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All Things Ampersand

Innovative Pastel Methods on Pastelbord

Pastelbord sampler
Pastelbord Sampler

Pastelbord is a rigid panel with a delightful toothy surface that has allowed me a newfound freedom when working with pastels. The sanded surface and absorbency of the panel allow me to work wet or dry and to layer pigments endlessly, creating rich and vibrant pastel paintings. The panel is available in sand, grey, green and white. On the white-colored Pastelbord, my opportunities for varying color are endless! Following are a few techniques you’ll want to try on this great surface!

Barb Pinc landscape misting

Sketching and Misting
With a pastel pencil, lightly sketch in the initial drawing. Next, mist the board with water just enough to moisten the surface evenly to begin painting the background. I use a cosmetic plastic spray bottle so that the misting is done evenly. Pastel on the wet panel will create really exciting textures for the background. After misting, I begin by laying in my background colors of green. Remember to wipe the pastel first on a towel to make sure clean even color is being applied.

Working Wet and Dry

Barb Pinc landscape
Shaving pastel

When laying in my background colors I also use a shaving technique to add depth and texture to the background. For example, for a glistening effect, I shaved the edge of a metallic color with a razor over the initial background colors. I allowed the pastel dust to settle onto the surface and then I began my wet techniques. Because pastelbord is a rigid, yet porous surface, you can use water without the fear of buckling or ruining your “paper”. After applying the pastels, use a 3/4″ angle brush with water to blend them as if painting with watercolors. A very soft and airy background can be created using this technique. You can also use a wet brush to lift off color in areas that have gotten too dark. Just remember to have an old towel to wipe your brush as you lift the color off the Pastelbord.

Blending and Softening

Barb Pinc landscape

While working, keep shaving more colors over the initial background and then misting them with water to soften. Use the mist water bottle along with your watercolor brush to blend colors. This technique helps you create depth of field and provides your basic shapes, forms, and color for your piece. At this stage I also use a flat chisel Colour Shaper to pat down lumps of pastels for varying thickness of pigments. Wipe the shaper or the brush you are using frequently to prevent the painting from getting muddy.

Details and Heavier Pigments
Continue using this shaving and layering technique for the leaves, the dark areas of the road, and weeds. Also, to lift color, use a wet brush to lift and then wipe on a towel and repeat until the color has been partially or completely lifted. This is a wonderful technique for bringing back light into your painting when doing landscapes, wooded areas, shrubs, etc. The light will appear natural, almost as if it peeking through the leaves of the trees. For the final touches, use pastel pencils for fine details and where harder edges are needed for volume.

Barb Pinc landscape

Finishing the Piece
Sealing pastels with a fixative tends to deaden pastel colors, so I don’t recommend it. Frame the finished artwork behind glass with a spacer.

Barb Pinc is an award winning watercolor and pastel artist with a background in art education. 

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

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Tips for Painting on Pastelbord

“Front Yard”,12″ x 16″ on Pastelbord by Adriana Meiss


Pastelbord™:  A uniquely coated museum quality panel suitable for pastels, coated with a fine marble dust finish comparable to sanded paper except more durable and more versatile.  

Since pastels are a fragile medium, they need a gritty surface to grab, especially when building in layers.  Pastelbord can be used wet or dry with soft, hard, or oil pastels using traditional pastel techniques or even with acrylics.  As with all museum series panels, the surface is pH neutral, non-yellowing and archival.

For those of you new to either pastels or Pastelbord, let’s look at some tips on using Pastelbord to it’s fullest potential.  

  • Start your piece using hard pastels and then cover with soft pastels to save the expensive pastels for finish work.
  • For maximum detail, use pastel pencils in the finishing stages
  • Consider using watersoluble pastels as the surface can be used wet or dry without buckling or curling.
  • Panels are available in sand, grey, green and white for alternative undertones.
  • For alternative ground colors or even metallics, lay down a watercolor or acrylic wash with a brush before using pastels.  Either work over the wet surface while it is wet or after it has dried.
  • Try misting the surface with water before laying down an underpainting, to create a deep even tone.
  • Consider shaving pastels with a razor over the panel and misting to soften.  Use a brush for blending as Barb Pinc paints in this demonstration.
  • To lift color, use a wet brush to lightly press pigment and wipe off on a towel.
  • For blending pastels, try using a wet brush to go back in and soften edges or blend colors.
  • Frame the finished piece behind glass with a spacer.

Awake in the World by Ken Muenzenmayer, acrylic on Pastelbord
Have you considered painting on Pastelbord?  
  • Try painting on Pastelbord with acrylics.   Acrylic paint is known for drying quickly; however, Pastelbord’s open surface allows for the paint to dry slower, allows for lifting of the paint during working time.  
  • Pastelbord’s ground options create a natural middle ground color for painting, so that the tone can easily be highlighted or darkened for dramatic work.
  • Pastelbord’s clay surface absorbs the pigmented washes well, consider mixing water with the acrylics to get a full rich color wash.
  • Transparent pigments work well to show the layers of color and still allow for absorption into the ground.
  • Drybrush works well on the rough surface of Pastelbord to show deep layers of color.


Since Pastelbord is now 40% off at retailers around the country, it is a good time to make a purchase.  To find a retailer near you:  Pastelbord on Sale.