How to Seal Oil Pastels Perfectly: Preserve Your Art

Knowing how to seal an oil pastel artwork is an important skill for artists to learn. Preserving your oil pastel artwork will keep it looking vibrant and fresh for years to come.

Key materials include fixative spray, which locks in colors without altering hues, and glassine paper for protection during sealing.

For adjustments post-sealing, a workable fixative is ideal. Alternatives like hairspray, acrylic medium or Mod Podge, applied in layers, also work well.

Spray at a distance of 12 inches or 30cm and allow each layer should dry thoroughly before adding the next.

This ensures a long-lasting protection and preserves the vividness of the pastel.

Materials needed to seal oil pastels

Sealing your oil pastel artwork preserves the bright colors and keeps the piece looking fresh for a long time.

You’ll want to gather the right supplies to ensure your artwork stays intact and smudge-free.

Fixative Spray

Fixative spray is the best way to lock in those different colors without altering their hue. Sprays designed for oil pastels help prevent smudging and hold the pigments in place.

Here is one of the products I have used to seal oil pastels.

Winsor & Newton Professional Fixative spray

The other is made by Krylon (see below). Note that I do not earn anything from my recommendations. You can buy these online or at most reputable art stores.

Glassine Paper

Glassine paper protects your work while you’re in the midst of sealing. Place it over your drawing to keep everything clean; this step is necessary before you apply any fixatives.

Glassine paper is like tracing paper. If you can’t find glassine paper, I also use baking paper, which you can buy at any supermarket.

Workable Fixative

A workable fixative allows for touch-ups even after the initial application. With it, you can adjust your oil pastel painting and then reseal for continued protection.

Krylon workable fixative spray

Alternative Methods

If sprays aren’t your thing, try other options. Hair Spray, Acrylic medium, Mod Podge, or a final varnish can work.

Apply them gently with a brush. For pieces requiring ultimate protection, multiple layers may be required.

Remember to let each layer dry before adding the next. This ensures your art stays bold and beautiful.

sealing oil pastel using a spray fixative

Step-by-step guide to sealing oil pastels

Sealing your oil pastel artwork ensures that those bright colors stay vibrant for a long time. It’s the best way to keep your creation looking as fresh as the day you finished it.

Step 1: Prepare Your Artwork

Before you seal, make sure your artwork is free from dust and debris. Gently wipe the surface with a paper towel if needed.

Step 2: Apply Fixative Spray

Hold the fixative spray about 12 inches (30cm) away from your piece. Apply a light, even coat to keep those different colors looking sharp.

Step 3: Let It Dry

Give your artwork enough time to dry. This step is vital to avoid smudges and preserve the oil pastel painting‘s integrity.

Additional tips for sealing oil pastels

Sealing your oil pastel artwork is vital for maintaining those bright colors. It’s the best way to ensure your creation stands the test of time.

Test on a Small Area First

Before you spray your entire piece, test the fixative on a small section. This ensures the colors stay true and vivid.

Use Multiple Layers of Fixative

A single layer might not cut it, so apply several thin fixative coats. Each layer locks in different colors and adds durability.

Store Sealed Artwork Properly

Once sealed, store your artwork in a cool, dry place. Protect it from dust and sunlight to preserve those vivid hues for a long time.

Risks with sealing oil pastels

Sealing oil pastels carries several risks that artists should be aware of:

Color Distortion/Dulling:

Some fixatives can alter the original colors of the oil pastels, leading to fading. dulling or color changes.

This is especially true if the fixative is not specifically designed for oil pastels.

Use the right type of fixative and apply it as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not rush things!


If not applied correctly, the process of sealing can cause smudging.

This is particularly risky if the artwork is not completely dry or if the fixative is applied too heavily or too close.

Spray from around 12 inches (30cm) away and apply any fixatives lightly and using multiple layers.

Uneven Texture:

Applying fixative unevenly can result in an inconsistent texture across the artwork, which might affect its visual appeal and overall finish.

Chemical Reactions:

Certain chemicals in the fixative can react adversely with the oil pastels, potentially leading to long-term degradation of the artwork.

Surface Damage:

Over-application or the use of harsh fixatives can damage the surface of the paper or canvas, affecting both the artwork’s appearance and its durability.

Limited Re-Workability:

Once sealed, it can be challenging to rework or touch up an oil pastel artwork.

While workable fixatives offer some flexibility, they still limit the ability to make changes compared to unsealed pastels.

Health and Safety Concerns:

The fumes from certain fixatives can be harmful if inhaled, necessitating proper ventilation during application.

Some fixatives are also flammable, requiring careful handling and storage.

It’s important that you choose the right type of fixative and apply it correctly.

Be aware of these potential risks to ensure the best preservation of their oil pastel artworks.

Why you should seal oil pastels

You’ve learned that protecting your oil pastel masterpieces isn’t just a good practice—it’s essential.

By now you know the steps to seal your artwork effectively, ensuring that every stroke of vibrant color stays exactly where you intended.

Remember to handle the fixative with care and always give your pieces the time they need to set.

With these techniques in your artist’s toolkit, you’re ready to create lasting works of art that resist the test of time.

Go ahead, let your creativity flow, and trust in your ability to preserve it for the world to admire.

Health and Safety Precautions

image 1

When sealing oil pastels, keeping your health and workspace safe is key. Work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling fumes.

Wear gloves and consider a mask if you’re using products like mineral spirits.

They can prevent skin irritation and reduce inhalation of potentially harmful vapors.

Many sealants are flammable. Keep them away from heat sources and open flames.

Check for the AP Seal from the Creative Materials Institute. This means the product is certified non-toxic and safer for use.

AP seal

Remember that prolonged exposure might lead to chronic health problems. So, limit your exposure time when using sealants and cleaners.

Lastly, always read product labels for specific health and safety instructions. Stick to those guidelines for a safe sealing experience.

Intermediate and Advanced Tips

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Explore Mixed Media

Mixing oil pastels with other mediums can lead to exciting results.

You can apply a secondary medium like acrylic paint for a layered effect.

Start with an acrylic base and add pastels on top.

This creates a dynamic texture and adds depth to your work. Remember, acrylic paint dries quickly and works well as a sturdy underlayer.

Oil paintings can also benefit from the richness of oil pastels. Apply oil pastels on top of dried oil paint for added texture.

Be mindful when mixing media. Test them on a separate surface before applying to your main artwork.

Enhancing Longevity

Your pastel artwork will last longer with proper sealing.

As mentioned earlier, apply a spray fixative designed for oil pastels to protect the surface.

This step keeps colors intact and prevents smudging.

But if fixatives aren’t available then you could consider using a more durable sealant like resin or a varnish.

Resin provides a thick, glass-like finish that thoroughly encases the pastel.

Varnish, often combined with linseed oil, offers a traditional look.

Be careful with the application, as these materials can alter the pastel’s original effect. Always test on a small area first.

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