Gail Sibley, Flowers in Neutral, Unison Colour on recycled UART 600 paper, 11 x 6 in. Detail

Recycle UART Paper For Your Next Painting!

I’ve had students complain about the price of good pastel paper. I get it! And that’s one of the reasons I recommend UART paper as it’s immensely reusable! It’s easy to recycle UART paper if a painting doesn’t live up to your standards. Or perhaps you’ve used it for a workshop and wish you could have a do-over. Or maybe you’ve been working on some of your own testing and exercises and would now like to reuse the paper. All can be done with this paper!

How to recycle UART paper?

The first thing you want to do is to remove as much of the pastel from the paper as you can. You can do this in a few ways:

  • Outside, gently brush off the pastel with a stiff brush. I like to use old and worn paintbrushes as the sanded paper won’t be kind to the brush!
  • You can liquify the pastel by applying clear gesso (like Liquitex Clear gesso) which will dry clear and also add some tooth
  • Outside, you can hose down the paper!

I tend to use the first option most often. It’s quick and no wait for drying!

Here’s a piece of recycled UART paper. I’d used it for colour swatching demos. You can see it’s been brushed and although you can still see the colour blocks, the paper is now a greyed mass rather than bright colours on off-white paper.

Recycle UART paper

The following pastel painting is a piece I did as part of a series of five paintings. It coincides nicely with our topic this month in the IGNITE! Art-Making membership which is all about painting white things! Here I’m painting white flowers in a vase and, as you’ll see, I use a whole lot more colour than just white!

Here’s the subject. I should say that I worked from life rather than a photo. It’s such a great way to see nuances in value and colour!

Reference photo of flowers
Reference photo

And then a quick thumbnail (of course!).

The Thumbnail showing dark, middle-value, and light areas
The pencil thumbnail showing dark, middle-value, and light areas

The first layer of three values (dark, middle, and light) added loosely and lightly. They coincide with the value areas in my thumbnail. Already the original colour swatches have almost disappeared! 

Recycle UART paper - The first three values laid down
The first three values laid down

I’m starting to add a second layer of more hues, staying with my chosen value areas. 

Recycle UART paper - Adding more colours for second layer
Adding more colours for second layer

Building up layers. Not much of the original recycled surface is still visible.

Recycle UART paper - Building up the layers
Building up the layers

Here I’m solidifying large areas of colour. Then I added highlights to the flowers. Doesn’t that just make them pop?!

Recycle UART paper! Solidifying areas of colour
Solidifying areas of colour

Final tweaks – more light in the flowers, greying the left side of the table (away from light source), cast shadows and reflections from the vase, and working on the stems and negative spaces.


Recycle UART paper! Gail Sibley, "Flowers in Neutral," Unison Colour on recycled UART 600 paper, 11 x 6 in. Oct 2018. SOLD
Gail Sibley, “Flowers in Neutral,” Unison Colour on recycled UART 600 paper, 11 x 6 in. Oct 2018. SOLD

And here are the 13 Unison Colour pastels I used. They are from Unison Colour’s own 36-piece Starter set (This piece was painted before I’d completed the pastel choices for my own Gail Sibley set!)

Unison Colour pastels I used
Unison Colour pastels I used

So you see? Easy peasy to recycle UART paper! It’s strong and forgiving. It’s a value buy when you want to move into using quality sanded paper.

One of the reasons I like to recycle UART paper is that I can often get an interesting, slightly greyed middle-value surface to work on. That’s way easier to use than working directly on the light creamy white or dark charcoal grey of UART papers.

And recycling is always good for our earth!

So tell me, was this helpful? Have you recycled UART paper? What did you like about doing that? (Or not like?) Let’s get the conversation going!

Until next time!

~ Gail

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24 thoughts on “Recycle UART Paper For Your Next Painting!”

  1. This was great info that I actually tried last week. I washed it off in the tub. I like you idea better. Thank you. Everything you put out there has really good value!

  2. I do this with LuxArchival sanded. I’ve just brushed off outside, then scrubbed with an old toothbrush under running water. Really cleans up nicely and best of all doesn’t buckle from being wet. I just blot it with a kitchen towel and lay flat on the drain board to dry. I’ve never tried uArt as it was more expensive than LuxArchival when I was shopping for paper.

    1. Ooooo thanks for this info Carol Ann! An old toothbrush is a great idea.
      I haven’t yet used LuxArchival yet. I was given some recently so I’m eager to try it. AND it’s good to know it also can be reused!

  3. Thanks for this helpful information. I’m new to pastels and just bought my first pack of UArt 400 paper to paint the lesson on mark-making. Woah! The background colors were not working, so this blog arrived just in time to save the painting while learning how to get rid of the awful background color–a twofer! Yes, it was more or less easy-peasy; in any case it saved the painting and added to my pastel painting skills.

    Thanks Gail,
    Mary Lee

  4. I absolutely recycle UART paper. I have a box of “meh” paintings that I’ll pull out when I want to be a bit more daring. I’ll remove the old as you described and might then cut it into smaller sizes. Great for quick studies, especially great for negative space painting. Also try spritzing the old with alcohol and let it drip down. Then just go with the flow!

    1. Yay! And thanks for adding to the conversation Wendy! Super to have that stack of “meh” paintings, ones you are unattached to so you can take chances with them (and destroy them!).
      I’m glad you mentioned cutting up old paintings after prepping the paper. As you say, great for colour studies.
      Love the spritz-with-alcohol idea!

  5. Thanks for blog and the step by step progression. I like to aggressively brush the used Uart to clean out the tooth and grey the colors, just like you do. But I usually follow that with a quick wash of alcohol, which blends/greys the colors more. Liquifying the remaining pastel with alcohol also seems to open the tooth more as well.

    1. Great to hear from you Stephen! And thanks for sharing your own process with recycling UART paper. Interesting that the alcohol wash opens up the tooth more.

  6. Would you be able to use alcohol to dissolve the pastel? That would dry more quickly. Also, I use baby wipes to erase parts of a painting. Not so good for an entire surface, though.

    1. Hey Sara, thanks for your question. I think it depends how much pastel is on the paper. If there isn’t much, I’d say yes to your idea. If there are a number of layers, I’d brush the excess pastel off first and then go in with an alcohol wash as Steve Morales has suggested above!
      Interesting about the baby wipes!

  7. Great post. I think I’ll try going over a brushed off piece with Gesso. I have brushed off or washed off a few pieces which I didn’t like, it works! I’m currently painting over one I washed off…the composition wasn’t bad, the color combo was!

  8. Some of my best paintings have been on wiped out old work. The randomness of the muted background makes for great surprises within a painting I would not usually add to a background. Any area you don’t like can just be covered over completely. This is a must-do!

  9. Hi Gail,
    I love this article and you truly do transform this work from dull greys to a beautiful pastel painting. What tool do you use to ‘brush out’ the original pastel before you start to rework the piece? Thanks!

    1. Hi Liz! So glad you liked the article! I use an old bristle brush. The sanded paper is very hard on brushes so I use an old worn one (from oil painting) that I don’t care about. Thanks for the question!

  10. Hi Gail,
    Thanks for sharing,
    I was asking myself, if we wet uart in the back, would it dry flat ?
    Like we do with canvas when lose, but I sure know humid paper comes flat
    when I put something heavy on it, it dries flat.
    thank you for sharing always,

    1. Hi Lyne, Thanks for your question! And I don’t know the answer to it. I hope some of the HTP readers will be able to help.
      I usually brush the pastel off the paper. I have wet it in the past (the front) and it has dried flat but these were fairly small pieces of paper.

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Gail Sibley

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My love of pastel and the enjoyment I receive from teaching about pastel inspired the creation of this blog. It has tips, reviews, some opinions:), and all manner of information regarding their use through the years – old and new. Please enjoy!

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