How To Protect Pencil Drawings
Some artists, including me, spend well over thirty hours on one graphite pencil drawing.
The amount of handling during the drawing process can easily ruin the drawing surface, which will make it impossible for you to finish the piece.
If you spend that amount of time on your drawings, you will want to protect the drawing surface during and after the drawing process.
In this post, I will share several different ways I protect my pencil drawings so I can sell them.
Why Should You Preserve Pencil Drawings
Graphite is a beautiful but unforgiving medium to work with and can smudge very easily.
The long hours you spend on drawing the soft value changes to make a subject look as if it is coming off the paper can be ruined when something rubs against the drawing surface.
The graphite transfers to anything it is in contact with, including hands, glass from frames, or paper.
More and more people will start to view and handle your drawings as you grow your portfolio.
No matter how careful the drawings are handled, fingerprints and small smudges are inevitable if they are not placed behind glass or plastic sheets.
The good news is that there is a product you can use to protect your drawings during the drawing process and to preserve a finished picture.
How To Preserve Pencil Drawings With Fixatives
Spraying a fixative on your finished drawing will protect your drawing and reduce the change of smudging.
The two types of fixatives you will want to become familiar with are workable fixatives and final fixative.
Workable fixatives allow you to continue to work on your drawing while protecting it until you return to work on it at a different time.
Final fixatives should only be used when your artwork is completed.
The final fixative provides some protection against smudging and ultraviolet light.
- Blair Spray Matte Fixative
- Blick Matte Fixative
- Brush and Pencil Advanced Colored Pencil Fixatives
- Grumbacher Workable Fixative
- Krylon Workable Matte Fixatif
- SpectraFix Spray Fixative
- Blick Gloss Fixative
- Brush and Pencil Advanced Colored Pencil Fixatives
- Grumbacher Final Fixative
- Krylon Gallery Series Final Art Fixatif
- Lascaux Fine Art Fixative
- Pebeo 4Artist Marker Varnish
- Sennelier Delacroix Spray Fixative for Pencil and Charcoals
- Sennelier HC10 Universal Fixative
There are many fixative brands available, and you will want to try a few to see what works best for you.
I use Grumbacher Workable Fixative, and I am pleased with the quality of the product.
How To Spray Your Drawing
- Read instructions on the can before using.
- Shake the can before spraying on your finished drawing.
- Always test on a scrap piece of paper first to make sure it is spraying evenly. Sometimes the nozzle will get clogs and spit instead of spraying.
- Use the fixative in a ventilated area. Some fixatives can be hazardous to your health. Refer to the label for more information.
- Put your drawing on a flat surface and lightly spray and even coat from side to side.
- Let dry for 15 minutes and test with a tissue to see if any graphite transfers to the cloth. If it does, then add another coat of fixative.
How To Preserve And Frame A Pencil Drawing
Like I have mentioned, some of my graphite drawings take over 30 hours to complete.
I always take the extra step to protect my finished drawings.
After I spray the drawing fixative, I let it dry for 24 hours.
Once the drawing is completely dried, I will matte and put the drawing in a frame.
Wash the frame glass the same time you spray the fixative. Doing this will allow enough time for the glass to be completely dry.
Now the drawing is safe for handling and will be in perfect condition when it arrives at the buyer’s residence.
I also include a safe handling letter for the buyer that explains not to touch the drawing surface and always keep the drawing framed.
How To Store Pencil Drawings
If you are interested in storing your drawings without a fixative, you can place the picture between two pieces of glassine interleaving paper.
Glassine interleaving paper is an acid-free translucent paper that is ideal for protecting and storing delicate artwork like graphite, charcoal, colored pencils, and pastels.
Place the drawing on top of a larger piece of glassine interleaving paper.
The glassine interleaving paper should be approximately an inch bigger than the drawing on each side.
Place another piece of glassine interleaving paper on top of the drawing.
Tape the edge of the glassine paper with masking tape on all sides.
Store the drawing flat in a dry area. You can add layers on top of each other as long as they are separated from the glassine interleaving paper.
Do Not Use Hair Spray
Some artists use or recommend using hair spray as a cheaper alternative to fixative spays.
Fixative sprays are not that much more than hairspray and are made especially for protecting graphite and charcoal drawings.
Hairspray and fixatives share some of the same ingredients, but fixatives will not yellow over time, whereas hairspray does.
If you are planning on selling your pencil drawings, I strongly recommend spending a couple of extra dollars for a fixative.
Final Thoughts On Sealing And Protecting Drawings
A large amount of time is invested with pencil drawings.
Taking the extra steps caring for the paper during the drawing process and sealing the drawing after it is complete is well worth the small investment of fixatives, glassine paper, and frames.
I do advise practicing spraying a fixative on a drawing that is not a final piece. Use a sketch or something that has no value so you can learn how to apply the fixative properly.
Always spray the fixative in a ventilated area and let it completely dry before framing or storing it.
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