How to Preserve & Protect Pencil Drawings? (Tools You Need)

March 20, 2023 by

This is a guide covering how to preserve & protect pencil drawings.

We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):

Table of Contents

Why It’s Important to Preserve Pencil Drawings?

Graphite pencils are an excellent medium for sketching, but you need to protect your sketches to keep them from smudging.

Graphite smudges quite quickly, and artists worry about how to preserve pencil drawing.

pencil drawing

In addition, the graphite in your sketches can quickly transfer when it comes into contact with the paper covering the drawing in the sketchbook, or your hands, etc. 

When you add pencil drawings to your portfolio, you expect people to see it and even touch it. Your artworks are in danger of smearing when potential clients or friends touch it.

Hence, you need to know how to seal graphite drawings to protect your sketches. If you don’t seal your drawings, they will get ruined and disappear from the paper over time.

What Tools Do You Need?

The tools depend on the method you’re choosing to use to preserve pencil drawings. If you’re thinking of using a fixative, you will need to buy a good quality art fixative.

Some great final fixatives are Brush and Pencil Advanced Colored Pencil Fixatives, Grumbacher Final Fixatives, etc.

Similarly, you may need wax paper, protectors, hairspray and frames, etc.

How to Preserve Pencil Drawings from Smudging?

A fixative works excellent to preserve pencil drawings. A fixative is called a fixative because it aids in fixing the graphite in your drawing onto the paper.

Fixatives protect the illustration from smudging, fading, UV rays, and the paper turning yellow. 

While there are cheap final fixatives in the market, buy a high-quality one like Krylon Final Fixative if you want to properly preserve pencil drawings.

After you’ve chosen the fixative, you need to know how to seal graphite drawings with fixative.

First, set up your sketch for the fixative in a ventilated room.

Then, shake the spray, and if it’s your first time with that particular fixative, spray it on another discardable drawing. This way you know it will work when it comes time to spray it on the real thing. 

Place your drawing vertically upright. Then, stand a few inches from the drawing and spray in light coats.

spraying art

You can place it flat too or try both once and see what works for you. First, spray horizontally in one direction and then in the opposite direction so that the drawing is evenly coated. 

How to Protect Pencil Drawings Without Fixative?

If you want to avoid fixatives as your go-to method to preserve pencil drawings, you need to know how to set pencil drawings with other tools.

Framing your sketches is a great way to keep them safe, and you can them framed or do it yourself. 

framing a pencil drawing
frame sketches

Another great tool to preserve pencil drawings is to use wax paper between the pages so that the graphite doesn’t smear when people turn the pages in your sketchbook.

You can use also cling film, Glassine paper, or parchment paper.

You should cut a wax paper of the appropriate size before you start drawing, and you can place it under your hand while you draw to prevent graphite from getting onto your hand.

Moreover, if you need to preserve pencil drawings that aren’t in a sketchbook, you can tape the wax paper on top using painters or masking tape. They won’t tear the page when you take them off.

Secondly, you can place these standalone pages inside page protectors.

Finally, you can put all the page protectors with your drawings in a robust file for safekeeping. 

How to Preserve Pencil Drawings with Hairspray?

Usually, when artists don’t have fixatives, they turn to hairspray to preserve pencil drawings.

hair spray
using hairspray

You need to know how to set graphite drawings with hairspray before you start, and the process is the same as for fixative.

Use the same steps and try the hairspray once on another discardable drawing.

While hairspray is cheaper than fixatives, artists prefer fixatives because hairspray may turn the paper yellow over time.

Most hairsprays have the same ingredients in fixatives, but they aren’t explicitly designed to preserve pencil drawings.

To further explore how to preserve and protect pencil drawings, we recommend checking out this in-depth video by Lachri Fine Art:

Final Remarks

Now that you know all the best methods to preserve pencil drawings, you can choose to use high-quality fixatives or a non-fixative form with wax paper, Glassine paper, or parchment paper. You can get your sketches framed, but it can be expensive in the long run.

To preserve and organize your drawings, you can use paper protectors.