and blended areas, while the edge of the pastel was used towards the bottom of the image to suggest long grasses

Test two
Landscape on coloured paper

Landscape, pastel on Clairefontaine Pastelmat Buttercup coloured paper, 8x8in (20.5x20.5cm)
For my second test I used a small selection of colours and allowed the yellow of the buttercup Pastelmat paper to glow through in places, which reinforced, by contrast, the cool colours (see below) of the pastels used.
I mostly used the side of my pastels to sweep colour on to the paper, and worked one colour over another, which provided interesting visual mixes

Water resistance

According to the Pastelmat website the paper is water resistant, so I tried using a watercolour wash as an underpainting.

Other cork surfaces I have used in the past would lift completely when touched with water, but there were no ill effects on this surface.

The water did creep into cauliflower edges, but given that pastel was going to be used over the top when dry, this did not matter.

Drying takes some considerable time and colours fade markedly as the surface dries, so if you wish to try this procedure it could be best to use gouache or coloured inks rather than transparent watercolours.

Final thoughts

Pastel can be built up to several layers on Pastelmat without the need for fixative.

Heavy strokes of your softest pastels will of course fill the tooth more quickly, but I found the tooth quite sufficient for several layers, which allows for subtle colour mixes and transitions.

Details are remarkably easy to achieve on this surface.

It is a pleasure to work on 170lb (360gsm) weight – it is much stronger and thicker than paper.

Learn how to paint this spring landscape on light grey Pastelmat paper

Willows – Spring Flood, pastel, (40.5x48.5cm) by Sheila Goodman

Your questions about Pastelmat answered

1. What colours are available?

Pastelmat is available in the following colours:

  • White
  • Natural sienna
  • Brown
  • Anthracite
  • Buttercup
  • Maize
  • Dark grey
  • Light grey
  • Light blue
  • Light green
  • Dark green
2. What sizes can I buy?

Sheets are available in two sizes:

  • 50x70cm
  • 70x100cm


3. Can I buy pads of Pastelmat paper?

Block pads with acid-free tissue interleaves are available in three sizes.

White label (white paper) in:

  • 7x9in (18x24cm)
  • 9x12in (24x30cm)
  • 12x16in (30x40cm)

Orange label (four colours) in:

  • 7x9in (18x24cm)
  • 9x12in (24x30cm)
  • 12x16in (30x40cm)

Red label (four colours) in:

  • 7x9in (18x24cm)
  • 9x12in (24x30cm)
  • 12x16in (30x40cm)

Blue label (four colours) in:

  • 7x9in (18x24cm)
  • 9x12in (24x30cm)
  • 12x16in (30x40cm)

Green label (four colours) in:

  • 7x9in (18x24cm)
  • 9x12in (24x30cm)
  • 12x16in (30x40cm)

Anthracite label (four colours) in:

  • 7x9in (18x24cm)
  • 9x12in (24x30cm)
  • 12x16in (30x40cm)


Pastelmat is also available as board


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