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Protect your charcoal, chalk, graphite, and pastel drawings, and more, by using a fixative spray. Although even the best will result in some degree of color shift, these sprays are valued for their ability to keep surfaces from smudging, fading, flaking, and discoloring. There are two basic types of fixative, regular and workable. If your piece is not quite finished but you still want some smudge protection, or if you intend to layer individually fixed media, go with a workable fixative. This holds your medium to the paper but allows you to still make small adjustments in shading, erasing, and blurring. Regular fixative, on the other hand, holds your medium firmly in place, preserving your artwork without the need for glass. No matter which fixative you choose, don’t forget to spray in a ventilated area and, even better, wear a mask. Get your fixative fix by browsing our roundup of the best products. below.
Winsor & Newton Artists’ Fixative
This workable fixative is an excellent choice for artists who work in graphite, pastel, pencil, and chalk. It offers great smudge and dust protection after you spray over a layer, drying quite rapidly so you can lay down the next layer. Each press of the pump releases a relatively light spray of formula, which helps to prevent pigment color from diminishing, and also adds a subtle tooth to maintain the workability of the surface. You can add as many as a dozen layers on a single piece. Plus, while all fixatives have a chemical smell, this one is less intense than others.
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Lascaux Fine Art Fixative
This is one of the most gentle workable fixatives on the market. It excels at maintaining color, especially lighter hues, whites, and highlights. It also dries very quickly to an attractive, flat matte finish. Because of its gentleness, however, it does not offer the best protection: While the spray will keep pigments in place and provide good water resistance, colors can still be smudged if rubbed.
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Grumbacher Final Fixative
Unlike the fixatives above, this spray from Grumbacher is permanent. A non-yellowing coating available in either a gloss or a matte formula, it can be applied to drawings in dry media like graphite, pastel, and charcoal, as well as to photographs, collages, and ceramics. When using with pastels, it’s best to apply this in several light coats rather than one heavy layer so you don’t risk dissolving your colors.
Sennelier HC10 Universal Fixative
This is an incredibly powerful fixative consisting of an acrylic resin that’s 10 times more concentrated than most other formulas on the market. With outstanding lightfastness and water resistance, it offers the highest level of protection for diverse artworks including pastels, watercolors, inks, charcoal, acrylics, photographs, and decoupage. It’s also suitable as an adhesive or as a primer for surfaces such as wood, canvas, glass, and porcelain. Results can be displayed indoors or out. We also like the can design, which features a swivel nozzle that can produce either a horizontal or a vertical spray pattern. Although this fixative is non-yellowing, we advise testing it first because of its strength.
Krylon Workable Fixatif Spray
Krylon’s fixative is classic product. It goes on clear and will not alter the original color nor add a varnish to dry media such as pencil, chalk, pastel, and charcoal. Acid free and archival, this spray will protect your work from yellowing, wrinkling, and smudging, though it’s not as fade-resistant as Sennelier’s spray. The workable formula allows flexibility in layering in-progress pieces and correcting nearly completed ones. You can even erase through the coating to make more substantial revisions to your art. For best results, let the fixative dry for 30 minutes after spraying before resuming your work.