The paper that I recommend, and like to use for Pastel portraiture is made by Strathmore and is marketed as CANSON, Mi Tientes © Pastel paper. It comes in a wide variety of colors ( I prefer to work on White, Beige or Neutral Gray.) More importantly, it is made with 55% cotton “rag content” and is PH balanced. This means that the papers acidity is balanced with its alkali content to prevent fading and deterioration from age. Basically the higher the cotton content the better. Cotton does not yellow from deterioration like wood pulp products.
Mi Tientes © is manufactured with the pastel artist in mind. The “tooth” or surface texture of the paper is designed specifically to increase the bond of the pastel to the paper. It is for this reason that I believe Mi Tientes © is the premier pastel paper on the market today.
For my Graphite Pencil renderings I like a different type of paper. I want a paper with a little “tooth” to grab the graphite as I draw , but I want the paper to be smooth so that it can achieve extremely realistic graphite transitions precisely where I want them. I also prefer a clean crisp white paper to provide for exceptional contrast in my work. Strathmore 500 Series © is made with 100% rag content and is one of my favorites.
The surface and quality of fine art papers is measured in three ways. First is its “rag” content, ( please see description under pastel paper). Secondly, the paper press rating that detonates its surface texture left by the final rollers and pressing at the mill, Hot press, Cold press and Rolled or Rough. Finally its weight or the thickness of the paper.
My solution for success is working primarily on cold press, high rag content, heavyweight Fine Art stock only. I find that by being a bit of a fanatic about the quality of the materials that go into my works is the best form of quality control for its results.