How to Preserve & Protect Pencil Drawings? Tools You Need

May 11, 2023 by

As you stand back to admire your latest pencil drawing, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride and satisfaction. The hours you spent carefully shading and sketching have paid off, and you’ve created a beautiful work of art that you’re eager to share with the world.

But before you do, it’s important to know how to properly preserve and protect your pencil drawing.

Pencil drawings can be delicate and easily smudged, so it’s essential to take the necessary steps to ensure their longevity.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the tools and techniques you can use to preserve and protect your pencil drawings, so you can keep them looking their best for years to come.

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 drawings.

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 to Preserve Pencil Drawings?

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 excellently 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 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use as a fixative for pencil drawings?

A fixative is a type of spray that is used to protect pencil drawings from smudging and fading over time. You can use commercially available fixatives specifically designed for pencil drawings, or you can make your own fixative by mixing equal parts of water and white glue and spraying it onto the drawing surface.

Does hairspray seal pencil drawings?

While hairspray can provide a temporary fixative effect for pencil drawings, it is not a recommended solution for long-term preservation. Hairspray is not designed for use on artwork and can cause discoloration, damage, and a sticky residue over time.

Can I use fixative spray on pencil drawings?

Yes, a fixative spray is recommended for use on pencil drawings as it helps to protect them from smudging, fading, and other types of damage. It is important to choose a fixative specifically designed for use with pencil drawings and to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure proper application.