Experience with fixatives?

Ive started a sketch of my next DMP with white charcoal over tinted gesso. Since the subject is our family dogs, I’d like to secure my sketch to achieve an accurate likeness. Usually I wouldn’t worry about the paint mixing with the charcoal, but here I want the sketch to remain as I paint over it.

My question is can I or should I use a permanent or workable fixative on my sketch? The art store has both types in aerosol spray from Grumbacher. I will be using WN oils with Marks slow dry medium.


  • dencaldencal -
    edited March 2018

    In my experience white pastel becomes transparent (almost invisible) with fixatives containing alcohol or solvent.

    My best experience in securely fixing pastel chalks is 99% fat free skim milk, applied as three light, fine spay coats. I don’t recommend this under oil paint.

    White charcoal may react differently, if so you could try on scrap, some hairspray.

    As regards permanent or workable fixative, either will work. The permanent has less solvent and more resin, resulting in a smooth surface. Workable, with more solvent and less resin leaves a rougher surface, to be receptive to further applications of graphite, pastel or charcoal. Paint is likely to adhere better on a workable fixative.

    Check out Binder Medium.  Good for pencil or ink under oil paint.

    Apply fixatives outside in calm, open air. Powerful hydrocarbons in some products.

  • I use Daler Rowney fixative. It is good and retains the original color. White needs retouching though. But for underdrawing for oil painting I guess it doesn't matter.
  • Thank you both for the quick and helpful response. I guess I’ll try a light spray of workable fixative and see how the charcoal reacts and retouch where I need to.
  • Sennelier has always been one of my favorite brands for high-quality pastels. It not only protects against smudges and scratches but also allows you to work with additional layers of pastels. Although the product does not specify if it is intended to be a final or working fixative, I have used it to add more pastels.
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