I enjoy using sanded pastel paper but the paper itself is super expensive so I make my own pastel ground/primer. This is typically apply it to the surface of watercolor paper, mat board, or illustration board to make an abrasive surface for better pastel use. This is a lot less expensive then buying the paper or commercial ground.

I'm currently making the pastel ground/primer using a mixture of gesso, pumice powder, and water. However, I'd like something a little less abrasive. I've gotten a bag of marble dust to try but it just comes out like really thick gesso.

Is there a good recipe to make a pastel ground using marble dust?

For reference, here are a couple of commercial pastel grounds/primers available: - https://www.dickblick.com/products/golden-pastel-ground/ - https://www.dickblick.com/products/art-spectrum-pastel-and-multimedia-primer/

1 Answer 1


I would look into a mixture of gum arabic dissolved in buttermilk, chalk whiting, a bit of almond oil and your marble dust, add your pigment and a drop of clove oil to keep the organic from going off.

500g gum arabic
1000ml buttermilk
250g - 500g chalk
250g - 500g marble dust
2-5g almond oil
Clove oil

Bring buttermilk in a pot to about 80 degrees Celsius - don’t boil. Whisk in gum arabic until it is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add oils. Add chalk and marble dust until you get the thick paste you are comfortable with. Knead the paste like dough and until pigment is well mixed. Roll into sticks, let dry.

Don’t trust this recipe blindly, because chalk, pigment and gum arabic have different properties depending on purity and chemical composition. You’ll have to use your intuition and experience. You could use water instead of buttermilk. You could sump the chalk and marble in distilled water for 24 hours.

  • Do you have the proportions for this or a recipe? Feb 3, 2018 at 3:47
  • @robhasacamera updated answer because you asked so nicely. Feb 3, 2018 at 5:04
  • Thank you for updating your answer. This looks like a recipe for making pastel sticks though and not pastel ground (aka pastel primer). While I would like to make pastel sticks at some point, what I'm looking for is the ground or primer that is applied to the substrate (paper, board, etc.) that makes the surface abrasive enough to accept pastels and layer them when drawing. I've updated my question with a better explanation and some commercial examples. Feb 3, 2018 at 13:59
  • Sure it works in a thinner consistency too. (I did misread your question though...) Feb 3, 2018 at 18:27

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