How to Use Workable Fixatives in Drawing

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Drawing is a joy for many, but some of us tend to get frustrated with just how to control our drawing medium. Using workable fixatives in drawing can give you better control by allowing you to work over the top of charcoal, graphite, or pastels and create separate layers while drawing without destroying underlying layers. The results you can produce are incredible and simply can't be reproduced without using a fixative.

Things You'll Need

  • Charcoal Drawing pencils Conte crayon Pastels Workable Fixative Drawing paper Plastic Eraser Gum Eraser
  • Start drawing. This technique can be used with charcoal, conte crayon, graphite, or pastels. It's best to follow a pattern starting with either light tones or dark tones. If using charcoal in conjunction with conte crayon, start with your darkest colors and work lighter. Sketch in your drawing if you choose. Then block in your starting values. If you are using just charcoal you may want to start with willow charcoal as it is more forgiving when starting out. You can switch to compressed charcoal later.

  • Erase where necessary. You should begin modeling out your image, even if the foundation of the finished product is abstract. At this point you want the basic structure laid in. If you are using a cross-hatching just go one direction for now. Clean away any excess drawing medium that may be on the paper by lightly blowing on it or gently tapping the back. An example of a drawing at this point can be seen here.

  • Lightly spray the drawing in a well ventilated area. Keep the can about 8-10 inches from the drawing and start just off the drawing near the top. Spray straight across just off the drawing and drop down repeating the same process back the other direction. Remember to overlap your passes just slightly. Continue until you have lightly covered the drawing with fixative. Let the drawing dry.

  • Enhance the dark areas and refine them, keeping in mind the lighter. You have not permanently affixed your medium to your paper so some erasing is still possible but do not erase the underlying layers.

  • Spray the drawing according to step 3 again and let dry. Remove any excess medium from the paper and remember to spray in a well ventilated area.

  • Make corrections to the drawing. Start working in your lighter values over the dark areas. Erase as little as possible at this point and leave highlights for last. When you are satisfied with the drawing, spray it again and let dry.

  • Add your highlights keeping in mind that being to aggressive will damage the layers you have built. Add what ever highlights you need. You should now have a completed drawing.

  • Spray one more time with workable fixative to hold the drawing in place until you are ready to spray a final finish coat or frame with glass.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can create as many layers as you feel necessary, this tutorial is just to get you started. So have fun. If you make a mistake, just draw over it.
  • When using pastels, be aware of potentially harmful chemicals from pigments. Remember to use a respirator or a well-ventilated area. Outside is ideal if you do not have a paint booth. Supervise children working with workable fixative, it is usually flammable and can give off harmful fumes and vapors.

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  • Photo Credit Charcoal Drawing by Eric Brown
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