View Full Version : Acrylic over charcoal sketches

Jack In Dallas
07-05-2008, 10:26 AM
I need some help. I love to sketch in heavy charcoal. I specialise in the nude male. Last summer I experimented with painting in acrylic but I did not get good results. I recently read somewhere that if I laid on fixatif very heavily and then varnished over the drawing, I could probably start painting over the charcoal without smearing a total mess. I could really use some advice here on if this might work and what particular products would do the best job. I tend to work on heavy watercolor paper and think that might not be heavy duty enough to try this technique. I sell a lot of my art on Ebay and would like to still be able to ship rolled up. Tell me I am just nuts to try this technique!

07-05-2008, 10:45 AM
I would think that the fixative would do the job without the varnish. It may take a couple of applications. I use the Dick Blick brand for keeping base coats and other applications stable for the application of glazes that are rubbed with great results. Try experimenting!

Lady Carol
07-05-2008, 11:23 AM
Go for a workable fixative spray. A good coat or two and you should be good to go.

07-05-2008, 07:55 PM
I've not tried charcoal for the initial drawing but found that when I use heavy pencil the paint never covered it, I heard hairspray would help fix it(I've since learned it's pretty much the same as fixative but cheaper to buy)
Anyway I've tried it a couple of times and if you really spray it on heavily so that it leaves a shiny coating on the paper and then leave it to dry for a while, when you paint over the surface the lines are totally hidden and the pencil doesn't mix with the paint. A friend also said that mixing gloss medium with a little water and spraying that over it could work as it dries with a skin, I've not tried this yet but it may work.

07-05-2008, 08:01 PM
I would be curious about how that would work as well...

I'm still experimenting with my acrylics too. right now I've been playing with doing a watercolour base, then thinned matte medium over top (which doesn't seem to reactivate the watercolour too much then acrylic over top.

07-05-2008, 08:07 PM
I've used fixative spray over charcoal before using acrylics on watercolor paper a few times and it worked just fine. The sketch wasn't as heavily charcoaled as yours, however. Why not do a small test piece? I don't think the varnish would be necessary either.


07-06-2008, 07:20 AM
I've used spray-fixative (hairspray does also work), then done gentle washes over. For more durable protection where I wanted to make absolutely sure the drawing didn't change (rather than just wanting it there as a guide for the first few layers) I would brush on a thin layer of medium to seal in the drawing properly. That should work for you. :)


07-06-2008, 04:25 PM
hmm. what I'd probably do for a painting is use fixative and then prime over with some ground colour using a roller. Hopefully the drawing would show through well enough that you can still see through well enough for painting.

07-06-2008, 05:30 PM
I don't know if this will help, but for my prelim sketches I use plain old Chalk!
You can paint over it, and with a stiff bristle brush remove any chalk marks later.
There is no oil etc in it, and it really works for me.
Of course, this is after I do have the basic background painted in.
The chalk marks (of the sketch) show up easily over the acrylic background, and as I said, are easily removed.
I dont know if this would work for a detailed sketch, but I rarely do those anyhow!
And, "No", your not Nuts!
Any form of art is always on one learning curve or another!

07-17-2008, 11:00 PM
I've used hair spray over the softest graphite pencil, which as you know smears terribly and can't always be removed completely. Hair spray is cheap so it wouldn't hurt to do a test sample to see what happens. There are many artist quality sprays that will do the same, just cost more. Its well worth a try on something you don't feel is worth selling. Or just make some sample sheets to test products on.... we never quit learning from each other and most artists have experienced similar problems. Good luck with your sketches!

07-18-2008, 12:10 AM
I use spray on fix over charcoal and graphite, but on a coloured background I also use a chalk pencil, and sticks of chalk work well, I like the pencil as it's finer and any excess marks are easily wiped off.

04-06-2009, 01:14 PM
Stumbled across this old thread while doing a google search and thought I'd chime in in case anyone is still needing input on this...

I've been working with both acrylic over charcoal and acrylic over conte' for some years now and , basically, this is how I've obtained good results: For the initial fixative, I'm running Lascaux brand acrylic matte medium thinned with water thru an airbrush (the mix is a 300ml "bell" jar filled 3/4 with water to which 75 drops of Lascaux is added and then shaken until mixed well). I use one of these bell jars per 24" x 36" drawing. (Always wear a particle mask certified for working in paint mists while doing this). When this dries, the work can be varnished over with acrylic mediums with a brush. I'm using Lascaux brand for the initial spray fix because I've been told it possesses unique properties insofar as durability goes....I haven't experimented with other brands for the spray fix so I don't know how well they'd work or if the mixture would have to be altered, etc. The only concern I'd have with the original post in conjunction with acrylic sealing of this sort is the prospect of rolling the work in tubes. One might want to experiment with glassine paper as a buffer against acrylic surfaces bonding to one another which is always a hazard with acrylic surfaces in contact with one another no matter how "dry" the work is.

Good luck!