How To Seal & Protect Works On Paper

Seal & Protect Works On Paper

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In this video you’ll learn how to seal and protect charcoal and graphite marks in your works on paper using medium and a shaper without using a spray fixative.

If you’ve ever had problems trying to figure out how to seal works on paper without facing the toxicity of the organic volatiles of spray fixatives or with clogging of the nozzle, have no fear.

This is an alternative approach to sealing charcoal and graphite marks. You can easily protect your art by using medium and a shaper tool. Watch the video to see how.

Seal Paintings On Paper


Hi everyone, I want to show you a quick tip today before I ship this painting (which is on the cover of my forthcoming book Bold Strokes by the way) to Palm Springs, California. I notice that this painting is on paper and has some marks that I want to seal before I send this off, because there’s a little bit of charcoal on here and some graphite marks which could smudge.

This painting does not have oil pastel by the way which is a whole other topic we’ll get into in another talk.

I want to show you what I quickly do when I send out a painting. I make sure the edges where I had taped down the painting are filled in with paint or marks so it doesn’t show where the tape was previously.

The last thing I do is seal those graphite and charcoal marks. I often use Golden satin acrylic liquid glazing medium because I use this medium a great deal in my paintings. It’s thin and soupy. I’m not that worried about these graphite and charcoal marks but occasionally there can be a problem with smearing of charcoal or graphite marks if you don’t seal them.

I’ll show you a little bit of this because I’ve already worked on sealing many of the marks in this painting today. I come in wherever there are marks that might need to be covered and I gently lay down the medium using a color shaper. I lay it down rather flat and I lay in the glazing medium very lightly over the marks, especially when going over charcoal because that can smudge easily. It takes very little of the medium because it goes a long way. I just cover the marks.

If you’re using oil pastel, that is a whole other issue because with oil pastel you’re using a product that has oil in it and I believe it’s mineral oil which never dries. Indeed, it’s been said that oil pastels never dry, that they’re like lipstick. So this can be tricky because parts of your painting are never stable in terms of fully curing or drying.

Other options: If you prefer, you can use spray fixative. Sennelier has a spray fixative specifically for oil pastels or you can also use the Krylon fixative.

I have occasionally covered, unwittingly, oil pastel marks with Golden glazing medium and the issue is that it’s not going to be stable. The acrylic could come off because of the fat over lean rule about. This is the fact that fat is the oil and acrylic is the lean and if we place thin over fat (acrylic over oil) there’s the risk that the acrylic will peel or crack. (It’s ok to place fat over lean though (oil over acrylic)).

This is something to be aware of when using oil pastel. I don’t have to worry about that here because I don’t have any oil pastel in this painting.

I hope you find this video helpful. I can show you more examples of how to do this in future videos.

Please share and comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

From my studio to yours,


P.S. If you’re not yet a Journeyer and want to go deeper, we’ve opened the doors to my online workshop Studio Journey. Click HERE to get started.

Originally published at Nancy Hillis.