Fine Art, & Photography
a Portrait for the Perfect Gift!
Fixatives: To Seal and Protect
are a form of spay-on sealant. They are sold in
cans like spray paint and formulated specifically
for paper and art board. As the title states, the
purpose of a fixative is to seal and protect artwork
from fading and smudging. It is most commonly used
to seal graphite, charcoal, chalk, and oil pastel.
come in two varieties, workable and permanent. Workable
fixatives offer the advantage of allowing you to
edit your art work after they are applied. For example,
if you have completed a portion of your work and
want to prevent smudging, you can seal the finished
portion with a workable fixative and then finish
the piece. Some workable fixatives erase and allow
editing of the already sealed portion. Permanent
(or non-workable) fixatives are used for the protection
of finished art work. As the name implies,
once treated with these the artwork cannot be edited.
You can purchase permanent fixative in either matte
or glossy finishes. Even if you use a workable fixative
during the creation of your art, you can still seal
it with a permanent, non-workable fixative once
it is complete. Fixatives
range in price from 4 dollars up to 15 dollars per
can, depending on brand and variety. When purchasing
fixative, be sure the label states that it is clear
and non-yellowing. I have found fixatives tend reduce
the reflective qualities of graphite, making the
treated piece slightly more matte. Some fixatives
are low odor, making them less offensive to apply.
to Use Them
follow the directions on the can of fixative. However,
here are some basic tips that will help you apply
in a well ventilated area, going outside if necessary.
your artwork completely flat.
there are no eraser shavings on the piece.
back from the artwork (the can should specify an appropriate
distance) and spray in slow sweeping motion.
light coats. Normally it's better to apply a few light
coats than one heavy one.
dry completely. Pay close attention to the drying
time stated on your fixative.
myth that has been propagated is that hair spray
works as a cheap fixative. Truthfully, hair spray
should never be considered an option for protecting
your work. It can remain sticky, turn yellow, and
ultimately ruin your drawing. Please, never
use hair spray as a substitute for fixative. Hair
spray was designed for hair, not paper. You will
not be pleased with the results.
Take on Fixatives
artists choose not to use fixatives, and there is
no rule that says you have to. Stored properly,
even mediums that smudge easily can last for years.
I have used workable fixatives on some of my drawings,
and did find it helpful, especially when layering
pastel chalk and powdered graphite. However, in
recent years I've stopped using fixatives for a
couple reasons. One, it was a hassle to use. You
must be in a well ventilated area, and for me that
meant going outside to spray the artwork. If the
weather was windy or wet, that meant waiting for
a good day. I also continually had issues with a
clogged nozzle, so the spray would not come out
evenly.Two, I did not like using the harsh chemicals,
and I always noticed the film it left on the paper.
As I mentioned earlier, it tended to make the graphite
more matte. I often wondered about the reliability
of the anti-yellowing promise. Three, even with
repacking and framing, the artworks I did not seal
with fixative showed no smudging. Therefore the
benefits of fixatives did not outweigh the drawbacks
for me. These were my personal experiences, and
may have had to do with the brands and types of
fixatives I tried. Some artists use them regularly,
and they do have their place. For example, if you
sell your work, and the buyer may be unaware of
how to properly handle it, a fixative could prevent
the artwork form being damaged.
choosing a fixative, invest in a good quality spray
and give it a try. Keep in mind the difference between
workable and permanent fixatives. It may take some
practice to learn the best way to apply the fixative,
so experiment by applying your medium to a separate
piece of paper and then treating it with the fixative.
Follow the directions and apply the fixative carefully,
and you will see some nice results.
the next article . . .
your understanding of drawing the human eye in the
next article The Eyes
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