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.
  • Norman Rockwell used to use shellac as a fixative for his underdrawing when he was up against a deadline.  I found this bit of info in a book about him.  He said that if he "lost his way," he could scrub down through the paint and find his underdrawing intact.  Sorry to come late to your party but I thought I would pass this along anyway.
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