View Full Version : Pastel help??

09-17-2017, 11:07 AM
can anyone help me? I'm relatively new to pastel media, at least new to trying it professionally and I'm having problems with fixatives. I have a workable fixative that is specifically for pastel works but when I spray the paper and the work sometimes it works perfectly and other times it turns parts, or all of the work a cloudy white. Am I using too much or spraying incorrectly? It has ruined a few of my artworks and the latest one I have sprayed I've been working on for almost a month and it has left cloudy patches all over it and left me very disheartened. I've had to redo a few and even on this first spraying of one of the redone works it has done the same rhing! Can anyone help!!

09-17-2017, 02:27 PM
Fixative is a complicated subject. In my experience here on WC I would say that most pastel artists do not use any. If they do, they most often use it at the beginning stages of the painting, but not at the end. The reason - it can alter the look of the painting. Usually, however, what fixative does is darken the pastel, so I am a bit surprised to hear that yours is becoming a cloudy white.

If using a fixative, I would recommend only the highest end brands, even though they cost more. The one I would recommend most is Spectrafix. It is the only one I am aware of that is non-toxic. It can be a bit tricky to apply as sometimes is creates visible drops on a painting. It has a "pump" style nozzle rather than the continuous type spray that most fixatives have. With any fixative, try it on a scrap piece of paper before applying it to the actual painting. The fixative should be held at least a foot away from the work and the fixative sprayed on with a side to side movement so that only a light spray hits the painting. Multiple light coats are better than a heavy coat. Other fixatives that I would recommend would be Lascaux and Latour. None of these fixatives actually say "workable" but they are. If you are using any other brand than Spectrafix, I would definitely make sure that I am spraying outdoors (unless you have a fan/vented area) and wearing a respirator.

As I first mentioned, not all artists use fixative and it is very much a personal decision. It may depend a lot on what type of paper you are using (some papers hold the pastel much better) as well as the types (and softness) of the pastels themselves. All of these factors also contribute to how much the pastel will be altered by the fixative. In some cases, with the highest end brands, the pastel may not be altered much, but usually some "fix-up' may be necessary to reinforce the lightest and brightest colors after fixing.

That's my take - others may have other opinions.


Donna T
09-17-2017, 02:29 PM
I think we've all had our trials with fixatives, Jade, so you are not alone in your frustration. Here's a link to a discussion about fixatives (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1422489) from a while back that might be helpful to you. Many of us do not use them at all and some use only a very light spray before storing or shipping a pastel work. Spraying does not guarantee that pastel particles won't come off and if they absorb the spray they melt together and turn a darker color - not a desirable outcome unless you specifically want to darken a certain area.

water girl
09-17-2017, 07:27 PM
Don and Donna have the subject covered. Personally, I don't use fixative. I use sanded paper and feel the texture holds the pastel quite nicely.

09-18-2017, 02:58 PM
Just don't use it. I've never had the need and don't use it and agree with Karen. You can use it during the painting process to help "fix" layers if it helps you that way, but definitely not after the painting is complete.

09-19-2017, 10:30 AM
I would have come to pastels a lot sooner if my first exposure to them a very long time ago involved someone who taught me the best way to work with them was to spray fix between layers and keep working over it.......which was dreadful, don't do it....for many, many years I had an unfulfilled obsession with them, which was ok because I also have an oils obsession. :)

Anyhow, once I finally started getting into pastels I eliminated fixative completely and it revolutionized my pastel world. :D

09-21-2017, 09:23 PM
Crazyjade, what brand of fixative are you using? Whatever it is, it sounds like it's time to toss that can.

So sorry to hear about the works that were affected :( I know that's no fun. I once had a really bad experience with fixative on a pastel. Since then, I have only used it on charcoals, but I leave pastels unfixed and either frame them behind glass or store them with glassine. FYI, PastelMat is a surface that holds a shocking amount of pastel - it's my absolute favorite. Experimenting with that and other surfaces made to grip pastel well can help you get used to the idea of skipping the fixative entirely. Here's hoping you find a process that works for you, and that allows you to enjoy your pieces without having to rework them.