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How to Preserve a Pencil Drawing

how to preserve a pencil drawing

Imagine working painstakingly on a pencil drawing for hours. As you embellish your art with intricate details and decorative features, you’re trying to be extra careful not to smear some lines. You wrapped it up, closed your sketchbook, and put it away. The next day, you had gone through your drawing and were greeted with all the messy smudges!

What could’ve gone wrong?

It’s nothing but mere disappointment seeing your pencil drawing in terrible chaos, and you wish you had done something to protect it. Fret not! In this article, I’ll show you the easy techniques on how to preserve your pencil drawings and prevent smudges.

Should You Preserve Your Pencil Drawings?

The short answer is yes. Graphite is one of the types of the art medium that requires extra care when drawing or sketching with it. When it gets in contact with your hand, paper, or any other tools and objects, graphite can easily smudge, and in turn, can be pretty challenging to fix or clean without precise and careful hand motion.

Such a dilemma can be frustrating, especially if you’re working tenaciously to update your portfolio or finish an art commission for a client. That’s why it is important to provide proper storage or any protective barrier to preserve your work and protect it from smudges and other potential damages.

Easy Ways on How to Preserve a Pencil Drawing

How should you protect your pencil drawings, then? The following are some of the easy and effective ways you can try.

Protect it With a Fixative Spray

Many artists swear by fixatives to shield their drawings from smudges and other elements that can ruin their work. With correct usage and application, a fixative helps provide careful and optimum preservation that holds graphite in place, delivers long-lasting quality, and wards off discoloration, fading, or yellowing due to light exposure.

There are two types of fixatives: workable and final. If you want to apply a protective layer to your art and continue drawing or add more details, use a workable fixative. On the other hand, a final fixative functions as a finishing coat that you should apply when you’re completely done drawing.

Therefore, it is imperative to determine which type of fixative you’re going to use. And while this is a helpful tool, it is crucial to read and follow the application instructions for the best results. As they typically dispense a strong toxic odor, make sure to spray outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

Use Glassine Interleaving Paper

If you’re thinking of another way on how to protect pencil drawings without fixative, using a glassine interleaving paper is the next best thing you can do. It is an acid-free and pulp-based translucent paper that’s been used for preserving documents and artworks, including pencil drawings.

Since glassine is thin, some usually mistake it for wax paper or parchment paper. As the word “interleave” suggests, these thin and smooth sheets are placed between pages to prevent transfers and smudges.

Use Parchment or Wax Paper as Page Inserts

Although parchment paper and wax paper are something that you’d usually find in the kitchen for baking or cooking, they share some similar features to glassine paper, such as texture and translucence.

Therefore, you may also use these as page inserts to protect your pencil drawings or the graphite from transferring and smudging other pages. You can also place it underneath your hand or palm as you draw to minimize any contact with graphite, thereby preventing smudges and stains.

Frame your Pencil Drawing

Nothing beats a sturdy glass frame to fully protect your drawings from various elements that can damage your work. Just make sure that you’re settling for a high-quality and rigid glass frame, so it won’t break easily, particularly when you want to hang your art for display.

If you’re going to display your framed artwork where there’s a lot of sunlight, you may invest in a durable and excellent quality frame with UV blocking properties. While such a frame type might be more costly than regular ones, the price is nothing for a valuable piece of art; it’ll be worth every penny.

Lay your Pencil Artwork Flat

This step is to keep your drawings from any wrinkles, creases, or any folds that can ruin the paper quality and appearance of your work. Therefore, it would make a change if you lay your drawings flat rather than rolling them or putting them away in an upright position. In this way, you can store your drawings and sketches properly without worrying about further damages. Just don’t forget to slip in some page inserts to avoid transfers!

How to Apply Fixatives

If you decide to use a fixative spray to preserve your pencil drawings, here are some things you should remember before using it:

  1. Check the type of fixative and its compatibility with your art medium.
  2. Use a respirator mask and protective gloves since fixatives are usually toxic, which dispenses a horrible chemical smell and can cause skin irritations. Much better if you spray outdoors or in an area with proper ventilation.
  3. Try the fixative on a board or scrap material first before using it directly on your drawing. This allows you to see the effects or if there will be any color changes.
  4. Place your drawing at a vertical angle. Don’t lay it flat on a floor or table to prevent any or drips and uneven applications.
  5. Before you start spraying, make sure that the paper surface is clean and free from dust, dirt, and particles, but be sure to do this carefully to avoid any smudges.
  6. When you’re all set, you should spray at least 6 to 8 inches from your drawing. Begin with light applications as heavy sprays may result in drastic color changes. Wait for it to dry according to the manufacturer’s recommended drying time. Until then, you can apply another layer.


For a professional artist or hobbyist like you, there’s nothing better than showcasing flawless and neat artwork. If you’ve diligently worked on a creative art project like pencil drawings, you might as well do your best to preserve it for the longest time possible. Luckily, mentioned above are some of the ways you can try to give your drawings the care they deserve.

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