10 Best Fixatives For Charcoal To Use In 2021

fixatives for charcoal

Creating beautiful, long-lasting art and finding tools to help sustain its glossy finish is a must for every aspiring artist. Luckily, fixatives exist to make it easier for you to do so. Simply spray it over your artwork to maintain its quality in the long run.

Finding a suitable fixative is crucial if you wish to work with a lot of charcoal. We listed the best fixatives for charcoal art, so you would have options to consider for your next art supply shopping spree.

Our Top Picks

Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative
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Most Versatile - Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative 

• Best for charcoal, pastel, pencil, and chalk drawings
• Anti-smudge protection
• Resistant to fading and yellowing

Liquitex Professional Spray Varnish
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Best Satin Finish - Liquitex Professional Spray Varnish

• Quick-drying
• Archival 
• Non-yellowing 

Most Travel-Friendly - SpectraFix Fixative Spray 

• All-natural formula
• Odor-free and non-toxic
• Pump spray

1. Lascaux Archival Fixative Spray

Lascaux Archival Fixative Spray

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 Pros Cons
  • Quick-drying
  • Available in three gloss levels 
  • Excellent water resistance
  • Fade-resistant
  • Minimalist can design
  • Strong odor
  • Not the best for other media

What Customers Have To Say 

Buyers said this fixative for charcoal boasts the highest quality, making it their go-to brand. Apart from charcoal, it also seals dry media like colored pencils quite exceptionally. However, one customer was not very pleased with the fixative dulling of the pastel colors she used on black paper.

Why We Think It's Great

Beloved for its quick-drying feature, Lascaux Archival Fix Spray is one of the fastest drying fixatives for charcoal. It is made explicitly for charcoal, so it may not be as effective on other media. It comes in different gloss levels: semi-matte, gloss, and matte, giving artists variety.

This fixative might be a bit pricey for those on a budget, but if you're looking for highly effective, fade, and water-resistant fixatives for charcoal and wash effects, then the Lascaux Archival Fix Spray is your best bet. 

Who Should Buy It

This fixative for charcoal may not be ideal for kids because of the strong odor, but it is an excellent option for charcoal illustrators who enjoy working on landscape art.

2. Grumbacher Final Gloss Fixative Spray

Grumbacher Final Gloss Fixative Spray

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 Pros Cons
  • Non-yellowing and colorless
  • Flexible on other print media
  • Quick-drying
  • Glossy finish
  • Workable formula
  • Requires shaking before use

What Customers Have To Say 

Grumbacher's final gloss fixative spray received good reviews from its buyers. One customer liked its effect on colored pencils and said it dries quick enough and can easily be worked over if necessary. It also works excellent on sealing paint on wood, adding a glossy finish, according to another happy customer who rated the fixative five stars.Grumbacher Final Gloss Fixative Spray review

Why We Think It's Great

The Grumbacher's Final Gloss Fixative Spray is beloved for its quick-dry quality and non-yellowing feature that allows artists to get a glossy finish after a few sprays. It's also a flexible fixative because it can be used on other print media and materials.

Some of which include textured paper, photographs, printed material, and even ceramics. A customer even used this workable fixative on wood and created a shiny layer over the paint before adding some finishes using a pen. 

Who Should Buy It

This fixative is an excellent addition to any amateur artist's art supplies. If you're also the type of illustrator who enjoys working with charcoal, you won't have to second-guess this flexible purchase.

3. Krylon Workable Fixatif

Krylon Workable Fixatif

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 Pros Cons
  • Archival-safe
  • Colorless
  • Not prone to yellowing 
  • Prevents smudging and wrinkling
  • Reworkable formula
  • Strong odor
  • Slow dry

What Customers Have To Say 

The general feedback for Krylon's Workable Fixatif was relatively positive. Buyers liked its impeccable quality over pastel and charcoal. Other customers said it was a very affordable option that delivers excellent quality. 

However, a couple of people who purchased the fixative said it blurs some detail after a few hours. Regardless, it wasn't too noticeable and was able to create an exciting pigment later on. Krylon Workable Fixatif review

Why We Think It's Great

Despite the strong odor it gives off, the Krylon Workable Fixatif is one of the best fixatives for charcoal. It's archival-safe and acid-free, and when you spray it over your charcoal drawing, no coloring will impact your work since it's not prone to yellowing. 

If you're pretty mobile when creating art and accidentally smears parts of your work, this fixative will help prevent it from happening again. It can also erase through the coating and give you the flexibility to rework any details if necessary.

Who Should Buy It

Krylon's Workable Fixative Spray does a great job at keeping your art for a long time. This is a must to try for professional charcoal artists who like to work with fixatives for preservation purposes.

4. Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative - Most Versatile

Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative

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 Pros Cons
  • Transparent 
  • Anti-smudge protection
  • Flexible use
  • Matte finish
  • Resistant to fading and yellowing
  • Does not give a satin finish
  • Strong odor

What Customers Have To Say 

Those who purchased this workable fixative gave it positive and critical reviews. One buyer said it was easy to use but will require you to wear a mask. Another good feature about this fixative is that it's sold at a fair price. Other users said it was not the best fixative to get a satin finish, but it layers well over charcoal-colored media.Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative review

Why We Think It's Great

Winsor & Newton presents artists with their professional fixative that is best for charcoal, pastel, pencil, and chalk drawings. Aside from its flexible use, it's also anti-smudging, making it easy for artists and anyone working with charcoal to manipulate on their canvas. 

For those who might have to store their art away for a while, this fixative is an excellent tool to help keep it from yellowing and fading over time. Not to mention, its gray and black packaging and design are easy on the eye and visually the most attractive option on the shelf.

Who Should Buy It

It may have a strong odor when you spray it, but this fixative for charcoal is sold at an affordable price which is great for art students on a budget.

5. SpectraFix Fixative Spray - Most Travel-Friendly

SpectraFix Fixative Spray

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 Pros Cons
  • All-natural formula
  • Odor-free and non-toxic
  • Pump spray
  • Smooth finish
  • Safe for children
  • Poor water-resistance 

What Customers Have To Say 

The best thing about SpectraFix is the travel-friendly packaging that several buyers appreciated. It also transfers well on any canvas and is best for charcoal and pastel. Some users said they liked that it was non-toxic and prevented them from inhaling any chemicals. 

However, one shopper did say that it wasn't the most water-resistant, but it did work well with compressed charcoal and powder.

Why We Think It's Great

SpectraFix Fixative Spray is another one of the best fixatives for charcoal you can find online. What makes this product stand out is its all-natural formula that is non-toxic and safe for children to use in their art. It's odor-free, so when spraying from the pump spray, no odd smell lingers when you're getting in your drawing zone. 

This fixative may not be the choice for those who use a lot of wet media or wash effects with charcoal since it blotches on paper after one spray. But if you prefer non-toxic fixative sprays, SpectraFix is based on milk casein, so it works well with moisture and gives your art a smooth finish.

Who Should Buy It

This fixative is ideal for charcoal artists always on the go and needs something easy to get through airport security. It also comes in a 12-ounce spray pump container for an easy hold. 

6. Golden Gloss Archival Varnish - Most Water Resistant

Golden Gloss Archival Varnish

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 Pros Cons
  • UV protection
  • Anti-smudge 
  • Dust-resistant 
  • Works with dry and wet media
  • Fitted with a fan spray tip
  • Slow drying
  • Strong odor

What Customers Have To Say 

Golden Gloss Archival Varnish is not technically a fixative, but it's best used for adding a certain level of sheen to dry media on canvas. A couple of buyers said it's versatile and works well for watercolor, apart from charcoal. "Professional finish," one customer said and mentioned its beneficial UV protectant, a must-try for mixed-media artists.

Why We Think It's Great

Another contender for the best fixative for charcoal is Golden's varnish spray. It’s reliable for its excellent dust and water resistance and anti-smudge performance. It helps seal in the moisture that gives your art a bright pop, along with a glossy finish.

Other artists who use media like print, dry, and even wet will get several benefits from this fixative. It's versatile and helps seal in the complex properties of mixed-media art. It also comes with a fitted spray tip making it more convenient for artists to work within small studio spaces. 

Ensure to finish off your work in an outdoor space or a ventilated area due to its strong odor and slow drying qualities.

Who Should Buy It

Golden Glossy Archival Varnish is perfect for any artist who works with several media, from charcoal, pastel to watercolor and acrylic paint. This varnish will help you get your desired glossy finish for a beautiful display anywhere in your home.

7. Sennelier Delacroix Fixative Spray

Sennelier Delacroix Fixative Spray

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 Pros Cons
  • Fast drying
  • Kid-friendly 
  • Versatile use 
  • Matte finish 
  • Yellowing sealant
  • Requires a couple of sprays
  • Poor water resistance

What Customers Have To Say 

A majority of the feedback on Sennelier Delacroix's Fixative Spray was positive. "Professional results," said one customer who used it to fix pastel art which minimized smudging while giving it an even matte finish. 

Another user said it was a "nice fixative" worth the extra bucks and a couple of sprays to seal the sketch properly.

Why We Think It's Great

Sennelier Delacroix Fixative is one of the best fixatives for charcoal in our book, especially for kids since it doesn't have a strong odor upon spraying. Even if this is a fast-drying and odorless fixative, ensure you're applying it in a ventilated area for better application. 

Best for preserving your artwork from yellowing and wrinkling, this product makes an excellent option for artists to consider. If you're more of an artist who strictly works with dry media, this fixative won't give you any water blotching issues.

Who Should Buy It

This product is ideal for beginners looking for a fixative that works well with crayons, fusains, pencils, and charcoal. It's pretty versatile and perfect for those experimenting with mixed media.

8. Conte a Paris Fixative Spray

Conte a Paris Fixative Spray

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 Pros Cons
  • Odorless
  • Colorless, light varnish
  • Anti-smudge
  • Doesn't stain 
  • Dulls values
  • Reactive to pen ink

What Customers Have To Say 

Many customers liked how it was able to dry without darkening the colors. Other positive reviews commended the high smudge resistance and value for money customers would get from Conte a Paris. 

However, one user pointed out that if you spray more than three layers of the fixative, it can dull some values on charcoal art. It's also not recommended over pen ink since it can react negatively and leak on your canvas. 

Why We Think It's Great

We included Conte, a Paris Odorless Fixative, on our list of the best fixative for charcoal since it enhances various artists' style and performance. It's also an odorless option that many illustrators will appreciate.

The fixative boasts a high resistance to smudging, making it easy to maintain the bright values and create contrast if necessary. It also doesn't stain easily on your fingers if you need to blend some parts of your subject at the last minute.

Who Should Buy It

The Conte a Paris Fixative Spray is recommended for beginners who need an easy fixative for their art. Since it's odorless, it makes for a more suitable alternative than hairspray if you're on a tight budget.

9. Liquitex Professional Spray Varnish - Best Satin Finish

Liquitex Professional Spray Varnish

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 Pros Cons
  • Excellent satin gloss finish
  • Quick-drying
  • Archival 
  • Non-yellowing 
  • Water-resistant when dry
  • Prone to smudging

What Customers Have To Say 

Many artists purchased the Liquitex professional varnish, and they enjoyed its quality. One said its glossy finish made a difference to their work. Another customer said it was value for money that provided him with promising finishes over acrylic and charcoal media. 

A few others were quite critical about its smudge and water resistance which came out relatively poor and could be improved by the brand. Regardless, this varnish is just as good as a fixative spray.Liquitex Professional Spray Varnish review

Why We Think It's Great

Since this is a varnish, it's better suited for changing the sheen of your work. It boasts a quick-drying, archival quality that could change the way you preserve your art's quality. The can is also lightweight and easy to hold, which does not require any shaking before spraying any parts you wish to alter last minute. 

This varnish gets a five-star rating from us for its smooth and satin finish, giving the surface a solid seal. It has a medium odor that isn't so bad to work with indoors, but it is best to work outdoors or somewhere with ventilation to keep safe. 

Who Should Buy It

This varnish is a great gift to any charcoal illustrator or artist since it's affordable and available in many art supply stores.

10. Krylon Matte Finish Fixative - Best Matte Finish

 Krylon Matte Finish Fixative
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 Pros Cons
  • Strong permanent matte finish
  • Moisture-resistant
  • Quick dry
  • Non-yellowing
  • Budget-friendly
  • Blotches on textured paper

What Customers Have To Say 

Some customers liked Kylon's fixative for its smooth finish and waterproof quality. Others also used it to add a matte finish to their printed and dry media. A few customers were disappointed by the blotching on textured paper, which was not what they expected. 

Regardless, this moisture-resistant fixative is a versatile purchase for anyone who needs an excellent matte finish on their creations.

Why We Think It's Great

We think Krylon's Matte Finish Fixative deserves to be on our list of the best fixative for charcoal for its quick-dry and permanent solid matte finish. It's also a budget-friendly option for students to check out. Plus, it has excellent archival properties, which do not quickly tarnish or turn your art yellow after a few years.

Who Should Buy It

This fixative for charcoal is perfect for artists who use different media in their work. Since it is moisture-resistant, it's less reactive to other media with strong gradients on any surface.

Best Fixative for Charcoal Buying Guide

  • Chemicals

The common ingredients that make up a fixative can dictate its drying speed and its impact on your canvas’s values. 

Fixatives are typically made of clear, synthetic resins. However, modern fixative brands incorporate polyvinyl butyral resin and cellulose derivatives. This replaces the cheaper alternative shellac, which is a secretion from a lac insect. 

Other fixatives also have UV protection to keep your painting or drawing from the harmful effects of sunlight.

  • Smearing & Smudging Properties

Although a fixative is supposed to prevent smudging or smearing, it still has a different effect on several media types. Take a step back before grabbing that fixative on sale and think about which media you use most.

More often than not, fixative can affect pastel, charcoal, and graphite-based artworks radically. Some fixatives may also be affected by moisture from the media you use, removing the smear resistance. 

Consider looking into specific brands that are workable and could adapt to mixed-media pieces for versatility.

  • Odor

Like spray paint, fixatives come in aerosol cans, emitting a particular smell that isn't the best to inhale when working on a masterpiece. The odor can easily penetrate through fabrics and the walls, which is why spraying fixative is best done in a ventilated area or out in the open air. 

If you want an effective fixative that has no odor, check the label and ensure you're not breathing so much of the fumes when finishing off your art. 

  • Gloss

The glossy finish is usually the best feature in a fixative since it can make your work sparkle from a distance. However, not all fixatives have the same effect on the type of media you use. 

Charcoal is best with workable fixatives since it can be a messy form of medium to use on canvas. Resin reacts well with charcoal and makes it prone to smearing in portions of your subject with a lot of gradient and contrast.

Charcoal Fixatives FAQ

1. Do you need fixative for charcoal drawings?

Yes, fixatives help stop your charcoal drawing or any charcoal used in a mixed media piece from smearing. It also helps avoid dust from clinging onto your sketch as it dries. The best way for a fixative to work is by spraying multiple layers over your artwork.

2. Can you use hairspray instead of fixative on art?

Technically, yes, you can use hairspray as a quick fix. However, it's still highly recommended to find a good quality fixative that holds long-term benefits in preserving your work. 

Fixative is still the best choice to keep your art in check since the chemical makeup of hairspray does not guarantee archival properties, and it also tends to turn the paper sticky and yellow over time.

3. Do you need to fix charcoal drawings?

Several artists have different opinions on fixatives over charcoal art. Many agree with its ability to sustain the appearance and quality of an art piece to prevent it from smudging or smearing. 

However, others say fixative over charcoal can increase particle loss and modify the values of the charcoal if callously applied over a canvas. 

4. What is the best fixative for charcoal?

The best fixative for charcoal is the Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative because of its flexibility and user-friendliness. It's quick to dry and has high resistance to yellowing and fading. This fixative leaves an excellent finish for charcoal drawings and compressed charcoal media, among others.

5. Can I draw or paint over fixative?

Yes, but you would have to wait for the fixative to completely dry before applying wet or dry media over the fixed canvas. 

Use minimal amounts since over-spraying can manipulate the colors if you initially used dry media, such as colored pencils, pastels, or charcoal pencils, which eventually dissolve despite applying fixative prior.

Conclusion

Getting the perfect glow after several blends, highlights, and other media applications is an easy finish with a spray of the proper fixative. Fixatives help artists maintain the beauty and quality of their masterpieces in just a few applications.

The Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative is the best fixative for charcoal in our book. It's made not just for charcoal art but also for pastel, pencil, and chalk drawings. It also offers smudge protection and fade-resistant.

For traveling artists who appreciate portability, the SpectraFix Fixative Spray boasts an all-natural formula that is safe for anyone to use, including kids. It also gives charcoal-based media on paper or canvas a smooth and glossy finish. 

If you enjoyed our suggestions, let us know in the comments which fixative for charcoal works best for you. 

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