Charcoal Fixative Alternative – More Money Saving Tips For Artists

You can make your own charcoal fixative alternative using white shellac with isopropyl alcohol (I have the ratios listed further below) and you can apply it with a spray bottle or atomizer.

Alternatively, you can use framing, laminating or protective glassine sheets.

Make Your Own Charcoal Fixative

You can mix your own charcoal fixative alternative using fewer ingredients than the commercial versions.

Mix one tablespoon of white shellac with four ounces of isopropyl alcohol in an empty spray bottle and shake or stir to mix.

Using a fine spray or atomizer spray, apply this homemade fixative to your charcoal drawing exactly as you spray commercial fixative.

This solution is still harmful to humans and animals.

Wear a mask and gloves when spraying to protect yourself. Keep children and pets away from any area where you are spraying fixatives as a precaution.

Because fixatives can be sticky, cleaning the nozzle regularly using alcohol will keep it from getting clogged between uses.

a fine spray or atomizer spray
a fine spray or atomizer spray

This homemade recipe for fixative makes it cheaper for artists but still harmful to yourself and the environment.

Don’t even bother using glue such as Mod Podge to seal your charcoal unless you wish to encase the charcoal in a permanent film of plastic.

Non-Chemical and Safe Charcoal Fixative Alternative

There are other non-chemical charcoal fixative alternatives that you can use. Below are listed 4 that you can either purchase from an art store or online.

While they are not technically a fixative, they will serve the same purpose to protect your charcoal artwork from accidental damage.

1. Glassine

Glassine is a type of paper. This material’s water-, air-, and grease-resistant. Glassine is a smooth, non-abrasive material.

Artists use glassine to wrap and cover charcoal drawings because it doesn’t mar charcoal or paper.

Glassine is a more environmentally safe material than any form of plastic, and since it’s made of wood pulp, it is pH balanced, biodegradable, and can be composted or recycled with your paper and cardboard products.

Glassine can be bought in sheets, rolls, or bags for use in protecting your fragile charcoal drawings.

It is cheap and is available on Amazon and other retailers.

Note: Glassine is water-resistant but not waterproof.

glassine sheets to protect charcoal drawings

2. Framing

If you need to preserve a charcoal drawing for a significant length of time, you can frame it.

When framing a charcoal piece, use mats to keep the drawing separate from anything that would smudge it, and that includes the glass or plexiglass in the frame.

You can place mats in front of and behind the drawing to achieve this separation.

Choose a framing option that you can take apart if you plan on changing any aspect of the drawing later. You can even photocopy the drawing through the glass, keeping it pristine.

3. Carrying Case

A third option is to create a carrying case to protect the surface of your drawing.

A carrying case is designed to archive high-quality materials without friction in order to preserve the surface of the paper.

The carry case is designed with space built in so your drawing doesn’t rub up against other materials.

You can personalize a carrying case so it’s built specifically the proper size to hold your drawing securely.

a sketch carry case as a charcoal fixative alternative

4. Laminating

You can laminate your charcoal drawing. When you laminate a piece of art, your drawing is protected from smoke, dust, UV rays, and smudges.

Your piece can be handled and will stay fresh, without damage, cheaply. You can take your drawing to any retail printer that laminates while you wait.

Alternatively, you can purchase a small laminator and DIY it at home.

This method is also inexpensive as a charcoal fixative alternative.

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