How to Preserve Colored Pencil Drawings?

If you’ve been drawing in colored pencil for a while, there’s a good chance that you’re building up quite a portfolio. To make sure your artwork stands the test of time, you’ll want to find a way to preserve your colored pencil drawings.

Colored pencil drawings can be preserved by:

      • Using a spray fixative or varnish
      • Framing the art with UV filter glass
      • Laminating the drawing
      • Keeping it in an art portfolio
      • Storing your art in a cool, dark location

You’ve worked hard on your art, so make sure you take care of your drawings, so they last. Failing to preserve them properly can result in fading and smudging, as well as wrinkles and tearing if they’re carelessly stored.

Ways to Preserve Colored Pencil Art

There are a few ways to preserve colored pencil artwork, and each artist has their favorite.

You want to take steps to protect colored pencil drawings from:

      • Bright light and UV rays: will fade the colors
      • Dust and dirt: which are next to impossible to remove once they’ve settled
      • Human hands: the oil on our hands can leave visible fingerprints on colored pencil work, as well as cause smudging
      • Negligence: or failing to keep your art in a safe place, leaves it vulnerable to accidental damage like getting torn or wrinkled.

Below, we’ll cover the most common methods for preserving your colored pencil art, so you can decide which method works best for you.

Use a Fixative or Varnish

One way to preserve colored pencil art is by using a fixative or varnish. Fixatives are clear sprays that you can use on canvas or paper. They come in two types:

      • Workable
      • Final

Workable fixatives are used to add more texture or “tooth” to a surface, as well as prevent smudging when you’re layering over something you’ve already drawn. Final finishes are technically varnishes, although some people use one term or the other. Their job is to seal the final product to protect it from UV rays, smudging, dust, and dirt. Varnishes come in gloss, semi-gloss, and matte finishes. They don’t all offer the same amount of UV protection, so be sure to read the labels.

All that being said, the method to apply a fixative or varnish is simple:

      1. Take the art to a well-ventilated area.
      2. Make sure the artwork is free of dust and dirt.
      3. Spray a light coat over the entire surface of the artwork with inconsistent sweeping motions
      4. Allow drying for about 30 minutes.
      5. Add a second thin coat if desired.
      6. Allow to dry completely for about an hour.

If you can, find a final finish made explicitly for colored pencil artwork or dry media. This will reduce the chances of it, causing a change in color over time. By the way, some artists wouldn’t consider their colored pencil drawing complete unless it had a nice coat of protective varnish on it. But others are completely against the use of fixatives and varnishes on colored pencil art. We’ll get into the reasons why later on in the post, but first, let’s get back to other ways to preserve your colored pencil drawings.

Check out our hacks for preserving art here!

Use a Frame

Framing your artwork is a great way to show off your colored pencil skills. It also protects the piece from sticky fingers and accidental crumpling by being handled. The glass will keep dust and dirt at bay, and many frames come with UV filter glass, which will help protect the drawing from fading caused by the sun. Even with the UV glass, though, keep your drawing out of bright light as much as possible. Some artists even recommend rotating your drawings out every month or so, so none are exposed to light all year long.

Laminate It

If you want to keep a colored pencil drawing in good shape but don’t necessarily want to display it, you might consider laminating it. This will protect it from dust and fingerprints and keep it from getting torn or accidentally creased when stored or handled. Fortunately, gone are the days when you needed a bulky machine for lamination. Now you can buy inexpensive self-laminating sheets, which are clear stickers that go on both sides of the art. Self-laminating sheets take less than a minute to put on once you get used to them, but they can cause air bubbles if you’re not careful. They come in a variety of sizes, as well as offering different levels of UV protection.

Keep Them in a Portfolio

Keeping your colored pencil drawings in an art portfolio is an excellent way to keep them safe and protected if you’re not interested in displaying the art of permanently altering it with fixatives or lamination. While a simple binder with clear sheet protectors will do the trick for a short period, usually the typical sheet protectors that you get in office supply stores aren’t acid-free, so this shouldn’t be a permanent storage solution. If you can afford to, invest in a good art portfolio instead, which will not only keep your colored pencil drawings preserved indefinitely but will keep them all together in one place, too.

Store It

While not as glamorous as keeping the art framed or in a fancy art portfolio, storing your drawings flat in a storage box is one of the best ways to keep them well preserved. Art storage boxes don’t need to be fancy or designed explicitly for artwork. But if you want to go all out, you can get a cool wooden storage box with a built-in easel. Regardless of the box you get, the main thing is that it keeps the colored pencil drawings away from the sun and dust. Be sure to layer the drawings in between a smooth, glossy paper like a heavy tracing paper to prevent them from smudging one another. Also, keep in mind that it’s a good idea to use a glove or piece of tissue when handling the drawings to prevent smudging or damage caused by the oils in your fingers.

To Varnish, Or Not to Varnish

The use of fixatives and varnish on colored pencil drawings is surprisingly controversial. People who use spray fixatives say that it’s an easy, quick way to protect the artwork’s surface from UV rays and dust. It can also help prevent wax bloom, which is discussed in the next section. Artists who don’t like using fixatives often say that it’s an unnecessary step and can cause discoloration over time. Oversaturating the artwork with varnish or fixative can also cause the piece to become brittle once it dries, potentially ruining the drawing if it starts to crack or break apart.

The best advice is to try it for yourself on a drawing that you’re not too worried about destroying and see how it goes. Keep in mind, though, that the discoloration can take a few years to show up, so if you want to preserve the drawing with fixative now, you might have to risk it and hope for the best. Reading reviews and talking to other colored pencil artists about their preferred varnishes and whether or not they cause discoloration over time might help you to decide for sure. It’s also worth pointing out that varnish might be the only option for artwork that’s too large for framing or on an untraditional surface, such as wood.

What is Wax Bloom?

Wax bloom is the term for a strange thing that sometimes happens when a piece of art is created using wax-based colored pencils. Over time, the wax rises to the surface, creating a hazy, faded effect. Wax bloom is more likely to occur when many heavy layers of the wax-based colored pencil are used. Wax bloom can be remedied by carefully wiping the wax layer off the drawing, and then sealing it with varnish.

Final Thoughts

Colored pencils are a versatile medium that can create unbelievably complex drawings. Colored pencil artists spend a lot of time and effort mastering their skills, so it only makes sense to treat the artwork with respect. Whether you choose to protect the surface with a varnish, but the whole piece under glass by framing it, or storing it out of sight in an art portfolio or box, properly preserving your art will ensure that you’re able to enjoy it for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do colored pencils fade?

Yes, colored pencil artwork can fade over time, especially if they’re exposed to bright sunlight. Higher-quality pencils tend to be less likely to fade than lower-quality ones. Wax-based colored pencils can also fade due to wax bloom.

How to keep colored pencils from fading?

Keep colored pencil drawings from fading by minimizing their exposure to bright sunlight and UV rays. You can do this by using a protective varnish, framing the art in a UV frame, or storing it in a dark place.

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Shawn C

Hi! I’m Shawn and I Love Coloring and Art and the people in it! I created this website as a resource to help those who are considering getting into adult coloring. My website is your one-stop destination for all the inspired instruction and resources you need to start and grow your adult coloring hobby. From geometric to floral to zen doodles and from time to time even mandala’s when I am in the mood. I have researched and gathered the information to help you in your goal of starting your adult coloring hobby.

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