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The Problem With Fixing Pastels.

John Inkson

Posted on Fri 22 Sep 2017

When I first started out with pastels I used the manufactures pastel fixer but did not find it the answer and felt the medium had a tendency to slightly change the colours. I was introduced to ladies hair spray which worked quite well and smelt very much better. I later abandoned this method and found my own solution.
First off you need a paper or pastel paper with a really good tooth to grip the pastel. I make my own from cartridge paper and for large pieces of work I use a heavy weight watercolour paper. I prime the paper with acrylic, any colour you like. The acrylic is mixed with pumice powder mixed with plenty of the pumice powder. This gives not only a strong ground to work on but enables the pastel to really grip the surface its going to lay on. This is the most single and important thing for pastel painting a surface that REALLY GRIPS the pastel. I use marble dust myself which is the best I think. There will always be an access amount of pastel that will come away from your work particularly if you use very soft pastels. After completing work I make mounts for them this stops each piece touching another. I then place them in a portfolio and stand the folio upright. When I am out painting on location I prepare paper and mount to take with me.That way I do not come home with smudged work. The mounts keeps each piece from touching the other. Or another method is to stake one piece onto another on a hard surface and hold them down with a couple of elastic bands so they do not move about in transit. Mount them later at home. Finally of all the pastel paintings I have sold none of them have had fixer sprayed on them. Thats my method, if you have a better ones please let us know.

The Problem With Fixing Pastels.

Comments

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  • Thanks for the tips John they were really helpful.

    Posted by Linda Drury on Fri 22 Sep 18:12:12
  • I don't paint in pastel - or rather, I do, but only for colour sketches when planning a painting in oil or acrylic. But I too used fixative, because a colour sketch isn't much use if it's just a smear, and like you I found it distorted the colours - usually darkening them. I've used velour paper, Ingres paper, and watercolour paper, either primed with acrylic gesso or as it comes, maybe tinted with a wash of watercolour or acrylic. I am frankly not good enough with pastel for it to matter very much what happens to them...... (at least I'm honest). But the paper I had most success with, both in terms of making a tolerably acceptable painting and it staying in place, was the velour - which you wouldn't have thought offered much in the way of grip at all; I think I used hard pastel as part of the substrate, though: may have helped? Have you ever used velour paper?

    Posted by Robert Jones, N.A.P.A. on Fri 22 Sep 19:45:36
  • No I have never used Velour paper Robert. Once I found my method I never considered anything else as it works so well for me.

    Posted by John Inkson on Fri 22 Sep 20:49:30
  • A very interesting piece John. I use a piece of Fisher 400 card which can take a lot of pummelling and does not need to be fixed but it is good to know how to make your own surfaces and a very good surface too I should think!
    Storing pastels is always a problem I find. If I do not mount and cover them straight away I store them on a flat shelf between sheets of newspaper. Not the best idea by a long chalk.( pun not intended......honestly....)
    Thankyou for the good advice ,

    Posted by Sarah Bottjer on Sat 23 Sep 07:37:52