Old pencil drawing faded, eyes of a lady with caption on it How to

How to Preserve a Pencil Drawing?

Pencil Drawings are unprotected artwork unless you preserve them. Several years of pencil art that I created and later had faded, smudged, or spoiled made me write about how to preserve a Pencil drawing

You must have spent several hours, sometimes days, on a pencil drawing aiming to get perfection till you finish and put your signature on it when you look at the picture after a few days or few months only to see it would have lost its shine and freshness when you had finished it.  

You must have been upset, and this happened to me several times. All your efforts are in vain now. The more the years pass by, the more faded the drawings are.

Feeling Helpless and unacceptable, I am sharing a few solutions below.

How to Preserve a Pencil Drawing From Smudging?

To preserve a Pencil drawing from Smudging you can apply an Art Fixative by spraying it on your pencil drawing. Additionally, you can store the drawing in glassine and interleaving paper to prevent unintentional smudging.

Another option is to frame the artwork and top it with a glass cover to protect the pencil drawing from any contact.

Every method has its shelf life and duration or years we can preserve.

Reason for Pencil Drawing Getting Smudged

When you draw using a pencil, the graphite from the lead creates impressions on the base, which is the paper. The graphite is loosely sticking to the paper. After you have completed your work, anything that subsequently comes in contact with the impression will disturb the graphite impression on the paper. 

And this is where the preservation of traditional pencil drawing is essential.  

Using some preservation method creates an intermediate transparent wall between the graphite impression on the paper and anything physical that comes in direct contact with the artwork. Most accidental touches can be avoided, like another paper touching the pencil drawing or someone accidentally touching the pencil drawing.

By doing this, you can give longer life to your graphite drawings.

Many of you would have built a portfolio of pencil artwork and want to keep it organized and protected from time or physical contact. Trust me, I was in the same position a few years back.

Now I am comfortable with my pencil work, that they are well preserved, and I want to share my experience with others. I have covered the advantages and disadvantages of using different preservation methods and how long they can get preserved.

picture of two pencil drawing one smudged another one preserved

What are the Factors to be seen before you Preserve a Pencil Drawing?

We need to consider two factors before deciding to protect your artwork.

How Well do you want to Preserve your Artwork?

The approach required for your artwork depends on its quality. I acknowledge that there is no standard measure for determining the quality of the artwork, as it is mostly subjective. A drawing that I consider excellent may not be the same for others, and vice versa.

You can see many aspects when you see how good artwork is. How much time did you, as an Artist, spend on the artwork? How good is the final output? Can he easily create one more, and so on?

If the result is good and you want to protect it for a longer time from anyone touching it, you can use a glass frame to keep it safe. 

Also, if it is a unique drawing and you do not want it to affect its originality, do not use fixatives in these cases. Fixatives will bring down the market value of your artwork.

How much money are you willing to spend?

You want to preserve your pencil art, but if you have a budget constraint and cannot spend too much, the best alternative is to use fixatives. They are relatively cheap than going for a complete frame of the picture.

Once you apply, Fixative works as a protective layer between the artwork and anyone or anything touching the drawing.

Three Different Preservation Solutions

Art Fixatives

If your pencil drawing is most likely touched or displayed anywhere, it is best to use Art Fixatives.

Fixative consists of resin and casein, and it is in liquid form. Its properties are it is a transparent media, and when sprayed on a surface, it evaporates quickly. The graphite on the surface is loose, and the Fixative stabilizes it.

Art Fixative protects the surface from dirt and dust and protects the artwork as a layer. There are two types of Fixatives.

Workable Fixative

Workable fixatives can be applied where you must use them more than once. We use this Fixative where there are multiple layers to be drawn.

The paper has a limited capacity to accept pressure, and it loses its surface strength and reaches a stage where we cannot add to its surface. At this stage, we use workable fixatives. Once we spray the workable fixatives, the surface becomes strong, and you can draw the next layer.

Final Fixative

As the name suggests, Final Fixatives is used to finish your pencil drawing and deal it through a coating to avoid smudging. When spraying the Final Fixative, please ensure that you hold and spray at a comfortable distance. Else, there are chances it might spoil the drawing.

How to Apply the Fixatives to Your Pencil Artwork

  • First, read the instructions mentioned on the Fixative Can.
  • Make sure you use the Spray with proper air circulation and ventilation.
  • Keep the pencil drawing flat before you start spraying the Fixative
  • Shake the can well before use and test it on a dummy piece of paper before using it on the final artwork.
  • Spray from 10 to 12 inches away from the pencil artwork
  • Use the Spray gently and evenly over the painting from may be left to right
  • After spraying, leave the artwork to dry for at least a minimum of 15 minutes
  • Test the sprayed drawing with tissue paper to see if the graphite transfers to the tissue paper. If yes, please go ahead and do one more coat of Spray. Again, let it dry for 15 minutes.
  • Keep the fixative bottle away from children.
  • Do not keep or use the Spray near a fire or warm place
  • Applying Fixatives can make the artwork slightly dark; you must consider that.

Glassine Interleaving paper

Applying Fixative can change the color of the artwork. If you don’t want to use Fixative for your drawing but still want to preserve your work, the second-best option is Glassine Interleaving paper.

This interleaving paper is best for protecting pencils, charcoal, colored pencils, and pastel drawings.

How to use Glassine Interleaving Paper to preserve your Pencil drawing?

  • Cut the Glassine Interleaving paper an inch bigger on all sides than your artwork.
  • First, keep the Glassine interleaving paper that you had cut on a flat surface, and ensure it does not have any fingerprint impression or dust on it.
  • Then keep your pencil drawing on top of it.
  • Then place one more Glassine Interleaving paper on the top of your pencil artwork.
  • Tape the edges of the interleaving paper using cello tape or masking tape.
  • One pencil drawing will have this glassine interleaving paper on top and bottom of the drawing.
  • You need to store this on a flat surface without too much pressure so it does not damage the drawing.
  • You can keep adding multiple artworks one over the other using this method. Unlike fixatives, this method is cheap, and there are no chemicals.

Framing your Pencil Drawing for preservation

Last and the best way to preserve your pencil drawing is to frame the pencil drawing by placing the glass on both sides. The cost of framing can be high, but there may be instances where it is deemed worthwhile.

If your pencil drawing is worth it, then you should do this. Never feel shy to display your artwork; all must enjoy and appreciate art.

The time and effort you put into the drawing will appreciate.

How to use Glass and Frames to preserve your Pencil drawing?

  • Select a reasonable art frame, and there are two options modern and traditional. I suggest you visit an art shop where you can see and feel the frame.
  • The frame needs to enhance the look of the painting and should not dominate the drawing.
  • It would help if you chose a suitable mount, finely cut acid-free board. This mount will prevent the artwork from directly touching the glass, avoiding smudging.
  • The pencil drawing which you have made is very delicate and sensitive. I suggest not using Fixative before framing, as the artwork may lose its originality.
  • Choosing the right glass with UV resistance is best.
  • You can contact an Art framer from whom you can get more options.
  • Framing your Pencil art and displaying the same will create a focal point in your room and add life and longevity to your Pencil drawing.
  • Avoid hanging the artwork where you get direct sunlight.

How to Preserve Pencil Drawing with Hairspray?

I suggest you NOT USE Hairspray if your artwork is something you want to preserve over time. 

Artists use hair spray as shortcut because some may not readily have fixatives. The pencil or colored drawing will lose its original color or get discolored by using hairspray.

Hairspray use is a trick taught in some schools for young artists. Using hairspray has its Pros and Cons.

It will prevent smudging, but the main problem is the drawing gets discolored. Hairspray has different chemicals that may not be appropriate for preserving paper artwork and have a strong odor as a fixative.

I prefer a cost-effective and simple solution to preserve my pencil art, rather than relying on fixatives or hairspray.

Unlike other types of artwork, pencil drawings, especially hyper-realistic drawings, take too much time to complete. Be it a color pencil drawing or graphite pencil drawing where you have spent long hours, you should never let it smudge over the period.

Remember your art as an investment, time, and effort that resulted in beautiful artwork. Taking additional steps to protect and preserve is worth spending extra money on protective art tools.   

Keep drawing and protect it, too.

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