Oil pastels are a vibrant and adaptable medium for artists who love bold, direct colors. Preserving oil pastel artwork can be challenging due to its soft and smudge-prone nature.
This article aims to guide you through effectively sealing your oil pastel paintings, ensuring their longevity and vibrance remain intact for years.
By the end of this post, you will know how to seal oil pastels so you can feel confident in displaying your artwork.
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What Are Oil Pastels
Oil pastel paintings are renowned for their intense, saturated colors and unique texture. The consistency of the medium, similar to lipstick, allows for seamless color blending and layering, creating nuanced color transitions and depth. Unlike other mediums, such as acrylics or watercolor, oil pastels do not require a brush or diluent.
Instead, artists can apply oil pastels directly onto the surface, enabling a tactile, intimate interaction with the artwork. However, this softness also makes oil pastel artworks more susceptible to smudging or damage, hence the need for effective sealing techniques.
What Is the Difference Between Oil Pastel And Soft Pastel
Soft pastels and oil pastels are similar in many ways, but they also have key differences that affect their behavior and usage in artwork.
Soft pastels are made with a mixture of dry pigment, a filler, and a binder, which gives them a dry, crumbly texture. They are perfect for quick sketches and creating light, textured effects. However, they’re also very fragile and prone to smudging.
On the other hand, oil pastels are made with non-drying linseed oil and wax binders, resulting in a creamy, rich texture that stays on the page and doesn’t crumble. The oil content provides a smooth, buttery feel and intense colors like oil paintings when applied to a surface, making it a more durable but less blendable medium than soft pastels.
Both mediums have their merits, and their choice often depends on the artist’s preference and the desired effect in their artwork.
Is It Important To Seal Oil Pastel Paintings
It is crucial to seal oil pastel paintings to preserve their quality and ensure longevity with an oil pastel fixative. Oil pastels’ unique soft and buttery nature makes them prone to smudges and scratches. Even slight accidental contact can cause damage to the artwork or lead to color transfer. Dust and grime can accumulate over time, dulling the vibrant colors of oil pastel drawings.
By sealing the painting behind glass, you provide a protective layer that shields the artwork from external elements, preserving the original colors and details and preventing smudging or fading.
Furthermore, a well-sealed oil pastel painting is easier to handle and display safely, enhancing its aesthetic appeal.
Materials Needed for Sealing Oil Pastel Paintings
To seal your oil pastel artwork effectively, you’ll need the following materials:
Fixative Spray: Specifically designed for oil pastels, this product helps reduce smudging and protects the artwork from dust and other damaging elements.
Here is a list of popular fixative sprays that are particularly suitable for oil pastel artworks:
Sennelier Delacroix Oil Pastel Fixative Spray: Sennelier is a trusted name in the art world, and their Sennelier oil pastel fixative is designed explicitly for oil pastels and charcoal. It offers excellent protection against smudging and dust.
Grumbacher Final Fixative Gloss Spray: This fixative from Grumbacher provides a glossy finish to your oil pastel paintings. It dries clear and offers moisture-resistant protection.
Krylon Workable Fixatif Spray: The Krylon workable fixatif is popular among artists. It provides a clear, durable finish that protects against smudging and dust. The ‘workable’ nature of the spray means artists can continue to add layers to their artwork after the fixative has been applied.
Lascaux UV Protect Spray: While a bit pricier, Lascaux’s UV protect spray offers the added benefit of UV protection. This fixative helps to keep the colors of your oil pastel drawing vibrant, even if exposed to sunlight over long periods.
Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative: This fixative spray from Winsor & Newton is another excellent choice. It offers a quick-drying, non-yellowing finish that effectively protects your artwork.
It’s crucial to read the instructions on the can before using any fixative spray. Always test the aerosol spray on a scrap piece of the same material as your artwork before applying it to the finished piece.
Soft Brush: A soft, clean brush is needed to gently remove loose pastels before applying the fixative.
Sturdy Gloves: To protect your hands from the fixative spray, it’s essential to wear a pair of sturdy gloves.
A Well-ventilated Area: Fixative sprays contain chemicals that should not be inhaled. Therefore, always work in a well-ventilated area or outdoors.
Protective Mask: Despite working in a well-ventilated area, wearing a mask adds extra protection from potentially inhaling harmful chemicals.
Newspapers or Drop Cloth: These protect the surrounding areas from overspray.
Read the instructions provided on the fixative spray can before using it. Different brands might have varying directions for application.
Step-by-Step Guide to Sealing Oil Pastel Paintings
Whether you are a beginner or an established artist, sealing your oil pastel painting is an essential step in the creative process. This section provides a comprehensive step-by-step guide on effectively sealing your oil pastel paintings. The instructions have been designed to be easy to follow, ensuring your artwork gets the best protection and preservation possible. Let’s delve into the process!
Preparing your workspace
Preparing your workspace is the first, and arguably one of the most crucial, steps in sealing your oil pastel artwork. Start by choosing an appropriate area for spraying the fixative. This area should be well-ventilated to prevent inhaling harmful fumes from the fixative spray. Ideally, you should perform this task outdoors or in an open space. If that’s impossible, ensure you’re near open windows and doors for adequate ventilation.
Next, cover the work surface and surrounding areas with newspapers or a drop cloth. This is to protect these areas from any overspray that may occur during the application of the fixative.
Place your artwork flat on the covered surface. Don’t forget to wear your sturdy gloves and a protective mask to safeguard against potential contact with the fixative spray.
Now, your workspace is adequately prepared for the sealing process. Safety should be your top priority when handling materials such as fixative sprays.
Applying the first layer of sealant
Before applying the first sealant layer, ensure that your artwork and paper is free of any loose dust or pastels.
Gently use a soft brush to remove these particles, not smudging or disturbing the existing colors and patterns. Then, mix the contents well with your chosen fixative spray and shake it well for a few seconds.
Holding the can about a foot away from the artwork, apply the fixative in a consistent, sweeping motion, starting from one end and moving to the other. Be sure to maintain a steady hand and even pressure on the spray button to ensure a uniform sealant layer.
Once the first layer is applied, let your artwork dry completely before proceeding to the next step. It is crucial not to rush this process, as using another layer on a wet surface can lead to uneven coating and potential damage to the artwork.
Drying and reapplying
The drying time can vary based on the brand of the fixative and the number of layers applied, but typically it ranges from 15 minutes to an hour. Once the first layer is thoroughly dry, it’s time to apply a second layer. Repeat the spraying process, again ensuring a consistent, sweeping motion for an even coat. Apply as many layers as necessary, allowing each one to dry thoroughly before applying the next. This is particularly important for oil pastel paintings with heavy layering or texture. Let your artwork dry completely once you’ve achieved several light coats with the desired coverage. The result should be a well-sealed, protected oil pastel painting that retains its vibrancy and beauty for years to come.
Tips and Tricks for Sealing Oil Pastel Paintings
Avoiding common mistakes when sealing oil pastel paintings is crucial to preserving the integrity of your artwork. Here are a few tips to help you avoid these pitfalls:
Rushing the Process: It may be tempting to apply multiple fixative layers quickly, but this can lead to pooling or streaking. Always allow each layer to dry thoroughly before applying the next one.
Spraying Too Close or Too Far Away: The optimal distance to spray from your artwork is approximately 12 inches. Spraying too close can cause the fixative to pool, while spraying from too far away may not provide adequate coverage.
Not Testing the Fixative: Always test the fixative on a scrap piece of the same material as your artwork before applying it to the finished piece. This allows you to see how the fixative will react with the materials and colors you’ve used.
Not Using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Fixative sprays can contain harmful chemicals if inhaled or come into contact with skin. Always use a protective mask and gloves, and work in a well-ventilated area.
Failure to Protect Surroundings: Despite your best efforts, overspray will likely occur. Protect your surroundings by covering them with newspapers or a drop cloth.
Ignoring Manufacturer’s Instructions: Different fixatives have different instructions. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for best results.
By avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your oil pastel paintings are well-preserved and continue to shine in their full glory for years.
Sealing your own oil painting or pastel artwork is an essential step in the artistic process, ensuring your work’s longevity, vibrancy, and preservation. You can achieve a well-sealed artwork by adequately preparing your workspace, applying the fixative correctly, and adhering to the recommended safety measures. Furthermore, by avoiding common mistakes and following the tips and tricks provided, your oil pastel paintings will maintain their brilliance and charm for many years.