Painting, Pastels

What Are Some Fixative Alternatives for Pastels?

June 12, 2014

Protect Paintings without Chemicals
By Alina Bradford

soft pastel fixative by Dani Toth

You don’t need chemicals on your paintings!

Plucky pastel artists can protect pastel drawings and paintings by using fixative alternatives that are chemical-free.
Many pastel artists are against using fixative on their pastel drawings and paintings because it can dull the colors and make the buildup of color look flat. Others hate the smell and the possible effects aerosols may have on the environment.
There are several ways an artist can preserve pastels and prevent smudging without the use of fixatives. The trick is to get the pigment particles to bind together without damaging the pastel.

Fixative Alternatives Using Water

Water is a good tool for binding pastel, though it must be done carefully.
One technique is to lightly spray the back of the pastel paper, not the front, with a light mist of water. Spraying the front can make the colors run and they can become matted and dull.
By spraying the back, the moisture seeps through to the pastel. Make sure that the paper is allowed plenty of ventilation to dry, though, so that it doesn’t mold.

Another technique for preserving pastels using water is by steaming the painting.

  1. First, the pastel painting should be clipped to a flat board to keep the paper from curling.
  2. Set the painting flat on the bathroom floor, painting side up. 
  3. Turn the bathroom tap to hot and let the room fill with steam by closing the door.
  4. Let the painting absorb the steam for a minute or two, depending on how thick the pastel is. Do not let beads of condensation form on the painting. It helps to have a mirror in the bathroom so that the pastel artist can watch the build of moister on the mirror to determine the build of moisture on the painting.
  5. Open the door to the bathroom and release the steam.Take the pastel painting to a dry room and make sure that the paper dries completely before removing it from the board.

Dry Fixative Alternative

If using water or any kind of moister around a pastel painting seems scary, the artist can use this dry technique to finish a pastel painting:

  1. Lay the pastel painting on a flat surface.
  2. Cover the painting with a sheet of paper or thin, un-corrugated cardboard.
  3. Lay a heavy weight, like books, on top of the pastel painting. Make sure that the pressure is even over the entire pastel panting.

The pressure will smash the pastel particles together, making them more stable.

These fixative alternatives can be a life saver for any pastel artist that wants to stabilize their pastel paintings without the use of chemicals.

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