Trying new pencils and papers is always fun, even if the projects don’t turn out. I’ve been doing some experimenting this winter, and I’d like to share my first impressions of Lux Archival paper.
I’m especially happy with this report, because all three projects so far have turned out!
About Lux Archival
Lux Archival is a non-absorbent, sanded paper created by Alyona Nickelsen of Brush & Pencil. She wanted a toothy paper that was completely archival, front to back. Unable to find one already on the market, she developed her own.
It’s available in packs of 8×10, 11×14, 16×20 and 24×36 or in a 48-inch by 5-yard roll. In the smaller sizes, it’s quite sturdy and didn’t curl or buckle even when I worked on it without taping it to a rigid support.
Lux Archival is designed for dry media, but also handles wet media. I have yet to use watercolor pencils or solvent blending, but I understand it stands up under both.
White is the only color available, but you don’t really need any other color, since it’s so easy to shade backgrounds in any color you like.
The surface is gritty but very fine with an even texture that’s very easy to draw on and that takes color easily.
Lux Archival is a bit on the expensive side, but if you’re doing client work or work designed for sale, then it’s well worth the expense. But then I spent years buying canvases for oil paintings. A good sanded paper is still inexpensive by comparison.
My First Impressions of Lux Archival Paper
It wasn’t my intention to try Lux Archival. I really wanted Alyona’s book, Colored Pencil Painting Portraits. My intention was to learn her methods more completely so I could finish a horse portrait I’d taken on and was struggling with.
The book came with several samples, including pencils, small packets of Powder Blender and Titanium White, and a 4-inch by 6-inch sample of Lux Archival.
I’d heard so much about this paper that I was reluctant to try it before finishing the portrait. The portrait was on it’s second incarnation after a switch from Stonehenge to Pastelmat. I like Pastelmat but was having difficulty with this particular piece. So I was afraid that finding I liked Lux Archival better would make me want to start the portrait over again.
So I waited. The wait was worth it!
My First Two Projects
My first projects were two small sketches, one plein air, and one from memory. I used a limited palette for both. I also tried new pencils, Derwent Lightfast pencils, with the first one, shown here.
Derwent Lightfast pencils are quite soft, so they put color on the Lux Archival very well. I loved the way they felt on this paper. It was easy to layer color and build values just by adding layers.
However, the combination of sanded paper and soft pencils made it difficult to get fine marks. I was able to draw some of those small twigs by “striking” the paper with short strokes and light pressure. The “stop-start” nature of those strokes mimicked the affects of fine lines to draw twigs.
Overall, I was quite happy with the results of this plein air piece, even with a very limited palette (only three colors.)
For the second test, I used Faber-Castell Polychromos Crimson. Polychromos pencils are harder pencils, so it was a bit easier to get fine marks. But the paper still “grabbed” color very easily.
I was able to get a good range of values even using only one color because the paper takes so many layers of color.
The harder pencils allowed me to draw finer lines, but getting a good, crisp line with so few layers was a challenge.
Even so, I was very pleased with these two sketches. Each one took 20 minutes or less to finish, and there was still enough tooth left to do much more.
A Full Up Drawing
The third drawing was a full up landscape based on a photograph supplied to me by fellow artist Carol Leather. A stunning sunset seen through a stand of bare trees, this was exactly the type of project I wanted to try on Lux Archival. The colorful sky was the real test.
I also used some of the other Brush & Pencil products such as Powder Blender, ACP Textured Fixative, Touch-Up Texture, and Titanium White. So this was a test of all the products, not just the paper.
Lux Archival was sheer joy to work with!
Especially the smooth colors of the sky. I was able to do in less than an hour what it would take hours to do on regular paper. Combining Lux Archival with Powder Blender, ACP Textured Fixative, and ACP Final Fixative further improved the drawing experience.
This small piece was finished in six hours, which included preparing the paper and spray room time applying Textured Fixative or Final Fixative.
A Couple of Warnings
Like any sanded support, Lux Archival produces a lot of pigment dust. It’s easy to blend that dust into the tooth of the paper, however, so it’s not wasted.
But you will need to seal your artwork at some point. I sealed Blazing Sunset with ACP Textured Fixative several times during the drawing process. That keeps the pigment in place, and allowed me to draw over previous layers without disturbing them.
When the piece was finished, I sealed it again, then used ACP Final Fixative on it.
I don’t recommend using only ACP Final Fixative. When I tried that with the first sketch, the wet spray blotched pigment in one place. Not seriously, but noticeably.
Those are my first impressions of Lux Archival Paper.
So do I recommend Lux Archival?
Absolutely and without hesitation!
I look forward to doing larger work on this paper in the near future. I also hope to try it with animal art when time allows.
If you’re doing work for clients, exhibit, or sale, this is a beautiful paper for smooth color and for detail.
Is it worth the price? A pack of ten 8-inch by 10-inch sheets is only $30 or $3 per sheet. For a professional artist—or any artist who wants to be a professional—that is not a bad price.
Customer service is also top notch when you buy directly from Brush & Pencil.
Whether you use it regularly or not, I hope you’ll give Lux Archival a try.