Velour paper is my substrate of choice when it comes to pastel. I use Hahnemühle velour and it feels velvety or a bit like suede. I started using it predominently for animals as the softness really lends itself to creating fur. But now I’ve used it for landscapes, people, just about everything! It can be a love or hate relationship with velour for some artists and I found when I first started using it, I encountered several problems. After years of experimenting on it I’ve got to the stage where my work is very stable and I’m even able to post it worldwide with no problems.
Here are some useful tips for painting on velour pastel paper…
- Firm up the surface
Try mounting your velour paper on some self adhesive mount board or foam board. This firms the paper up and makes it not only nicer to work on but easier to handle and less likely to warp in the future. I’ve started using a 5mm self adhesive foamboard and it makes the piece a really firm object which is easier to post also.
Your framer will also thank you as it makes them much easier to handle in the framing process.
2. Sketch and transfer
Velour is tricky to sketch on. If you want to be able to draft out your painting with an initial line drawing do it on a thin piece of normal drawing paper. I draw freehand mostly but will use a grid on larger or more complicated compositions. Then cover the back of the drawing with pastel, tape it onto the velour and trace your sketch on. Just enough to give you a faint line. Then I use a pastel pencil to go over this and neaten my sketch or tweak at certain parts again.
3. Rub in the layers
When blocking in areas of colour really rub the pastel into the paper. I treat this part like an underpainting to stain paper with general shapes allowing the next layers of detail to stick better. I’ve got into the habit of giving most of my marks a soft rub into the paper rather than leave it sitting loose on the surface as this will result in excess dust knocking off too easily.
4. To fix or not?
I used to spray a small amount of fixative in between early layers of pastel. Surprisingly it hardly darkens the pastel at all on velour unlike other papers. The only unsprayed layers would be my details and highlights. The early layers have really stuck to the fibres of the paper so the only ones likely to produce excess dust are these last layers.
However, I have not been spraying fixative at all recently. I think it may be because I’m trying to paint a little looser and use less layers to create the effect, therefore less pastel. I also consistantly rub in the marks I make. By the time I’m finished I don’t see how fixative would improve it’s stability as everything is really well rubbed into the paper anyway. It’s worth experimenting as everyone paints so differently and how you make your painting stable on velour will be quite unique to you.
5. The best pastels to use.
I find the softer the pastel the more likely it is to fall off velour. Some brands are just too soft for it. The softest I use are Unison and I love them! Their colour range is exceptional and they’re lovely and buttery to work with. These make up the main part of my collection.
I use some Faber Castell sticks and especially love their black for really dark areas and sketching. They are slightly softer than Conte crayons.
I use Faber Castell Pitt pastel pencils for very small detail. These do the job well but they really only work on top of a layer of pastel. I use pastel pencil to shape some of my bigger marks made by the big sticks although most small marks can be achieved by a tiny shard of soft pastel. They are useful around eyes and noses and very fine hairs around the edges of an animal.
I recently purchased some darks from Terry Ludwig, an American pastel maker. They are a lovely addition to my dark range and are very rich in pigment.
6. Frame to protect
The final thing to ensure the longevity of velour is the framing. I use three different methods.
Double mount with space between the inner and outer mounts for any dust fall off. Looks great and most of the time any excess dust will fall down the gap. I have had times when the dust dirties the mount due to a bump or knock. I tell all customers to ensure they transport the piece on it’s back and avoid placing them glass down. But otherwise, a very successful framing method which increases the size of the overall frame.
Double frame with the glass between the 2 frames. This is possibly my favourite framing method and I use this frame in particular a lot. Always an effective way to frame a pastel and very attractive too.
Framing tight against the glass. I use this for all my large work as it ensures the pastel on such a large area stays in place. I love this method as it makes the glass almost invisible and gets you right up close to the pastel. It’s not advisable on a lot of pastel surfaces but works great for velour. I’ve had pieces get knocked and even fall off a gallery wall framed in this manner and the paintings were undamaged and practically no pastel fall off at all!
Here is a random tip which helps in using pastel pencil on velour. To make a light mark make it left to right. For dark make the mark right to left. There is a nap to the paper a bit like suede. It’s a very subtle difference but it’s something I use in very fine detail. You will also want to have some layers of soft pastel on the paper first. This will provide more of a base for the pencil to apply to.
I’m sure there are more helpful hints and I’ll add to this as I keep discovering new things about this paper and medium!