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Norma46
08-05-2014, 04:45 PM
I'm rather new to pastel. I have been told "don't ever use fixative" and I've been told "use fixative often but don't use permanent fixative. I have been told that fixative darkens the colors. I have been told that Spectrafix doesn't darken the colors. I have been told that using hair spray is a good fixative and others have said it is unacceptable.

Can experienced pastelists weigh in on this?

Thanks. Norma:eek:

DAK723
08-05-2014, 08:59 PM
There are many opinions - as you have found out!:eek:

Fixative is used by many pastel artists, but many artists elect not to use it as well. There is no rule whatsoever. Some use it at the early stages of painting, but not at the end. In some cases, it will depend on the paper used, as some papers hold pastel better than others.

Fixative will alter the look of the painting to a certain degree - usually darkening the lighter colors (as they sink into the paper or the pastel colors below). Some brands alter the look more than others - and unfortunately you usually get what you pay for as the best brands are often the most expensive. A popular brand that is fairly new is Spectrafix - which also has the benefit of being non-toxic. (The other brands should be used with a respirator and preferably outdoors.) It also is among the best for altering the work the least. Some other brands that are often recommended are Lascaux, Latour and Schminke's fixative.

How much the painting is altered depends on multiple factors - how heavily is the fixative applied, how heavy is the pastel applied, the paper, and the brand of pastel probably play a part as well. Fixative should usually be applied in light coats - often multiple light coats. It is always best to test the fixative out on a test piece of the same paper that you are using for your painting.

Many pastel artists use fixative in the early and even the middle stages of a painting where any changes to the look of the painting are not that important since additional layers of pastel will be applied. But they won't apply fixative at the finish. Often using a fixative while painting will allow for more layers of pastel to be added.

So, it is really a personal decision based on many factors. I would recommend Spectrafix if you decide you want to give fixative a try. I would stay away from the cheaper brands.

And, hair spray is definitely a no-no!

Don

robertsloan2
08-05-2014, 09:40 PM
One more point about Spectrafix. It is a little expensive to get, but it lasts and lasts. Because it's not in an aerosol can, it's all product and it does not take much to use it and get the effect. It smells nice, doesn't choke man or beast, doesn't discolor the paintings nearly as much as other fixatives and doesn't yellow. It's casein based and dries solid and clear.

Too much of it will harden as a puddle, one painter uses the concentrate for something to create underpainting washes with tooth the way others use alcohol or water on loose underpainting tones.

The one drawback of Spectrafix is that it takes some patience and practice to use well. It dries slower than aerosol can fixatives and it takes a little practice controlling the pump mister bottle so as not to put too much on. Less is more, it helps a lot to hold it well away from the art instead of too close. Spraying over the art and letting the droplets fall on it can work well with both types of fixative.

My use of it is common in pattern. I use fixative on works I do on unsanded paper, both during and after finishing, though I will restate light and bright colors if they darken due to melting into previous layers. Sometimes I want that effect and use a Krylon UV resistant workable fixative for that. It can make a painting look better if it was too chalky. Going over the brightest accents with fresh strokes at the end gives best of both.

I don't use fixative when I use sanded surfaces because it holds them well enough without it. Depending on how much I pile on, I might not bother on unsanded if it's done lightly and not too layered.

Hairspray is designed to smell good on a person, hold hair for up to about 24 hours and wash out. It's going to yellow fast although it is an aerosol lacquer and technically serves the purpose. It's not a good idea. Even basic Krylon or Blick house brand workable fixative is better than that.

"Workable fixative" is laid on lightly. Permanent varnishes sometimes don't work well. The workable fixative gives a toothy surface and can be used to add a last layer when the paper tooth is full.

Try it, but don't try the hairspray on anything you want to keep for a long time. You could test that with a sketch you don't mind losing to time to see how long it takes to yellow. Also in personal experience, hairspray cans are more likely to spatter than the fixative cans, where a mist of fine droplets is more important. The spatters can make permanent dark dots on the paper or in the pastel.

It's a personal style choice. For years I adapted to it by painting lighter than I intended for the final version and knocking it down again with fixative that gave it a rich effect, then accenting with a few light bright strokes at the end. Then I discovered sanded papers and Spectrafix and now I use what works for that painting.

Another choice I read about here on WC but haven't tried does not discolor pastels or chemically change them at all. Steaming the way you would steam an evening gown or a fine suit and then letting it cool and dry makes the particles swell and stick to each other and the surface better. Some European painters used the steam method. If you have access to a steamer for de-wrinkling fine clothes, that seemed to be the best tool for that. I wouldn't rust a steam iron not to drip, though if you used it vertically and just gusted the steam that might work. Don't own one so I haven't experimented, it seemed rather physically vigorous and I'm disabled.

Would love to see results from someone who does try it though!

JustinM
08-11-2014, 01:08 PM
I'm rather new to pastel. I have been told "don't ever use fixative" and I've been told "use fixative often but don't use permanent fixative. I have been told that fixative darkens the colors. I have been told that Spectrafix doesn't darken the colors. I have been told that using hair spray is a good fixative and others have said it is unacceptable.

Can experienced pastelists weigh in on this?

Thanks. Norma:eek:

I think you pretty much summed it up. LOL.


Its funny, i used to use fixative a lot, then sparingly & I think my last 2 or 3 paintings ive barely (if any) used it at all.

I find workable fixative to be the most useful as it helps with an area that needs just a little tooth to hold things in place.

akingu
09-21-2014, 12:19 PM
Thanks all as this thread was just what I was looking for! Got all my questions answered! :thumbsup:

jakertanner
09-21-2014, 04:27 PM
One last thing. Using fixative to achieve a certain effect is another way to use it. Think Degas. Not sure how else to acheive the layers and look without fixing the layer under, but agreed to leave the final layer alone. Unless as Robert mentioned, you use it to darken a brighter painting for the overall look.

robertsloan2
09-21-2014, 09:34 PM
My actual habit is to mostly use fixative on unsanded paper and not on sanded or coated papers, because they hold the pastel so well it doesn't need it. Depends on how much layering I do as well, sometimes even on unsanded paper I don't need it.

By the way, does anyone know of a solvent that would clear dried fixative from the mister pump bottle? My small Spectrafix mister no longer mists, it gives a stream instead which is highly annoying. Would rinsing it out with pure Everclear help or should I just give up and replace the small misting bottle? Has anyone here had that problem with Spectrafix misting bottles and solved it?

Blayne
09-22-2014, 08:38 AM
Robert, your question sent me Googling. I had thought spraying straight vodka through it might work, since the Spectrafix is mixed with alcohol, but maybe it needs harsher measures. One article I read said to use an alkaline detergent and surfactant (Dawn dish soap is recommended) and bleach in lukewarm water. The link below is from an art site and says ammonia water will dissolve casein. I would try emptying out the Spectrafix into another container, filling the spray bottle with the soap or ammonia water solution and then spraying until the nozzle, hopefully, comes clean.
http://www.noteaccess.com/MATERIALS/Casein.htm

jakertanner
09-22-2014, 12:53 PM
My actual habit is to mostly use fixative on unsanded paper and not on sanded or coated papers, because they hold the pastel so well it doesn't need it. Depends on how much layering I do as well, sometimes even on unsanded paper I don't need it.

By the way, does anyone know of a solvent that would clear dried fixative from the mister pump bottle? My small Spectrafix mister no longer mists, it gives a stream instead which is highly annoying. Would rinsing it out with pure Everclear help or should I just give up and replace the small misting bottle? Has anyone here had that problem with Spectrafix misting bottles and solved it?


Robert, if the bottle you are referring to is the 4oz bottle that Blick sells, I think to be honest, by the time you buy what you need to clean the bottle, you could buy yourself a new one.

Blayne
09-22-2014, 08:21 PM
Jake has an excellent point! I use hair spray bottles for my fixative, for water to keep acrylics or watercolors moist, and even to keep odorless thinner for oil paints in. (I lightly mist the oil paint on my palette before covering it, to keep it moist.)

jackiesimmonds
10-01-2014, 05:32 AM
The most useful tip I ever read about fixative is this:

USE SPARINGLY. So, give your painting a very fast burst of fix. leave it to dry. THEN DO IT AGAIN. Leave it to dry. DO IT AGAIN. leave it to dry.

If you build up very light layers of fix in this way, you will see very little change in the tones, and you will also gradually achieve a good coverage. The person recommending this, did it up to twelve times.....

Very fast burst each time. A second, no more.

Stick with Spectrafix for the simple reason that it is NON TOXIC. Nobody can beat that.

Saskia
10-02-2014, 10:46 PM
By the way, does anyone know of a solvent that would clear dried fixative from the mister pump bottle? My small Spectrafix mister no longer mists, it gives a stream instead which is highly annoying. Would rinsing it out with pure Everclear help or should I just give up and replace the small misting bottle? Has anyone here had that problem with Spectrafix misting bottles and solved it?
You could try alcohol first, but if that doesn't work, Spectrafix is casein, and casein is most soluble in alkaline solutions. It will not dissolve in plain water. I would try a solution of ammonia and water. You could take the nozzle apart, mix the ammonia to whatever strength is recommended on the bottle for cleaning, and soak it in there overnight. Then spray the ammonia through (out the front door to avoid breathing aerosolized ammonia).

I would think that should work. Or you could buy another bottle.