How To Apply Spray Fixative

Artist's hand and sketch.
Craig Cozart / Getty Images

Artists and conservators debate whether drawings should be fixed, as spray fixative can alter the look of a drawing. Framing is the best protection, or hinge a piece of acid-free tissue to the sheet. For pastel, workable fixative allows extra layers to be applied, and is best applied before the final layer drawing, to minimize the diminishing of color intensity. Fixative reduces wax bloom in colored pencil works, and prevents loss of fine charcoal particles.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 5 minutes

Here's How

  1. Select a good quality commercial fixative, not hairspray.
  2. Select a well-ventilated location away from other people - do NOT spray indoors, and especially not in a classroom situation. Fixative spray is TOXIC, possibly carcinogenic, and flammable. A respirator mask is advisable.
  3. Place a practice drawing on your easel or a propped-up board. Always test fixative to see how the product affects your particular paper and drawing medium, before applying to a finished work.
  4. Tap the board or with a soft brush flick away any large loose particles.
  5. Stand about 3 or 4 feet away from the board. Spray in smooth continuous strokes, going a little past the edge of the picture, ensuring that the next stroke down meets the previous one. The spray should be a light mist on the drawing, not rain!
  6. Allow the drawing to dry. This should not take long, unless you have soaked the paper, which is undesirable.
  1. Apply a second coat, working in a vertical motion this time, and allow to dry.
  2. Inspect the test drawing carefully and ensure you are happy with the results. If the particles have sunk heavily into the tooth, you may have applied too much fixative.
  3. If happy with the results, go back to step 3 and spray your drawing. If you have any concerns, try practicing again. Make sure you achieve good results before using fixative on a finished work.
  1. Turn the can of fixative upside down and spray briefly to clear the nozzle. Replace cap and store out of reach of children.


  1. Don't hold the can too close. Aim for a light mist that requires two or three coats, rather than a single coat.
  2. Use an easel or board, not the floor, so that any drips don't land on the drawing.
  3. Use a good quality product. You get what you pay for.

What You Need

  • an easel or board
  • a can of spray fixative
  • a practice drawing
  • your finished drawing