I’ve had a number of people write in asking about fixative. For instance, Anita R wrote: Fixative – to use or not to use – that is the question.” It’s definitely a contentious (and even divisive!) issue.

So I reached out to members of Pastel Today’s Advisory Board to collect some answers! Here are three responses for you to ponder.

Michele Ashby said she never uses fixative. Full stop.


No fixative used - Michele Ashby, "Outnumbered," pastel, 40 x 40 cm
Michele Ashby, “Outnumbered,” pastel, 40 x 40 cm


Clarence Porter had this interesting yes, no, yes answer.

“In every one of the workshops I teach, I invariably get asked if I use fixatives in my work, and my answer is always yes, no and yes. I have tested SpectraFix FinalFix, Sennelier, Lascaux, Schmincke and Clairefontaine Pastel Revolution, but I have never used fixatives on my final work.


Fixative yes no yes - Clarence Porter, "Sunset Silhouette," pastel, 9 x 9 in
Clarence Porter, “Sunset Silhouette,” pastel, 9 x 9 in


To some degree, all the fixatives change the colours or deaden the chroma of the colours. The dark values become darker, the light values get washed out, and colours with bright chroma lose their intensity. 

I know that differences in pastel brands have a lot to do with how they react to the various fixatives. Since I use a variety of pastel brands in my work, SpectraFix and Pastel Revolution seem to hold the colours better but I only use fixatives for my sketch-ins and dark value underpaintings. I have also used SpectraFix in place of alcohol for applying my underpaintings – a trick I learned from Jessica Masters. So, yes, I have used them; no, I do not use them on my final painting; and yes, I use them for underpaintings. I am still waiting for the ultimate pastel fixative.”


Two fixative sprays Clarence Porter uses
Two fixative sprays Clarence Porter uses


Richard Suckling had his own variation on the yes/no answer

“Pastel fixative, is it a yes or a no from me, was the question from Gail and she reminded me that this is a contentious question in the world of pastels. Well, for me personally, it is a yes and a no when answering this one. Finished pastels which are sent to collectors, I find sometimes will require a light fix, following a tapping of the back of the painting to remove any loose pastel first. If a piece is going straight to the framer and then onto the gallery, it is not always necessary and without doubt, glass and proper framing remain the best form of protection for a pastel painting.


Nixative yes and no - Richard Suckling, "Anemones," mixed pastels on Colourfix Rough paper, 17 x 18 in
Richard Suckling, “Anemones,” mixed pastels on Colourfix Rough paper, 17 x 18 in


I never go for anything more than a light application of fixative as it does, without doubt, cause a slight shift in the colour. I do not use a particular brand of pastel fixative, but it is usually either Sennelier or Jackson’s own brand spray fixative. It is most important if you are going to use fixative to ensure that you purchase a decent artist-quality product specifically made for the purpose of fixing pastels. Please do not be tempted to skimp on quality by thinking hairspray will do the same job. This was something I saw recently at a workshop. It is not the same and will not stand the test of time. 

On a final health and safety note, when using pastel spray fixative always ensure it is applied in a well-ventilated room, wear a mask or, if the weather is fine and not windy, fix your paintings outdoors.”

Thanks to Michele, Clarence, and Richard for their take on the whole fixative question!

I myself often use a light spray of fixative on a finished painting. After years of searching, I found that Lascaux worked the best of the many brands I tried. The colour change was minimal as was the change to the sparkle. The hold was medium but did the trick. I say did, as in the past tense, because Lascaux, always on the pricey side, has recently become screamingly expensive, at least where I live. Years ago, I paid $25, then $35, and finally $45. A few weeks ago I went to buy a couple more cans. They had only one available and that was going for $75! So, perhaps unsurprisingly, I left the store without fixative.

Now I’m back to experimenting. I remember when I did a trial test for my Pastels 101 online course, I was quite impressed (and surprised) by Winsor’s fixative. But I’m unable to get it here. 

I also found, in my studio, a can of Krylon Fine Art fixative, new on the market in the last few years, and have given that a try. Not bad! I’ll continue to test it. 

Well, there you have four responses to the fixative question. I’ll have more answers from three other board members in the coming issues of Pastel Today.



Pastel Artists Canada Exhibition in Vancouver – Catch it while you can!


The 32nd Purely Pastel Exhibition features the juried work of 57 artists. The show is being held at the Federation Gallery until 11th December. So don’t dilly-dally!


PAC 32nd Purely Pastel Exhibition


And that’s it for this time!


PS. I discovered that Jill Stefani Wagner uses workable fixative once and once only in her painting process!


  1. You know how we artists frequently reach for our coffee cup to wash out our brush? A similar thing can happen all too easily with brands like Krylon, who makes many products! I reached for my Krylon fixative only to find (after a spray) and a peculiar lumpy look that it was a spray adhesive!!! I salvaged the painting, but it remained “textured”!

  2. I use a light spray of Krylon “Gallery Series”, Fine Art Fixatif (1374) before framing. It doesn’t change the values or intensity, available from Dick Blick. Always spray outside and I frame with museum glass and spacers, or sometimes mats with a spacer. I apply many layers of pastel, with Sennilier’s and other soft pastels using a thick application on the final layers so it’s almost textural. I tap the back of the pastel board, loosening any particles then I spray lightly. No problems with this spray, others, yes!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here