What do you use to finish your colored pencil artwork? Do you use something different if you use a different substrate?
When I first saw this question, I thought the reader wanted to know how I finish drawing colored pencil drawings.
Then I looked at the question again and realized that might not be what the reader wanted to know. Maybe they really wanted to know if I use a final fixative to “finish” a drawing.
After all, the reader mentioned different substrates and that makes more sense if we’re talking about final fixatives. The way I finish drawing a drawing is the same no matter what kind of paper I draw on.
But whether or not I use a final fixative does matter depending on the paper.
So I went back and rethought my answer.
How I Finish Colored Pencil Drawings
Most of the time, I finish drawing colored pencil drawings by making final adjustments. I make a few notes on the back (title, date of completion, type of paper, pencils, and other comments.) Then I slip the drawing into a protective, archival clear plastic envelope and either ship it or store it.
That’s because most of my work was on traditional drawing papers. For years, that’s all I used.
I rarely use final fixatives on artwork created on traditional paper. About the only time I do is when I need to control wax bloom. I see no need to use final fixatives on most other artwork.
However, the type of paper does make a difference and there are some papers that require final fixative.
The Paper Does Matter
When I work on sanded art papers, I use a light coat of final fixative on the finished drawing. That’s because drawing on sanded art papers creates pigment dust. If I don’t use a fixative on work like that, the dust may fall off the drawing.
Many artists remove the dust by blowing the dust off. They might also hold the drawing a bit past vertical and lightly tap it on a hard surface. The dust falls off without damaging the artwork, and can be disposed of. Pastel artists use the same methods because pastels also produce dust. A lot of it.
I prefer dry blending to push the dust down into the grit of the paper during the drawing process.
To keep pigment dust from falling off after the piece is finished, I apply two or three light coats of fixative after the drawing is finished.
The Process Also Matters
I also use a final fixative to finish colored pencil drawings when I use Brush & Pencil’s Powder Blender.
Powder Blender helps you blend colored pencil by acting as a dry lubricant. Apply a little Powder Blender before you start drawing and you’ll be able to blend colors effortlessly. You can add color, blend, add more color, and blend some more.
In fact, you’ll be able to continue blending for an unlimited amount of layers.
You can also lift color too. It’s better than erasing and you can remove color all the way to the paper if you want to. Brush & Pencil designed Textured Fixative to make those layers of color and Powder Blender permanent. It also adds texture to the surface of the paper, allowing you to continue adding color.
It’s important when using these products to use the Final Fixative when you finish a piece. The Final Fixative makes the entire drawing permanent.
It also seals the drawing. That’s important if you want to varnish a finished piece. The varnish can later be removed and replaced without damaging the drawing underneath. Oil painters often use a similar process to protect their paintings and make it possible to clean them later.
That’s How I Finish Colored Pencil Drawings
I don’t always finish colored pencil drawings with final fixative, and I rarely varnish them. My drawing methods simply do not require a final fixative unless I’m working on sanded art paper.
And I prefer not to varnish artwork, but I rarely did that with oil paintings either.
Whether or not you use a final fixative, a varnish, or nothing at all is mostly a personal decision. But I hope describing what I do (and why) helps you decide.