Top 5 Best Fixatives For Charcoal In 2020

Imagine putting an overwhelming number of hours to create a beautiful drawing using charcoal only for it to be ruined because the artwork got smudged or the charcoal particles have been lost after some time, making it appear faint. In order to avoid this, you can use a fixative to preserve the charcoal. A fixative is a clear liquid like varnish that is usually used to stabilize the pigment of the charcoal in the artwork. However, not all fixatives are the same, and some can cause color changes in the charcoal drawings.

When working with charcoal, it is vital that you choose the best fixative for it. There are various thoughts that go into choosing a fixative, and they include an artist’s budget, the ease of use of the fixative, and the effect the fixative will have on the artwork. It is important that one pays attention when choosing a fixative as charcoal can easily be smudged. You will have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of using a fixative as a finishing technique for your charcoal drawing and then proceed to choose your fixative of choice.

The question is, how do you know which is the best fixative for charcoal to use? We have come up with a detailed list of the best fixatives you can opt for if you are an artist working with charcoal.

Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative

Winsor & Newton Artists' Aerosols Workable Fixative, Transparent

One of the best fixatives in the market, the Winsor & Newton fixative, is ideal for charcoal as it ensures that artists can continue working without causing smudges on their work. This is because the fixative can be applied as the artist works, and it does not affect the appearance of charcoal. The Winsor & Newton fixative is perfect as it ensures that charcoal particles adhere to the surface, thus preserving a piece of art for a long time.


  • Even when it is sprayed, an artist can continue to work over the fixative without any significant changes being noticed on their work.
  • Depending on the number of coats applied on the fixative, artists get a relatively good amount of water resistance on their work.
  • It dries quickly, allowing artists to continue working on their pieces.


  • The fumes of the fixative are rather strong, and it is therefore recommended that an artist takes the necessary protective measures when working with it.
  • The Winston and Newton fixative needs extra precaution as one can easily over saturate the paper thanks to the fixative’s oil nature.


Sennelier Delacroix Fixative Spray

Sennelier Delacroix Fixative

The Sennelier Delacroix fixative is the ideal fixative to use for your charcoal drawings. This is because the fixative is specially formulated to ensure that your drawings/artwork are fully protected against smearing while you continue to work. The spray, which gives a matte film, also prevents yellowing. This fixative is created using alcohol, and synthetic resin which are responsible for ensuring the highly durable protective film on the charcoal drawings are created. The spray works best when applied 30 cm away from the drawings and several layers applied to it.


  • The Sennelier Delacroix is one of the fastest drying fixatives we have come across.
  • It is ideal for use even by young kids as the spray does not have a strong odor.
  • The fixative can be used on several different mediums and not just charcoal.


  • You may need at least three coats or more of the fixative to ensure that you get a good amount of smudge protection.
  • The fixative does not give your artwork much water resistance, so you need to be extra careful about the environment you are working in and how you display your finished work.


Golden Archival MSA Varnish

Golden Archival Varnish Gloss 10 oz

Created using a propellant and quick drying acetone, the Golden Archival fixative ensures that your charcoal drawings have an excellent protective layer with a non-yellowing finish. The fixative can is fitted with a fan spray tip, which ensures that the paint is applied with precision. It is one of the best because, in addition to ensuring that your charcoal drawings are protected, it inhibits light damage and had great moisture and dust resistance.


  • This fixative offers excellent water-resistant abilities after just a single coat is sprayed on the charcoal drawing.
  • It offers excellent smudge protection for charcoal as well as other mediums such as graphite and watercolors.
  • Can also be used for other print mediums.


  • The smudge protectiveness of the Golden Archival fixative is dependent on how heavy the charcoal used is. For example, if an artist uses very heavy charcoal, they will need at least 3 coats or more of the fixative.
  • It’s relatively pricey in comparison to other fixatives of the same size.
  • The fixative takes quite a bit of time to dry up.
  • The odor of the fixative is strong, and some people may find it to be off-putting.


Lascaux Fixative Aerosol Spray

Lascaux Fixative Aerosol Spray

The Lascaux fixative is a transparent, non-matte, non-yellowing fixative that is perfect for charcoal drawings. This fixative is resistant to aging, and your charcoal drawings will be looking as good as new even after several days or years. This fixative caught our eye because it was scratch resistant, and it effectively sealed and protected most of the charcoal drawings we used it on. The Lascaux fixative contains UV protection, which means that your charcoal drawings will be protected from fading. Finally, this fixative can be used on the drawing surface both before and after.


  • It is one of the quickest drying fixatives you can choose from, especially if you want to keep working on your charcoal drawings.
  • It offers amazing water resistance even after one coat, but to be on the safe side, it’s recommended that you at least apply two coats to ensure proper water resistance.
  • It ensures charcoal drawings do not fade easily.
  • The fixative is available in three different gloss levels that artists can opt for. They include semi matte, gloss, and matt.
  • It can be used for multiple mediums, including pastels, oil, watercolor, and tempera.


  • It is quite costly in comparison to other sprays. Especially considering that users get 300 ml of the fixative in comparison to other brands that give 400 ml of the fixative.
  • The fixative has a very strong odor.
  • It is not ideal for use with most of the other mediums.


SpectraFix Spray Fixative

SpectraFix SFX-31270

Created using grain alcohol and milk protein, the SpectraFix spray fixative, is an all-natural casein-based fixative that works wonders on charcoal. The fixative works well to provide excellent smudge protection after 3 coats have been applied to the medium being worked. The fixative is odor-free and has been endorsed by a lot of members in the art community, including teaching professionals, artists, and educators alike.

The fixative works y dispelling a light cloud of mist on the charcoal drawing without altering the appearance of the drawing. It gives the charcoal drawing a matte finish and offers enough traction to facilitate multiple layering.


  • The fixative dries extremely fast.
  • Because it is water based and natural, artists and anyone else using it do not have to worry about the toxic fumes associated with other fixatives as they can even use it indoors.
  • Doesn’t change the appearance of the charcoal drawing, and it is also non-yellowing.
  • For the individuals who are cautious about the effect they have on the environment, the bottle of this fixative is recyclable and environmentally friendly.


  • The fixative wets the paper, which means artists need to take extra precautions to ensure the paper does not buckle from the weight of the fixative.
  • The burst from the spray blows loose charcoal pigments all over.
  • Being water-based means that it has poor water resistance.



Charcoal is an overly delicate medium to work with, which means it comes with its share of problems. One of the biggest problems of working with Charcoal is smudging, which is why fixatives play a crucial role in ensuring that your charcoal drawings do not lose any details. While the idea of using a fixative is relatively controversial as it may alter the appearance of your drawing, when used appropriately, fixatives can help your artwork to maintain its appearance and be much stronger.

When choosing a fixative, it is also important that you consider several things such as the hardiness of the charcoal and the type of paper you are using. Additionally, do remember to keep in mind that if it is your first time using a fixative, it is vital that you practice to ensure you have things like the distance of application, the amount of pressure, and spray covered. The fixatives we have discussed in this article are some of the best in the markets and some have even gotten major rating points amongst the art community. We hope that you have found a fixative that you can use from the article above, and if not, do let us know which fixative you opted to work with and why.