I use fixatives a lot in my work. One reason for that is that I like to do lots of layers and fixatives brings back a bit of tooth to the surface, so that it can take more colored pencil. It’s also good to use a fixative when you work in mixed media, either to seal a layer (like PanPastel that smudge a lot) or to help colored pencil adhere to the surface on top of watercolor. A general tip when using fixative is to spray very light on the first layers, otherwise colored pencil can’t penetrate into the paper and it makes it difficult to add many layers. That can of course be a benefit on some surfaces, like pastelmat. All of theese fixatives can be used with colored pencil and wet media.
So, let’s start! I’ll write about sealing/fixing properties, color shifting and “get-back-tooth” qualities.
Such a versatile product. It comes in a regular spray bottle and that means that you can fill a small spray bottle with it to take with you when you are on the go. It also dissolves colored pencil just a bit, which means that you can use it as a blender too. This has for long been my go to fixative and I have an older post about it here: Spectrafix Fixative
Sealing: It seals pastels/colored pencil pretty good and also watercolor. Be sure to spray a very thin layer on top of watercolor or PanPastel as it’s very watery and it can cause colors to move around. I find that this fixative evens out the shine most.
Color shift: It’s barely noticeable when used in thin layers. However, if you soak the paper it has a tendency to dull some colors, especially pinks and oranges.
Tooth: Adds some tooth to the surface. A great addition if you just need a little extra tooth.
Clairefontaine Pastel Revolution Freezer
A lovely new addition to my Fixative arsenal. This also comes in a regular spray bottle, but it sprays better than Spectrafix with a finer mist. This is so easy to apply, as it sinks into the paper immidiately and very even. This might be my new favourite fixative.
Sealing: This fixative seals PanPastels a lot better than Spectrafix. It doesn’t seal wet media as much, though so keep that in mind when you use watercolor. However, I think it’s very suitable for watercolors because it doesn’t make the pigments move, since it sinks into the paper so fast.
Color shift: It doesn’t change pinks and oranges, which I love! It makes darks darker and can actually make some colors a bit more saturated, which suits my style of drawing/painting.
Tooth: It brings a little bit more tooth than Spectrafix, which works very well on top of watercolors. The new tooth is very nice to work on.
Brush and Pencil Advanced Texture Fixative
This fixative comes in a pressurised spray bottle so you can’t fill a small bottle with it. Although Brush and Pencil also offers a small “nail polish”-bottle that they call Touch-up Texture which works very similarly. That product can also be used with a titanium white powder to add highlights.
Sealing: This stuff seals both Pastels/Colored pencil and wet media very good. Use very lightly in the first layer though, as it might make pigments move around.
Color shift: It’s about the same as for Spectrafix. This fixative is also UV resistant, which protects the colors from fading in the long run and therefor can also be used as a final varnish. (Read more about varnishing here: Varnish)
Tooth: This fixative brings back the most tooth of all three fixatives! Great for those moments when you really need a lot of extra tooth.
All of theese fixatives above are non-toxic and can be used indoors. They don’t alter the shine of the surface, or might matte out shiny areas just a little, which I see as a benefint. I find it best to use the Clairfontaine fixative first, because it helps the colors to stay true before adding the other fixatives if you need to seal more or add more tooth. It’s also good to use this first on wet media, so that the pigments won’t move around too much.
One thing to note about using fixatives along with watercolor is that once you’ve fixed a surface you loose the flowy abilities of watercolor so don’t spray before you’re happy with your watercolor layer. Gouache works great on top of theese fixatives, though and you can for example spray a gouache underpainting with Clairfontaine Fixative, then Spectrafix to seal the gouache. Then you can add another gouache layer on top without disturbing the underpainting.
I’ve also used Krylon workable Fixatif but it adds a bit of shine to the surface and doesn’t leave a very pleasant tooth for colored pencil, I think. It’s also toxic and comes in a pressurised spray bottle so it doesn’t add any benefits for my practice.
I hope this article gave you some tips on how you can use fixatives in your own art! 🙂