Compared to most of the other art media, pastels are relatively simple to use. However, because of their nature, pastels tend to move on paper. It is also easy to accidentally rub off the paper with the slightest touch. This is the reason why you should use a fixative while you are drawing or after you finish.
However, finding the top fixative for pastels can be quite challenging. If you use the wrong fixative on your work, it could discolor the pastels, ruining all the hard work you put into it. You need to compare a lot of products to see which of them is the best fixative for pastels that is worth your money and can deliver on their promises.
This article will help you figure out which of the many brands of soft pastel fixative is the best for you. You will be getting some product recommendations with reviews as well as a quick buying guide.
- Best Fixative for Pastel Reivews
- What to Look For When Buying a Fixative for Pastel
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Fixative for Pastel Reivews
1. Krylon Fixative Aerosol Spray
You would think that spraying anything on paper would cause it to wrinkle, but that is not what happens when you use this spray fixative for oil pastels. I have tried using this fixative on a somewhat thin drawing paper and it did nothing to deform it. If anything, it made the paper a bit sturdier.
Another thing that I like using this fixative for is adding more tooth to paper. I like using this fixative spray on regular paper to give them more tooth for pastels to hold on to. I also like to use it when I am layering colors. It is like placing another sheet of transparent paper over the work surface. It prevents the pastel beneath from smudging.
This fixative spray does have a bit of a smell but it dissipates rather quickly. However, if you are particularly sensitive to smells, then you should use this product outside and wear a mask. It also dries quickly. You can start drawing on it again after 15 minutes but I suggest you wait 30 minutes just to be sure.
I also like how this spray can produce a fine mist. This promotes ease in laying down a uniform layer of fixative on the paper. Because you are laying a thin layer every time, you are also preventing the paper from wrinkling. You can go as light or heavy as you want.
Just like most fixatives, this one can cause a bit of discoloration, but not quite as much as other brands. This fixative can darken pastels slightly, but it usually depends on how much of this you apply to the drawing. I just use one or two coats so the discoloration is not noticeable.
- Does not wrinkle the paper
- Adds more tooth to the paper
- Has a bit of a smell but tends to dissipate quickly
- Sprays a fine mist for added control
- Helps protect other forms of art media
- Slightly darkens pastel colors
You will need to compromise a bit with the slight discoloration, but all in all, this fixative works quite well. If you are the type who likes to make somewhat large-scale pastel drawings, you will love this fixative. You can work on a different part of your drawing without smudging the parts you have already finished.
2. Sennelier D’Artigny Oil Pastel Fixative
If you are on the market for a good fixative to help preserve your artwork, look no further than the Sennelier fixative. This brand is famous among oil pastel artists and their fixative is one of the best in the world. This fixative uses a bit of alcohol and resin. You are basically covering your artwork with a thin layer of plastic.
Another nice thing about the Sennelier soft pastel fixative is that one spray can cover a large area. You can use this one can to preserve dozens of drawings. This means that even though the product might be a bit expensive, you are paying for quality. It is like you are laminating your drawing and preserving it for posterity.
What I liked about this fixative is that it does not discolor the pastels. However, what you need to keep in mind is that once you apply this fixative, you can no longer go over it with more pastels. This means you need to finish your artwork before you go over it with this fixative.
This Sennelier fixative for pastels completely seals your oil pastel drawing. A layer of resin will cover it, so no matter how you try to smudge the colors, they will not get smudged even a little bit.
Even though oil pastels do not completely dry, once you put this fixative over them, you will not mess it up. However, you should not use this with chalk pastels because this will flatten the unique texture of the medium.
As mentioned before, this fixative contains resin, and people who work with the stuff say that it has a strong chemical smell. You should at least wear a mask when you are applying this product. It is also advisable to do it in a well-ventilated room or outside, preferably.
- Effectively protects your artwork
- A small amount goes a long way
- Does not discolor the pastels
- Completely seals the painting
- Comes from a well-known brand
- Has a strong chemical smell
This comes with the Sennelier brand. This, alone, should tell you that it is a high-quality product. Although the spray nozzle needs work and it is a bit on the expensive side, it is an almost perfect fixative that will preserve and protect your art.
3. Blair Very Low Odor Spray Fix
This fixative spray for pastels indeed does have less odor compared to other fixatives but that does not mean that it is odorless. I highly recommend that you use this product outside or in a well-ventilated room. I always wear a mask and nitrile gloves when working with this product, so you should, too.
Aside from fixing the pastels in place, it also works great for adding tooth to paper. I often use it when I need to add layers to my drawing. Spraying a bit of it on top of a layer of pastel gives the surface more texture, thus allowing me to add more color without smudging what’s beneath.
Because I use this product to add layers, I am very happy that it dries relatively quickly. I am a bit impatient and I do not like waiting upwards of an hour before I continue with my drawing. This product dries in, like, fifteen minutes give or take, allowing me just enough time to take a short break and then continue drawing.
This product also does not wrinkle the paper. If anything, it makes it more rigid. I have used some fixatives that curled up the paper quite a bit. Some even do so much that I had to abandon the project. It does not deform the paper in any way, which is always good. I have used it on regular drawing paper and it has not made it curl up that much.
However, this spray fixative does have a huge issue – that is the spray is very inconsistent. Unlike other fixatives that deliver a fine mist, this one is so inconsistent that it will leave a lot of visible spots and blotches. I strongly advise against using it to finish your artwork.
- Low odor as the name implies
- Works great when it comes to adding tooth to the paper
- Dries quickly
- Does not wrinkle paper
- Works great on pencil and charcoal drawings
- Nozzle needs a lot of work – It leaves spots and blotches
If you like drawing landscapes, then maybe this choice for oil pastels fixative might work for you. However, if you mainly draw portraits and other drawings that need fine detail, then you will definitely be disappointed. Also, don’t use it as a finishing fixative as it will significantly darken pastels.
4. Winsor Newton Aerosols Workable Fixative
This fixative is not exclusively just for pastels. You can also use it to fix pencil and charcoal drawings and oil paintings. I tried using this on other mediums, like acrylic, but it did not work that well. Also, do not use this on markers as it will make them bleed into the page, which is the opposite of what you want to happen.
The product is also good when planning to add tooth to paper. I do not always have the right drawing paper for what I intend to draw. Most of the time, the paper I have on hand does not have the right texture.
I use this fixative on blank sheets of paper to give them more tooth and prevent the oil pastels from bleeding into the paper. I am also glad that I can apply multiple layers if I need to increase the tooth even further.
This product also works quite well as a finishing fixative. It still darkens pastels but not by much. Also, I tend to use no more than two light coats on my drawings, so the darkening is not that noticeable. However, if you go on heavy with this product, then, of course, you will see a considerable amount of discoloration.
Another thing I liked about this product is the spray nozzle on the can. I have used several other fixatives and their spray nozzles were a nightmare to use. Either they sprayed fixative unevenly or they clogged up after just one use. This product sprays so evenly that it feels like you are using an airbrush. Laying down even coats is very easy.
I do have to warn you that this fixative has a foul smell. It is probably the worst-smelling of all the fixatives I have tried. With that said, you must only use this outside or in a well-ventilated room (with an exhaust fan if possible). Do this inside and the entire room will smell funky for at least a couple of days.
- Ideal for use in various mediums
- Provides tooth to paper and adds layering to colors
- Completely colorless and will not darken pastels
- Works well as a finishing fixative
- Sprays evenly
- Has a strong odor
This fixative works well for oil and chalk pastels, pencils, and charcoals, but do not use it for marker drawings. Just one or two light coats should be enough for finishing. Only one coat is also necessary for layering colors. It does have the strongest smell among all the fixatives I have used so use it outside.
5. SpectraFix Fixative Concentrate
If you are a heavy fixative user, then I highly recommend that you give this product a try. It is a highly concentrated fixative that you need to mix with an alcohol base. I usually use a cheap bottle of vodka and it worked great.
You can also use rubbing alcohol, around 70% solution is ideal. This one tiny bottle is enough to make around 18 ounces of fixative, which can last a long time.
Another thing I liked about this fixative is that it does not have any strong chemical odor. This means you can use it even if you are in an enclosed space and you will not feel dizzy or nauseated in the least. I like it a lot because I do not have to deal with the wind blowing dust and debris on my drawings.
I am also happy to say that this fixative does not discolor nor darken pastels. I have been using it for almost a year and I have yet to see any significant discoloration. I have used it on oil pastels, chalks, pencils, and charcoal and I have always gotten great results. If you like to make highly detailed drawings, you will love how this fixative will preserve it.
As mentioned earlier, this product does not have any strong odors. The reason is that it does not have any toxic substances. It is also environmentally friendly, so even if you accidentally spill some of it on your plants, they will not suffer from any ill effects. Also, if you have severe allergies or are sensitive to strong smells, you will love this product.
With all that said, you should know that it is not a ready-to-use product. Many people mistakenly bought this fixative for oil pastels, thinking that they can use it immediately.
You need to provide the alcohol carrier for the fixative and the spray bottle. I suggest you buy a good quality spray bottle that can create a good and even mist for easier application.
- Highly economical
- Does not have any strong odors
- Works on different art media
- Has minimal discoloration effects
- Non-toxic and environmentally friendly
- You need to provide the alcohol and spray bottle
Although you will need to mix this fixative concentrate with some alcohol and provide your own spray bottle, the resulting product will last you for a long time. Most importantly, this fixative works well.
What to Look For When Buying a Fixative for Pastel
If you are a newbie pastel artist, this might be the first time that you will be shopping for a pastel fixative. Additionally, if this is your first-time using fixative, then you might not even know what to look for.
To help you find the right pastel fixative that you can use for your artwork, here are some key factors you should consider.
Ease of Use
Ideally, the pastel fixative you buy should be as easy to use as possible. This means that the fixative does not require any additional preparation for use. A good quality fixative should only require that you clean the drawing before spraying the fixative. It usually means that you dust off any loose pastels off the surface.
In addition, you should get a fixative that does not deform the paper. There are many brands of fixatives that wet the paper so much that it curls up. You need a fixative that lays on thinly and evenly.
The problem with most fixatives is that they typically discolor the pastels, darkening them significantly after application. You should buy a fixative that does not affect the colors of the pastels or has very minimal discoloration at the very least.
In addition, you might not notice the discoloration if you first used the fixative on pencil or charcoal drawings, so you might think that it will not discolor your artwork. It is best to do a test page using pastels to see how it reacts.
If you will be using fixatives to add layers to your drawing, it is best to use a quick-drying fixative. Typically, most fixatives dry rather quickly but some dry faster than the others. Look for a fixative that cures completely in just 15 minutes, or faster if possible.
Type of Finish
Determine what kind of texture surface you are looking for. Do you want your artwork to have a smooth and glossy finish? Or perhaps you want a matte and textured finish. Fixative for pastels that have glossy finishes generally last longer than matte finishes. However, the matte finishes allow you to lay more pastels over it.
Moreover, you can use matte fixatives to add “tooth” to paper. The tooth is the texture of the paper. The more tooth a paper has, the more pastel layers it can hold.
Most aerosol fixatives have a terrible chemical smell. Sometimes, the smell is so strong that it can be nausea-inducing. Although it is always recommended to use fixatives outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, you should still look for a fixative that has minimal odor.
If possible, look for a fixative that does not have any odor at all. Typically, the fixatives that you must mix with alcohol do not have any foul smells.
Most fixatives can last for at least ten years before you need to put another coat over the original. You cannot test how long a fixative can last, but you can read customer reviews of different brands. You can somewhat tell if a certain fixative can last for as long as you need it to by how much other people rave about it.
Typically, finishing fixatives that contain resin can virtually last forever, so you may want to look into those kinds of products. However, take note that the finish will be quite glossy and not matte like workable fixative spray.
Aerosol or Concentrate
Most of the fixatives that are in the market right now are in aerosol form. These are the ones that come in a spray can and these are usually the ones that are easy to use.
On the other hand, there are fixatives that come in a concentrated form. These forms are those that you have to mix with any kind of alcohol and then load into a spray bottle. These are usually more economical because you are getting more fixative for almost half the price of aerosol fixatives.
However, you will need to invest in a good spray bottle that can create a uniform fine mist, or else you will see spots and blotches in your drawings later.
When it comes to pastel fixatives, you will be getting what you paid for. However, if you are just a beginner at using pastels, then you should first try out some of the cheaper options just to get yourself familiar with using fixatives.
Once you have experience using fixatives, you can then move on to getting brands that are more expensive, but still within your budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you Keep Soft Pastels from Smudging?
The problem with soft pastels is that they do not dry completely, so that means that they will run eventually. You can prevent this from happening by adding a fixative after you finish your drawing.
In addition, if you want to add more layers to your drawing without smudging or mudding the layer below, you can also use a matte fixative. Once the fixative dries, you can start adding layers to your drawing.
How to Preserve Chalk Pastel Drawings?
Spraying fixative on chalk pastel drawings can usually cause serious discoloration. However, you can still use fixative to somewhat lengthen the lifespan of your charcoal artwork.
You just need to spray the back of the paper for pastels carefully. This will cause the fixative to seep through the paper. Hopefully, it will hold the chalk pastel in place. A bit of the chalk will still fall off the paper, but at least, it will not be as much as when you do not use fixative.
Fixative for oil pastels is a product that helps you preserve your drawings so that they will not get smudged, dirtied, or fade over time. Oil pastels do not dry completely, and chalk pastels tend to fall off the page no matter how careful you are with them. Applying fixatives on the finished drawings will fix the pigments in place.
The best fixative for pastels is one that works well without discoloring the pastels. The ones listed above are some of the best that I tried through the years, and hopefully, they will work the same way for you.