Time and time again my students ask me if they should fix their pastel painting? So a blog all about fixative is long called for!

The absolute truth to answering this question is not straightforward because it depends on several things:

  • What paper are you using?
  • Which fixative are you using?
  • What experience do you have?
  • What are you using the fixative for?

I can only speak from my personal experience with fixative because using fixative is an art in itself. I have heard of people using fixative in a way that I would never use it because it doesn’t work in that way for me.


I’ve used Daler-Rowney Perfix Fixative on Canson Mi-Teintes pastel paper and it has worked absolutely fine I’ve also used Jackson’s Art own brand fixative on Canson Mi-Teintes and that has also worked. I’ve also used Daler-Rowney Perfix Fixative on velour paper and that has worked well too. My technique for using fixative on these two papers is different with each:


On Canson paper or anything similar I use a very light spray from left to right then I would walk away to let it dry then return to check if it had worked. If not I would then spray up and down and again walk away lock the room don’t come back until it’s dry.  It’s very tempting if you stay with your art to keep spraying it and then you’ll ruin it for sure!


On Velour paper I would be much happier spraying it from left to right and then up and down and then completely walking away locking the door and not come back for half an hour again…. it’s very tempting to keep spraying!


I’ve also used Clairefontaine Fixative Freeze Spray on Pastelmat. Before I go on, I need to tell you that Pastelmat is excellent at grabbing the pastel and keeping it on the paper and in general, spraying Pastelmat with any fixative IS GOING TO RUIN YOUR PAINTING. so if you are a beginner, heed this warning well. If you want to experiment, don’t use your best work to experiment with.


Clairefontaine makes great claims about it’s Freeze Spray Fixative but I have yet to see them be reproduced. They claim that you can spray your painting on pastelmat and it will not darken. It also claims that you can spray it on canvas. In my experience neither of these are true I even emailed the company and asked how you would get soft pastel on a canvas and spray it. the answer was to paint the canvas with a watercolour (absorbent) ground and pastel on that then spray it. I really haven’t had any success with this technique.


I have had great success with Freeze Spray by using it between layers. It’s very good at darkening. For example if you had the anthracite pastelmat you could use the freeze spray on it and it would turn it much darker, almost black. See my video about this (6mins in) Then you could just pastel on top of it.  It doesn’t affect the paper. and I’ve also used this on top of dark pastel backgrounds and it’s been absolutely fine. It has secured the pastel in place allowing me to put more layers on top.



A word of caution with the freeze spray, do not use it on light tones because it will look like the pastel has been washed away like it was never there and you’ll have to redo all your work.

I have sprayed freeze spray on a finished painting as a test and I noticed that the freeze spray (apart from making the light colours wash away and the dark colours darker it did make the colours bleed into each a little as well. this may not be important on your style of art but this was on a piece with lots of detail and meant that the detail was lost.

Do remember that Pastelmat doesn’t actually need any fixative.

I’ve also used the Krylon Fixative which is labelled as a workable fixative and this works very well in the same way that the Freeze Spray works it does darken and I wouldn’t use it over I finished painting but I would use it between layers.

So the biggest takeaway from this for you today is to understand that you must test whatever you’re going to do, test test and test again and not on your best painting!

Using fixative is an art in itself and you’ll need to learn how to use it well.

I have heard anecdotally that some other fixative sprays are better and work well but it really depends on what kind of art you’re producing (detailed or more impressionist) and again how you use that spray.

For example if it doesn’t matter that the artwork darkens slightly then absolutely fine go ahead and use, just remember that  very light tones, will looked washed out or dissapear.

This is an experiment that I did a while ago where I sprayed three different types of fixative on pastelmat. You can see that all 3 are darker.

Sue is a Soft Pastel Artist and International Tutor from England UK
She's passionate about soft pastel art and teaching her students from around the globe.

"Art makes my heart sing and my soul smile"