Top 5 Best Fixatives For Charcoal In 2021

Anyone who has ever worked with charcoal knows that it’s incredibly easy to smudge. No matter how careful you are, or even if the image is framed immediately, temperature and small movements can ruin your art. Many artists choose to apply a fixative to preserve their work. Though there is some debate surrounding its use, it is still the best way to protect your charcoal-based drawing.

Choosing the best fixative can seem daunting especially with all of the options out there. We will go over the best fixatives for charcoal based on color, once-dried, toxicity level, and versatility. We will also cover the best natural, workable and final fixatives for charcoal. Each meets different criteria from our list. It also outlines how well each fixative protects against smudging as well as how many coats are required for complete protection.

All products are graded based on a scale of 1-10 for each selection criteria – with 10 being the best.

How to Choose the Best Fixatives for Charcoal

Fixatives are mostly alcohol-based. They are propelled by hydrocarbon and are specifically designed to fix artwork in place while improving a work’s UV or water resistance, lightfastness, and ability to preserve drawings. The biggest debate surrounding the use of fixatives for charcoal is that they may change the color of your final piece. While the quality of the fixative can increase or decrease color changes, it also depends on the type of paper employed – whether tinted or black charcoals were used, or, more importantly, how the user applies the fixative.

Color

Some cheaper fixatives cause artwork to become yellow once dried. It’s therefore essential to choose a good quality, transparent or clear fixative. It’s also suggested to test a separate piece of paper and ensure the spout is clear before applying it to your final work. For best results, hold the can at least 12-18 inches away from drawings before spraying in order to ensure you’re not dowsing the paper.

Toxicity

Unfortunately, most fixatives are toxic due to their aerosol content. Any fixative should only be applied either outdoors or in a very well-ventilated room. Wearing safety gear such as a mask and gloves are also highly recommended.

Versatility

Fixatives can be used solely to seal the final image. Meanwhile, some brands have designed a workable fixative that allows the artist to fix their work in layers at all design stages. While final fixatives are excellent for professional artists, most beginners would do well to purchase a workable fixative that can also seal the final image.

Our Product Recommendations

Best Fixative for Charcoal Overall – Winsor and Newton Fixative for Charcoal

Winsor & Newton Artists' Aerosols Workable Fixative

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$16.99
    • Our score: 8/10
  • Color – Transparent
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Toxicity – Toxic
    • Our score: 7/10
  • Versatility – Final and Workable
    • Our score: 9/10

About Winsor and Newton Fixative

This Winsor and Newton fixative is one of the best overall fixatives for charcoal due to its good smudge protection and water resistance even after only two coats. It dries relatively quickly, has a matte finish, and is workable – meaning it can be applied in layers and so protects already completed work thereby allowing the artist to continue drawing over each layer.

Pros

  • Doesn’t alter the color of charcoal drawings
  • Professional-grade
  • Dries quickly
  • Is workable

Cons

  • Strong smell

Best Natural Fixative for Charcoal – Natural SpectraFix Spray Fixative

SpectraFix SFX-31270 12 oz Fixative Spray

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$20.89
    • Our score: 7/10
  • Color – Transparent
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Toxicity – Non-Toxic
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Versatility – Final and Medium
    • Our score: 9/10

About SprectraFix

If you’re looking for a fixative alternative, this SpectraFix spray fixative contains only natural ingredients including casein, ethanol, water, grain alcohol, and milk protein. All these functions as protective agents. It’s workable, can be used on mixed media such as pastels, colored pencils, or charcoal, and won’t darken artwork. As it’s water-soluble, it’s important to keep the final fixed drawing away from any wet surfaces. Although this can fix a charcoal drawing with only two applications, three applications work best. In addition, some customers have suggested transferring the contents to a finer mister for better results.

Pros

  • No odor
  • Non-toxic
  • Doesn’t discolor final artwork

Cons

  • The included bottle can spray too heavily

Best Workable Fixative for Charcoal – Krylon Workable Fixatives for Charcoal

Krylon Fixative Aerosol Spray

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$22.80
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Color – Transparent
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Toxicity – Toxic
    • Our score: 7/10
  • Versatility – Final and Medium
    • Our score: 9/10

About Krylon Fixative

Krylon’s workable fixative for charcoal helps avoid distortion to finished art using only two applications while protecting already completed charcoal drawings with its workable medium. The matte finish reduces reflection and provides up to 20 square feet of coverage. Work can also be erased, even after applying this fixative. Although it is suggested to allow it to dry for at least 30 minutes before continuing to add layers of charcoal.

Pros

  • Does not cause yellowing
  • Is acid-free
  • Can be used on wood, glass, fabrics, or wicker

Cons

  • Takes over one hour to fully dry

Best Final Fixative for Charcoal – Grumbacher Final Fixative for Charcoal

Grumbacher Final Fixative Gloss Spray

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$38.99
    • Our score: 8/10
  • Color – Transparent
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Toxicity – Toxic
    • Our score: 7/10
  • Versatility – Final
    • Our score: 8/10

About Grumbacher Final

While all other fixatives on this list are workable, this high-quality Grumbacher fixative is permanent and cannot be altered or worked with once applied. Professionals or serious DIYers will appreciate that it’s available in either matte or gloss finish, doesn’t yellow, and is helpful for various media – not just charcoals. For optimal use, allow the fixative to dry for at least seven minutes between coats, with two to three coats being optimal.

Pros

  • Doesn’t smell as strong as other toxic fixatives
  • Comes in two different finishes
  • Made in the USA

Cons

  • Is more expensive than most other brands

Best Clear Fixatives for Charcoal – Sennelier Clear Fixative for Charcoal

Sennelier Latour Spray Fixative

Selection Criteria

  • Price – ~$18.33 (Was $23.70)
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Color – Clear
    • Our score: 9/10
  • Toxicity – Toxic
    • Our score: 7/10
  • Versatility – Final and Medium
    • Our score: 9/10

About Sennelier Latour Fixative

Sennelier has designed this clear fixative with professionals in mind. It’s one of the quicker drying sprays. It also has very little smell and is able to fix a drawing with only three layers. It possesses one of the highest lightfastness and offers one of the maximum protection for various mediums. Even though this spray is clear, it is highly recommended to test it on a separate paper to ensure correct use.

Pros

  • One of the fastest drying fixatives
  • Low odor

Cons

  • Must apply three coats before it protects against smudging
  • Isn’t water-resistant

Conclusion

This wraps up our guide to the best fixatives for charcoal. Not only have we discussed how you could identify the best fixatives for charcoal, we’ve also shared our recommendations in various contexts.

We’ve discussed how you can choose the best charcoal fixative as well as why color, toxicity, and versatility are the key deciding factors. We’ve outlined them thoroughly to help you understand them easily.

Lastly, we combined our recommendations in different situations. Whether it is a non-toxic fixative or a workable fixative, or the best professional-grade fixative, we’ve discussed it all.

Thanks for reading, we hope our suggestions will help you buy the best product to help preserve your drawings.

Sources

https://www.liveabout.com/should-i-fix-my-charcoal-drawing-1122905

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixative_(drawing)