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Fixatives - Graphite bleed thru

edited October 2017 in Painting
In the photo below you see graphite bleeding through the paint after it has dried.  See the grey dots around the eyes?  Those are pencil marks.  I obviously marked my key points too aggressively.  I don't even use graphite now.  But what do I do to fix it?  If I just paint over it, does it bleed thru again?  Is there a binder i can use to seal it?  It is not yet varnished.



  • dencaldencal -
    edited April 2017

    A "binder medium" before painting will seal the graphite. I use pastel pencil on a dark or black background to avoid this problem.

    At this stage  touch up with a small brush with some matching value. 

    If you are worried about continued bleed through, flick out the graphite spot with a scalpel blade and fill with skin tone.


  • @dencal Thanks Denis.  I was hoping you had a solution.
  • Mike

    Hairspray will do the trick with loose graphite and charcoal. Several light coats..


  • Would some varnish mixed in with the retouch oil color work as a fixer-upper? @dencal @MikeDerby
  • Bob73

    Yes. Varnish and paint mix would work but it complicates an otherwise simple fix.


  • I was watching an artist video where she uses graphite for the drawing.  before she paint she first uses fixative on the graphite drawing and then paints a layer of clear gesso over the top.  from there she does some light acrylic washes for the underpainting and then does the rest in oils.  Her graphite drawing was quite dark and didn't seem to have bleed-through problems.

  • edited April 2017
    @MikeDerby , @JeffAllen ,I recently watched an artist apply the same but without the the acrylic washes and explained specifically that this is why he did this application(kept thin on the canvas) and also never loses his drawing. He was also very clear that graphite pencil would bleed through and mess up his colors as well, if he didn't. And I've been seeing more of this elsewhere. Hairspray or fixative will hold the drawing from smudging and clear gesso to finally fix it for oil painting.
  • My solution has been to abandon graphite. I don't want to add steps to the process. There are too many things to do already.  I am now in the process of learning to draw so I don't even have to pencil.  I want to get to the point that I place some key points and then begin the block in.  Have you seen Yuehua He?
  • dencaldencal -
    edited April 2017

    Excellent solution.

    Yuehua He is wonderful. Quite mesmerising to watch.

    Take a look at this video on YouTube:

  • Absolutely stunning! WOW! only 2 brushes!
  • Watched it more than once. Watched Sayed all the way through 
  • edited April 2017
    @MikeDerby keep going as you are and you are sure to get there and from what I've seen, it shouldn't be too much longer from now either! Awesome! I will be doing this myself sometime soon enough as well!
  • In this thread we discussed a variety of fixatives and @dencal has provided specific product advice in other discussions.  Now I have a specific need and I wonder if anyone has any experience dealing with this scenario.

    I have a drawn up painting on toned linen.  I have painted background all around it.  I have been frustrated with the behavior of the paint on the ground and have found that if I oil it the paint performs much better.  However, the application of the oil removes the drawing.  Therefore, I want to fix the drawing and then oil it out for painting.

    So, how does fixative perform over paint and how does fixative perform under oil?  The paint is dry enough that I could mask it.  I have always worried, probably without cause, about the archival quality of hairspray and etc.

  • This happened my second DMP and I used fixative, to seal my pencil thereafter, also hairspray and I have not had an issue since.

  • Mike

    Is it the friction by brushing the oil on the surface that removes the drawing? Or is it the oil itself rendering the drawn lines transparent?

    Will spray misting the oil solve the problem?

    For local areas you can spray a binder medium, allow to dry for 24 hrs. No problems with binder under oil paint that I’ve heard about.

    You could use Liquin, both as a drawing fixative and as a paint separation layer.

    i really think that a fine point sharpie drawing is clearer, smudge proof and permanently non mobile.
    There are many brands of pemanent fine line markers.


  • my belief is that the brushing dislodges graphite that is less firmly caught up in the tooth of the canvas and then becomes mobile in the paint film. i have seen demos where the artist has gone over the pencil marks dabbing with a  kneeding eraser to remove excess graphite. it is also my belief that the slower the drying time the more likely you will have a problem. by dry i mean relatively hard fingernail press and not just touch dry.
    please note i have never tested this it is my belief.
  • Thanks @dencal and @guyse .  I ended up dabing linseed oil between the lines where it was possible and just painting everywhere else.  This is my first use of fine linen and Griffin Alkyd ground as Mark has demonstrated.  I must say it is tough to use.  I think in some cases the oil from my own fingers has impeded the adhesion of the paint where I rested them to paint other things.  I need to remember my maul stick.

  • You might want to try shellac. It is available in a spray can. It will seal everything and is impervious to oil/solvents etc.  Some old school tricks I have come across,skim milk,and an egg yolk mixed with water
    works pretty good.
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