Monday, 25 May 2009

Product Review: Ampersand Pastelbord for coloured pencil artwork

Product: Pastelbord
Manufacturer: Ampersand - This is a specialist manufacturer; they only produce painting panels for artists
Technical Details: Manufacturer's product description and data:
  • Pastelbord is a clay and gesso coated hardboard panel with a granular marble dust finish comparable to a sanded pastel paper except more durable and more versatile.
  • It can be used with wet or dry traditional pastel techniques or with acrylics, and more!
  • The coating is pH neutral and non-yellowing, making it a truly permanent museum quality surface.
  • Available in Gray, Green, Sand and White.
  • available in most American standard sizes (i.e. inches not metric) between 7" x 5" up to 24" x 36" with the grey shade having the most options. 18" x 24" is the most easily available large size. Custom made sizes also available.
Eco-friendly: Made from FSC certified sustainable US forest products. No harmful chemicals used in production and no dangerous emissions for artists. See the green section of the Ampersand website for more details
Suitable for: Most dry media - Soft or hard pastels, pastel pencils and wax-based coloured pencils (Prismacolor, Coloursoft, Luminance). However it doesn't like oil based coloured pencils (Polychromos and Lyra Rembrandt) so much. Acrylics and Neosoft II can both be used for underpaintings.
  • Museum/archival quality support. Acid-free and rigid, this support is not going to warp nor will it discolour
  • Marble dust grips dry media well
  • possible to remove media with relative ease as surface does not abrade in the same way as paper
  • enables coloured pencils to be framed without glass if sealed properly
  • sources and production processes are both eco-friendly
  • rigid support means that it can be shipped overseas with fewer concerns about damage
  • reduced costs for purchaser - no matting or glazing required for coloured pencil works which are sealed
  • they have a detailed article about how to frame and glaze pastelbord if framing pastels
  • endorsed by a number of professional artists for use with dry media (soft pastels and wax based coloured pencils)
  • Ampersand will accommodate custom panel requests up to 44” x 90” with cradles and cross braces up to 3 inches deep. Contact them for a quote by phone or email.
Think Again?
  • very expensive for UK and European artists
  • oil based coloured pencils (Polychromos / Lyra Rembrandt) don't seem to like it as much as wax-based pencils. However they can be used as a finishing layer over fixed work.
This is a high quality rigid support with a grain which makes it very suitable for use with dry media. It can also take an underpainting using other media. Its one drawback is the lack of a UK or European distributor making it an expensive option for all UK and European residents
UK Distributor: There is no UK distributor

Available in the UK: No known distributors or suppliers in the UK. Can be imported from the USA - it's more cost effective to have it shipped rather than air freighted.

Available in the USA from:
  • Ampersand - buy online - lists all the approved retailers for buying online
  • Ampersand - approved "premier retailers" - they have a facility to find stores by state in the USA and Canada on their website. You can also get an extra discount on list prices by shopping with an approved retailer.
  • Dick Blick - stocks a great range of sizes and colours and packages smaller supports too. Will export to the UK. They are happy to quote for an estimate of shipping costs before placing an order.
  • Cheap Joes Art Stuff
  • Jerry's Artarama
  • Daniel Smith - very limited range

This post is based on my own experience of using pastelbord with coloured pencils plus comments made by other artists - as listed below.

The image is a closeup of part of a portrait I've done on Pastelbord.

I first wrote about Ampersand Pastelbord on Making A Mark back in 2006. I'd first become aware of it when my friend Nicole Caulfield began experimenting with a variety of abrasive surfaces. On her recommendation, when I was in New England in September 2006, I bought an 11” x 14” Pastelbord by Ampersand to try out. Subsequently I imported some more.

I loved the surface, wished they had more base colours but haven't actually used it extensively due to the cost of shipping. This is not a lightweight support like paper! I've also only used it for coloured pencils but having read pastel artists' comments and experienced the level of adhesion I have no doubt it's good for soft pastels as well.

Further information is available on the websites of Ampersand and USA suppliers (see the end of the summary box for links to suppliers).

What is pastelbord?

This is what Ampersand's excellent information sheet which comes with each sheet has to say.
"Pastelbord is a clay-coated hardboard panel designed for pastels that is suitable for paints of all types, especially acrylics. The granular marble dust finish holds many more layers of pastels than traditional pastel papers and can be reworked wet or dry without affecting the integrity of the surface......the rigid 1/8" hardboard backing makes this an ideal panel for on-location work and standard sizes fit in pochade boxes and carriers easily. pastelbord is acid-free and non-yellowing, making it a truly permanent museum quality surface. Choose from Gray, Green, Sand and White"
Concerns about yellowing, curling, warping and separation are apparently a thing of the past with Pastelbord. Preparation and benefits, according to Ampersand, includes:
  • hardboard base is made using a wet manufacturing process that removes the lamella from the wood that can cause discolouration in paintings
  • the tempered hardboard is manufactured without thick tempering oils and is made from Aspen trees, which have more unform fibers and a more neutral Ph than that of other woods
  • less prone to warping due to the highest tensile strength of any art hardboard available
  • acid-free ground produced by using two coats of acrylic to seal the hardboard before application of the acid-free clay coating.
Key features for artistic use include:
  • very fine tooth with capacity for rich colour
  • ability to use wet or dry techniques on the board eg watercolour painting under pastels
  • heavy water applications do not affect the integrity of the surface
  • acrylic washes stay wet longer
  • flexible use for multi-media people - also suitable for use with oils, acrylics, watercolours and other types of pain
I haven't yet tried using it with any wet media but others who have say it works fine. I have to tell you that the whole feel of the board says 'quality' to me.

Overall, the the surface is quite hard in wear terms on the coloured pencils. However one bonus is that I produce very little dust compared to when using more obviously abrasive surfaces. The amazing thing is I can layer and layer and layer and it never loses its surface - marble dust is very robust! The very fine nature of the abrasive surface also makes it really easy to blend as you can see from the sample image.

More importantly, I found that I could develop good rich dark tones on it without any problem - there's no sinking into the surface or dulling down as can happen on some abrasive surfaces.

Thw downside of this support is that there is no supplier in the UK or Europe - although artists in Australasia can get hold of Ampersand products from a limited number of retailers in Australia and New Zealand. The best thing is to try and work out how to maximise boards and minimise delivery charges.

Artists who use Pastelbord with
coloured pencils

My two friends Nicole Caulfield and Gayle Mason has both made extensive use of pastelbord with coloured pencils. Here's a summary of their views and links to their blog posts which have more comments.
Let me know if you've written about using Pastebord and I'll update this lens to include a link.

1 comment:

Von said...

Fun to read your review on these. I've been using the Ampersands for Oil Pastels and its a brilliant surface. Grabs that colour, blends and holds it perfectly!

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