View Full Version : New to Pastels - Help please

chubby pinto
03-20-2013, 04:59 AM
Hello all,

I have recently started using soft pastel however I am having trouble sealing my artwork. Currently i use a clear matt spray but it seems to make the pastel bleed and I loose definition in the picture. Can anyone suggest what they use. I have also posted a couple of my works so far.

The first picture is of my daughters horse and the second is a picture that I came across and liked.

Any comments would be greatly helpful.

Cheers Michelle


03-20-2013, 06:42 AM
These are great drawings, what did you use before pastels. I am also new and had Some problems with using to Many layers. I used fixative spray and it Killers the brightness of the colors. I dont use it for the top layer. When its finished i put it behind glass with a( dont know the english name) passepartout. I tried Sanded paper and That doesnt need need anything. I absorbes the pastel really good and you can put a lot of layers on it. Keep up the good work. Its great art.

03-20-2013, 11:01 AM
You can try useing Clarefontein Pastelmat as a support as this doesn't need any fixative. I always use it, it is very good & the colours stay bright & crisp.

It is sold by mail order if you can't buy it in your country.


03-20-2013, 02:45 PM
two nice paintings . :)

about fixative ;
it is not like spraying a coat of sealer/colour on , say , wood or metal -
it should be a fine mist which settles on the surface , so ,
if too much/too close/too slow/no drying time , it will wet the dry pigment
and becomes a smooth glaze with no tooth/texture .

it looks okay , essentially - give it lots of time to thoroughly dry , 15-30 min .
if fresh pastel just glides over the surface , then the support has been glazed and the tooth is compromised/lost .

if that is the case , a gentle sanding with an 800 grit sandpaper might recover/create enough tooth to go forward ,
but a certain amount of detail/finish will be lost and have to be reworked on the roughened surface .

good work ! hope that helps .


03-20-2013, 03:04 PM
Hi Michelle and Welcome!

The issue of fixative is a topic that has many opinions and many variables. As others have mentioned, the type of paper you are using and its ability to hold the pastel will vary greatly. Whether you are using harder, medium or the softest of soft pastels will also make a difference.

Whether of not to use fixative or not will have every variable response. Some will never use it. Some use it to fix the early layers only. Some use it throughout the process, but leave the final layer unfixed. Some will use fixative at the end.

Some brands of fixative darken and dull the pastel a lot - others not so much. One of the newer products is very popular - Spectrafix - and also non-toxic. The other brands of spray fixative need proper ventilation when using - even a respirator, in my opinion.

As Ed has mentioned, you want to spray a fine mist from at least a foot or more away. Let it dry and the repeat as needed. It is important to remember that even when sprayed with fixative, the pastel is still smudge-able. You will not get a totally sealed surface unless you put on so many coats of spray that your painting is in all likelihood altered quite a bit.

Now you have many more questions than when you began!!

Do some searches here on WC or on the internet and you will probably get lots of info on using fixative.


P.S. Very nice paintings!

03-20-2013, 03:08 PM
Beautiful paintings, you know your way around horses!

You are going to find a wide array of opinions about fixative, but the majority of people don't use it often. When they do most people use it during the painting process but not after the last layer of pastel is applied.

I have found no real need for fixative, especially if I am using a sanded surface. I haven't used Pastelmat but I have a sample piece, and it does grip the pastel rather well, so I think it probably will fall into the same category as sanded surfaces.

When I do paint on Canson paper I also don't feel the need to use a fixative. The pastel grips just fine, and once under glass there is no need for fixative.

There is a place for fixative though, don't get me wrong. It's great to have in the studio for a number of reasons. If you want to intentionally darken an area, spraying with fixative will do that for you very nicely. If you run out of tooth on Canson paper spraying with fixative will give you some tooth back, so you can add a few more layers of pastel. You can also use fixative heavily on an underpainting, it will give you drips of color (if that's what you want). It will also "fix" the underpainting in place.

The reason most people don't like using fixative is because it almost always darkens and dulls the colors. Also, it is quite toxic with the exception of one brand, which is Spectrafix. It is the one I use if I feel I need to, it's non-toxic and darkens only very minimally.

Hope this helps!

P.S. Don and I cross posted, I am sure some of what I said is a duplication of what he said.....

03-20-2013, 05:31 PM
Wow beautiful work. When I saw "help please" and then opened the post I figured if you needed help I need life support:lol:

I agree with most about limiting fixative. I tried it recently on a picture I did in class to see how the rather expensive fixative I brought would work. It left thousands of spots on the pastel.

I use sanded paper now but I have used Canson and upon the advice of someone sprayed the back of the painting. That actually worked some. I had to hang it from something while spraying.

Moises Menendez
03-20-2013, 06:25 PM
Hi. You have a great work here.
When it comes to use fixatives in pastels you will get different opinions depending if the fixative is spray or aerosol. The use of fixative is controversial and debatable. I personally use it but at the beginning of my work, but very lightly to avoid darkening the color particles, and use the spray like Krylon. The other type of fixatives that contains casein and alcohol can cause "bleeding" of the colors if you are not careful since it comes in an aerosol container and may spray droplets to the material. However, I was told that this fixative does not darken the colors.

chubby pinto
03-20-2013, 09:10 PM
Thank you all so very much for your comments. Just to clear this up I use canvas for most of my paintings so there is a need to use fixative as it is exposed to the elements. Has anyone else use canvas

Thanks Michelle

03-20-2013, 11:39 PM
:) So,......are you using Oil pastels or soft pastels? I haven't heard of anyone using canvas for the soft pastels----unless they paint some sort of pastel grit over it first. And we spray carefully with a fixitive and frame under glass usually. This is very interesting. Very nice artwork, by the way.

03-21-2013, 12:47 AM
Love the painting of the team, nice work, Trudi

03-21-2013, 01:31 PM
canvas is a support , like everything else , and some pastellists are going with that idea .

a consideration is how the canvas will survive over time , and what treatments will ensure that , and accept pastel into the surface .

some folks find the gypsum in some gessos make a tooth and accept water spray or mist to tint/stain/colour as an underpainting without compromising the tooth :
absorbent , and much less dry/set time than oil wash .
- kinda like a plaster wall , not finish-polished , for fresco , and not needing egg tempera base .

please keep us posted about your work on canvas !
and for nerds like me , all the details . :D


chubby pinto
03-22-2013, 04:50 AM
I am using soft pastels, I haven't had a go at oil pastels yet but I am going to soon. I find it easier to work on canvas other than paper.

Also below is a painting that I am working on at the moment.


03-22-2013, 10:54 AM
Lovely paintings, Michelle.

It is difficult to seal the surface of a pastel painting without altering the look of the painting. Glass is still the best protection, even if you apply fixative. Some spray varnish on the painting, but it seems that works best with a more abstract approach to painting. As you do representative pictures, you will lose some of the delicate shadings if you try to seal.

Some paint on canvas. Even on 'raw' (unprimed) canvas. The canvas is either stretched or glued to a board. But, there are two street artists in Australia who paint on large canvases laid flat on the ground. They simply roll them up and take them with them when going home. They say very little is disturbed or lost by that.

Rag paper is after all a type of non-woven cloth which is a bit stiff. So canvas works as well.

03-22-2013, 11:14 AM
Lovely dog painting, I like to paint on suede mat board which is archival it has such a nice soft look and looks cool for painting animals. You can sometimes get some scrap small pieces cheap from a framer to try it out. Trudi

03-22-2013, 12:08 PM
Michele: great paintings.
really enjoyed.