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Protect your charcoal, chalk, graphite and pastel drawings, and more, with a fixing spray. Although even the best will cause some color change, these sprays are prized for their ability to prevent surfaces from staining, fading, flaking and discoloration. There are two basic types of fixer, regular and workable. If your piece isn’t quite finished but you still want stain protection, or if you’re planning on layering individually attached brackets, opt for a usable fixative. This keeps your medium on the paper but allows you to make small adjustments in shading, erasing, and blurring. The regular fixer, on the other hand, holds your mount firmly in place, preserving your artwork without the need for glass. Whichever fixative you choose, remember to spray in a ventilated area and, better yet, wear a mask. Get your fixative fix by browsing our roundup of the best products. below.
How we select each product:
Our mission is to recommend the most appropriate artist tool or supply for your needs. Whether you’re looking for high-end gear or beginner basics, we’ll make sure you get value for money by doing the research for you. We scour the internet for information on how to use art supplies and read customer reviews by real users; we seek expert advice; and of course, we rely on our own accumulated expertise as artists, teachers and artisans.
Winsor & Newton Artist Fixer
This handy fixative is an excellent choice for artists who work with graphite, pastel, pencil and chalk. It provides excellent smudge and dust protection after you spray on one coat, drying fast enough for you to apply the next coat. Each pump press releases a relatively light spray of formula, which helps prevent pigment color from fading, and also adds a subtle dent to maintain surface workability. You can add up to a dozen layers on a single piece. Also, while all fixers have a chemical smell, this one is less intense than the others.
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Lascaux Fine Art Fixative NOT USABLE! USE OSP TEXT
It is one of the softest and most usable fixers on the market. It excels at maintaining color, especially lighter shades, whites and highlights. It also dries very quickly to an attractive, flat matte finish. Due to its softness, however, it does not offer the best protection: although the spray holds the pigments in place and offers good water resistance, the colors can still be smudged if rubbed on.
ANOTHER GOOD CHOICE
Grumbacher Final Fixer
Unlike the fixers above, this spray from Grumbacher is permanent. A non-yellowing coating available in gloss or matte formula, it can be applied to dry media drawings such as graphite, pastel and charcoal, as well as photographs, collages and ceramics. When using it with pastels, it is best to apply it in several light layers rather than one thick layer so as not to risk dissolving your colors.
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Sennelier HC10 Universal Fixer
This is an incredibly powerful fixative made from an acrylic resin that’s 10 times more concentrated than most other formulas on the market. With exceptional light and water resistance, it offers the highest level of protection for various works of art, including pastels, watercolors, inks, charcoal, acrylics, photographs and decoupage . It is also suitable as an adhesive or as a primer for surfaces such as wood, canvas, glass and porcelain. Results can be displayed indoors or outdoors. We also like the canister design, which features a swiveling nozzle that can produce a horizontal or vertical spray pattern. Although this fixer does not yellow, we advise you to test it beforehand due to its resistance.
Krylon Workable Hairspray
Krylon fixative is a classic product. It remains transparent and does not alter the original color or add varnish to dry media such as pencil, chalk, pastel and charcoal. Acid-free and archival, this spray will protect your work from yellowing, creasing and staining, although it is not as fade resistant as the Sennelier spray. The workable formula allows for flexibility in layering pieces in progress and correcting those nearing completion. You can even erase through overlay to make more substantial revisions to your art. For best results, allow fixer to dry for 30 minutes after spraying before resuming work.