View Full Version : Non-toxic, non-odor fixative

09-17-2015, 01:49 PM
I'd like to start using soft pastels, and hence need spray-on fixative.

Right now, I do artwork in a room in my apartment. I live with elderly parents who are sensitive to such chemicals and odors.

Please recommend best type of spray-on fixative to get from Amazon.

09-17-2015, 03:47 PM
Spectrafix is the only non-toxic fixative spray that I know of. All the other brands i am familiar with should NEVER be sprayed indoors - and really should be used with a respirator (although I didn't so so for years).

Please keep in mind that you don't have to use fixative when painting with pastels. Many pastel artists (perhaps the majority) don't. Many of the pastel papers available today - especially the sanded papers - have a lot of tooth and will hold the pastel.

Good luck on your pastel journey!


09-17-2015, 04:56 PM
Ah, I was planning on using Strathmore Artagain paper (http://www.dickblick.com/products/strathmore-artagain-drawing-paper/) because it comes in black. You mean if I use soft pastals on these, there is no need for fixative? They seem rather smooth compared to Strathmore Pastel Papers (http://www.dickblick.com/products/strathmore-400-series-pastel-paper-pads/).

09-17-2015, 06:17 PM
I have once used fixative on dark blue paper. It completely ruined the painting - perhaps the layer of pastels was too thin and on some places it simply disappeared. I didn't have the problem on light colored paper, not sure why.
That was the last time I used fixative.

09-17-2015, 07:23 PM
Ok then. I'll take the plunge, get some dark paper and soft pastels from the Art/Stationary store right around the corner from my office!!!

I'll be sure to layer and layer and press hard :-)

09-17-2015, 07:39 PM
Um, not so much the answer either. Pastel requires a light touch. You will find it's not nearly so delicate as you expect. Many pastel papers come in black; personally I find it very hard to work with. If you want to leave the black, you still have to cover it w/ black pastel due to the dust from other colors. I never use fixatives.

09-17-2015, 08:16 PM
Try to find some black Art Spectrum Colourfix, it's grit paper. Order it online. It's a sweet sanded surface that comes in black. Also, oddly, black Stonehenge is at least as good as Artagain for toothy, though would take a ligth touch. Stonehenge is all rag and very lightfast black paper. Good old Canson Mi-Tientes comes in black and you can get an entire journal with black pages that I think may be the one that has barrier sheets bound in, not sure of it.

Art Spectrum Multimedia (Colourfix) primer and any hot press or cold press watercolor paper can be used to give you inexpensive black sanded paper. Pint jar goes a long long way. Use a flat cheap watercolor brush to apply in two or three thin coats in opposite directions for best effects, shake well before priming. It also helps to mark off a painting area with some border around it to let it dry flat easier.

i sometimes use fixative. I usually just use them outdoors. I have some UV-protective fixative that was expensve and nice, use that for some pastels on plain paper. Never bother on sanded paper.

SpectraFix smells nice, like a vodka drink. Mild faint drinking alcohol odor. Non toxic, milk proteins and drinking alcohol. it spatters if you use it too close to the paper and may puddle if you use too much. Takes some practice to use well. One trick is to spray in the air and wave the art up through the spray. Then let it dry thoroughly! Like half an hour! Repeat. It takes patience and practice to use Spectrafix well. if the misting bottle clogs I haven't been able to unclog it, but that will cause spatters. They sell empty misting bottles though, so get a spare.

Broken color letting the black show through is spectacular!

One thing that helps in painting on black with pastels or just about anything - do a reverse grisaille value sketch in white on it. You can use water wash on Spectrafix. Not sure about alcohol wash. But dry rubbed in white pastel helps under light and intense bright areas, some shaded under mid value, leave black under darks. How much is up to you. Experiment with it. But especially for lightest highlights a dab of white watercolor may help in the underpainting.

Light and bright colors really pop on black. I love the look of painting on black paper and will often let the work vignette to black. It's a matter of taste. Black paper lends itself to drama!

Black velour paper is its own beast and usually does need fixative. Velour seems to lose pastel easily and takes delicate handling, the slightest bump or tap on the back releases most of the pastel. Easy to clean off areas though!

You can also use charcoal and alcohol underpainting on Uart and other gritty sanded paper if it can take alcohol to get a black background. Uart takes alcohol very well! Once washed with water or alcohol pastel or charcoal doesn't move and blend up.

09-17-2015, 10:00 PM
@mudfish, Ok, I'll be very delicate with the soft pastels

@robertsloan2 Wow, I'll order these online when I'm ready to try soft pastels. And to think I was about to over-pay at that store near my office.

I saw a can of fixative for $10, but amazon sells for $6 .....

And I'll be sure the scent of SpectraFix doesn't follow me to the office, else people will start to ask questions :lol:

09-21-2015, 08:05 PM
Blick often has prices better than Amazon for art supplies and a much broader selection. Amazon's an everything superstore but Blick specializes. Jerry's Artarama does too and Dakota Pastels has everything pastel.

09-21-2015, 09:00 PM
@robertsloan2 I'll check out Blick ..... think I'll be ordering more supplies soon!

10-03-2015, 05:08 PM
Another option with "fixing" pastel is burnishing. Use a spoon to push in the pastel with a light, circular motion; make sure you use a sheet of glassine between the spoon and the painting to keep from smearing the pastel. This works particularly well with non-sanded papers like Canson Mi-Teintes.