Colourfix. It sounds like men’s hair dye doesn’t it. “In just 5 easy minutes completely cover greys…Keep livin’ the dream with Colourfix.”
But since I know little of a man’s thought process when he decides to dye his hair, I’ll just stick to my riveting review on this paper.
Happily, it is not “Just For Men”, it’s for ladies too, and anyone wondering whether to give this paper a go. If you’re looking to get drawings done more quickly or if you love working with coloured backgrounds, this paper is for you!
Brand: Art Spectrum
Texture: Smooth, sometimes called Fine Tooth
Size: 500 x 700mm (smaller 230 x 300mm size also available)*
Colour: Clear, White, Sand, Rich Beige, Australian Grey, Soft Umber, Raw Sienna, Terracotta, Burnt Umber, Rose Grey, Burgundy, Aubergine, Deep Ultra, Storm Blue, Blue Haze, Fresh Grey, Leaf Green Dark, Olive Green, Elephant, Deep Black
Claims: Acid fee, lightfast (note, claims and suggestions about use of the paper, refer primarily to its use with pastels) Just like men’s hair dye claims, “it won’t fade out”
Price: $7.95 AUD
What is it exactly? It’s a coloured smooth primer that is screen printed onto archival hot pressed watercolour paper, thus creating pastel paper.
Art Spectrum describe this paper as “ideal for pastel artists who are looking for a not so toothy surface”. Suitable for most mediums including pastels, multi media, oils, acrylics, inks, gouache, watercolours and dry media such as charcoal and coloured pencils.”
Art Spectrum is an Australian brand, founded by artist David Key Snr. Products are distributed throughout Australia as well as select stockists in NZ, USA, UK, France, India.
I’ve personally used Art Spectrum products on and off through the years, namely oil paints, primers and mixers. I’ve always had great success with anything I have used.
In this review I focus on the Smooth paper version.
WARNING: There is a Rough/Supertooth version of this paper. I personally don’t recommend using the rough stuff for dry mediums like colour pencil. I completed the drawing below using the rough.
‘Bill’ by Candace Slager (on White)
I loved how it turned out, but it was difficult to get the pencil to stick. Grating the pencil on such a rough surface showered me with pencil powder making me look like I had rolled out of a dusty attic.
The smooth version on the other hand has a lovely texture. It’s hard to describe the texture. It’s feels like smooth hot pressed watercolour paper but with a bit of a grippy feel. It effectively feels like a very smooth dried primer.
What’s nice about this paper as opposed to some other pastel papers is that there is no visible grain or texture. It is a completely smooth with no surface indentations to overcome.
Apparently, it is manufactured by screen printing Colourfix™ Smooth Primer onto European Archival 300gsm hot pressed watercolour paper, thus making a thick 340gsm pastel paper.
Colourfix comes in a few sizes, the main being 500 x 700mm and 230 x 300m. I use 500 x 700mm. Quality, texture, colour etc are consistent between sizes.
A downside to the weight of this paper is that it more difficult to roll into mailing tubes for shipping. I usually have to size up on my mailing tube so that it rolls easily without creasing.
Another downside is the odd sizing. I don’t use the small paper anymore as the size is a bit “off” to me, being oddly larger than a standard A4 210 x 297mm.
The wide range of colours is one of the biggest selling points in my opinion. From the Justin Bieber sandy blondes, to the Nicholas Cage jet blacks. My photos don’t do it justice, but the black is very black. I highly recommend it.
Working with these background colours is what can really speed up your drawing process.
For reference, here are some of my completed works using colours from the range:
‘Depth’ by Candace Slager (on Fresh Grey)
‘The Painter’ by Candace Slager (on Deep Black)
‘Lionel’ by Candace Slager (on Deep Black)
‘Hercules’ by Candace Slager (on Elephant Grey)
‘Brian’ by Candace Slager (on Raw Sienna)
‘Sting’ by Candace Slager (on Deep Ultra Blue)
Art Spectrum claim this paper is acid free and lightfast. Despite living in catastrophically sunny Australia, I have not experienced any fading or discolouration, unlike my experience with other pastel papers.
Colourfix is fairly priced. It is a little more than other pastel paper (e.g. the awful Canson Mi Teintes) but less than premium pastel papers like Clairefontaine Pastelmat. I think the price also matches to what you get in terms of the unique and vivid paper colours as well as paper weight.
It’s a big ol’ no for this one.
Have you ever felt the sudden panic of ripping your trousers. “No, no, no, no!” you say to yourself. A little rip turns into a gaping hole and before you know it you’re walking around with nothing but a thread where your pants once were.
Removing tape from this paper feels eerily similar.
Oh, you could happily tape the coloured primer portion, but unfortunately not the white archival paper mount which is exposed all around the edge. This edging will rip even when using low-tack tape.
If you work upright on an easel, you may need to find a way to stick the paper down without taping.
As this is heavyweight paper, I don’t feel the need to tape it down. However, the archival paper edge is prone to staining, colour bleeding and scuffing. For this reason, it would be good to tape it down to protect the edge until you have finished your piece.
As you can see from the work in progress of ‘Brian’ it is easy to get fine detail. Using the paper colour to your advantage, you can easily create realistic detail with a minimum number of pencils. Perfect for hair, feathers, and fur. Though, it is highly unlikely you would achieve hyperrealism with this paper.
This paper allows pencil to build up until completely opaque.
I’ve taken off a point because there is a knack to the layering. I found the paper worked best when the darkest colours were applied first, working your way to the lightest colours last.
For reference I used:
Prismacolor Col-Erase: My go-to pencil for initial outlines. As is typical of this pencil it worked well and erased completely.
Faber-Castell Polychromos: Pencils were true to colour. As always, Polychromos worked brilliantly for fine detail, but you will never get the fine detail on this paper that you can expect with fine cotton paper.
Prismacolor Premier: These work exceptionally well on Colourfix. They give a creamy opaque finish with no smudging.
Like the layering, due to the nature of the paper texture, you cannot use the same light layering and blending techniques as you would with cotton paper. For example, it is easier if you have the exact colour rather than try to adjust the colours and tones on the paper.
Colourless blenders work ok, but I don’t feel the need to use them much with this paper.
Odourless mineral spirits
For ‘Sting’ I used a significant amount of OMS to blend various shades of blue.
As this paper is primed and not absorbent like traditional paper, OMS took time to dry, causing streaking and pooling. Although, this provided a nice effect with the underwater scene!
So long as you have built up enough layers of pigment, OMS is successful. It didn’t work so well when I patch tested it on ‘The painter’ in areas where I used less pigment.
It is also hard to keep the colour from seeping onto the untaped clean white edges.
Colourfix claim erasing is easy. No. Getting a cat to come when it’s called is easy.
I found that it was easy to erase small areas of lightly layered pencil but anything large and you could see eraser marks. Sure, you can colour over the marks, but if you intended to leave the area empty, you’ll find yourself in trouble.
I tested this below so you don’t have to. You can see the dark black mark where I attempted to erase some purple pencil.
I coloured over it successfully.
I recommend using a very soft eraser to avoid leaving eraser marks.
There is little if any smudging with this paper. What you do get instead are little marks. I have experienced this with almost all the darker coloured papers. It can be caused by anything, from laying a pencil on the paper to looking at it the wrong way. That said, the marks can be easily removed away with an eraser or your finger. Yes, weird I know!
Art Spectrum Colourfix smooth pastel paper is an ideal paper for beginners and experienced drawing artists. Colourfix smooth allows for detailed and loose drawing styles. The smooth texture allows is ideal for completing drawings quickly. Having such a wide range of colours is perfect for a variety of subjects and helps simplifying the drawing process.
Overall, I think it is worth giving this paper a go. Personally, I love it for the colours and texture. It forces me to keep my drawing simple and work with the colour, not compete against it. It also forces me to take a break from the highly detailed layering and colour work I do with traditional watercolour cotton paper. I certainly recommend this over Canson and it is also much cheaper than pastelmat.
- Quick drawing process
- Allows both detail and loose drawing styles
- Realistic outcome even when using a limited colour pencil palette
- Great colour range
- Order for layering colour
- Improvements could be made to the mounting surface
Have you tried Colourfix smooth? What did you think? If you have any questions about this paper let me know.
Or if you’ve had a hair dying disaster that left you looking like a green haired Oompa Loompa definitely let me know! I’m always up for a laugh.
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