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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Fixative or varnish for oil & wax based pencils on paperApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2020-02-07 08:24:30 ... Most recent comment 2020-02-27 19:41:16
    Pencil Varnishes

    ​Hi! I'm trying to find a suitable fixative to protect my drawings made with oil- and wax-based colour pencil on 300gsm Arches hot pressed watercolour paper. I only need to protect against accidental smudging and UV protection is not my concern (I only use ASTM 6901 grade pencils).

    I've tried a Schmincke universal fixative so far (I live in Germany so that was a natural choice) and it gives good smudge protection and almost no colour change. However it lists "polyvinyl resin" as its main binder which is ambiguous, and Schmincke have officially declined to disclose any further details on the type of resin they use. From what the industry uses, I assume it must be polyvinyl acetate which is known to slowly disintegrate, releasing acetic acid. Assuming that fixative indeed uses polyvinyl acetate, would you consider it archival enough to be used with paper and colour pencils?

    My second question is: what's the best recommended smudge protection fixative/varnish for oil/wax-based coloured pencil works on paper? I did a fair amount of googling but resources related to coloured pencils protection are virtually nonexistent (also no vendor in Europe, to my best knowledge, market any varnishes/fixatives as specifically suitable for coloured pencils).

    Thank you very much for any assistance you'd be able to provide with this topic!

Answers and Comments

  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​To clarify a potential ambiguity above, I don't use oil paints. I only use coloured pencils which are either oil-based, or wax-based.

    2020-02-07 08:29:57
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    I have sent this to our colored pencil representative​

    Brian Baade
    2020-02-07 10:45:11
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​I know we are waiting for an authoritative answer, but I did want to mention Sennelier D'Artigny Pastel Fixative. This product is "vinylic resin" in an alcohol carrier solvent, which should not soften or fuse with pencil layers.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2020-02-07 11:43:00
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you very much for your recommendation Matthew, I'll look into that option! Unfortunately their website seems to list the mysterious "vinylic resin" only, without extra details on what polymer is actually used.

    2020-02-07 21:03:48
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    I do not know this for sure in the case of the Sennelier product but Poly vinyl acetate in an ethanol solution is a very typical alcohol soluble vinyl. We sometimes use lower molecyular weight PVA resins in ethanol as a binder for conservation inpainting paints.  I am speaking about a solution of PVA and not a dispersion. I can reach out to Sennelier to see if they want to comment or identify the resin.

    Brian Baade
    2020-02-08 17:09:49
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you very much Brian for your help, I appreciate it indeed. Would be great to know what Sennelier uses, I checked their docs but didn't find any more detail.

    My (quite uneducated) concern with PVA-based fixatives is that PVA is known to release small amounts of acetic acid over time as the polymer degrades, and I wonder it that could be of any risk to the paper itself or to the thin pencil strokes which may contain pigments sensitive to acids, like ultramarine. I know that PVA resins are used in high-grade professional restoration work but no use cases that I found mentioned applying it to paper. Maybe the amount of acetic acid released by PVA over time is negligible and can be safely ignored, or maybe only certain types of PVA resins have this problem — this I don't know.

    2020-02-08 17:29:37
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    I hesitate to make any definitive statements about conservation issues relating to paper (as I am trained as a paintings conservator) but did want to mention that Elmer’s Glue and even Jade 403 Neutral PH PVA Adhesive (used by many in libraries/etc) are PVA dispersion adhesives. Again, this is not really a statement about the appropriateness of PVA on paper but only that it clearly has a long history of use, at least as a dispersion. I have forwarded this question to a few other moderators.

    Brian Baade
    2020-02-08 17:47:26
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    To answer the first part of the question;

    Unfortunately we are not qualified to address the question about the archival qualities of polyvinyl resin. That is a question best posed to a conservator, especialy one who specializes in works on paper. Since the Schmincke fixative was originally developed for use with pastels, it's possible that someone in the pastel community may be able to help, but we still think the best resource is a conservator.

    The second part of the question;

    Artists typically turn to fixatives and varnishes made by Krylon, Prismacolor, Winsor & Newton, Sennelier, Lascaux, and Schmincke. These are all professional grade products that have been tested over time with good results, mainly by pastelists, but also by colored pencil artists. A newer entry into this market is the textured fixative and final fixative marketed by Brush & Pencil, which has been availble for about 4 or 5 years and is marketed specifically for colored pencil. We strongly recommend that artists ALWAYS try out any fixative product on test strips of colored pencil before spraying the product on artwork. The best practice is to create a test strip of each colored pencil to be used in a drawing, on the same substrate to be used. Each strip should be at least half an inch wide and 2 inches long. Cover half of each strip and spray the uncovered half. Allow to dry and remove the cover. Compare the covered half to the sprayed half to see whether any unwanted changes in hue, value, or intensity have occurred. 

    Hopefully this will give the original poster direction toward finding solutions for their concerns.

    John Guiseppi

    Product Research Director - Colored Pencil Society of America

    2020-02-27 19:41:16

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