How to Seal Pencil Drawings | The Proper Ways

The pencil is a brilliant drawing medium, and it’s been widely used forever.  Why do we all prefer using it? Because it is easy to use, available everywhere, inexpensive, and forgiving.

I don’t need to worry even if I’ve wronged something while drawing. I can just erase it and proceed.

If you’re an artist and have drawn with a pencil, you are more likely to be familiar with smudging problems. It’s alarming to go back, again and again, to clean up the smudges and sharpen the blunt lines.

Be it a straightforward doodle or a delicate masterpiece; you should protect your drawings as valuable creations. So, it is essential to know how to seal pencil drawings for any masterpiece or usual work you create with it.

Also, I’ve added some frequently asked questions with detailed answers. You must be curious what the strategies could be. So, what are we waiting for?

How to Seal Pencil Drawings


The pencil is not permanent. So, if you want to have your favorite pencil drawing go a long way, you should seal it properly.

It’s high time I had been concerned features and fugitivity of my art supplies. It’s essential to keep an eye on the properties of your drawing essentials.

Like pencil is made of graphite, which comes from carbon. And the colored pencil is made of graphite mixed with clay.

Some drawing pencils fade over time, and most of them can turn into a massacre if not sealed properly. Drawings done with graphite pencil tends to smudge very quickly and get dirty over time from the environment. So, have you been concerned about preserving your pencil drawings lately?

When graphite comes in contact with your hand, paper, or any other object, it tends to smudge as the graphite particles are dry.

And once the drawing is messed up with smudges, it’s pretty challenging to clean and fix it up precisely like before. With a problem, there comes a solution.

Nowadays, there are many commercial products like fixatives, parchment or wax paper, glass frames, glassine interleaving paper, and many more. You just need to use the correct method, which’ll be enough to extend the lifespan of your artwork.

Why Do You Need to Seal Pencil Drawings?

Let’s say you have spent hours on one of your pencil drawings. You have to think about protecting them from smudging and other stuff like dirt, dust, etc.

Graphite is a drawing tool that needs extra care while drawing and sketching. If it gets in touch with your hand, paper, or any other tools or objects, there’s a chance that the drawing can smudge.

As a result, it will get pretty hard to clean it up precisely, and the drawing will look dirty and indecent. So, your pencil drawing needs to be sealed and preserved. It has to be done so that the drawing stays in its best possible condition and lasts longer. Whether you plan to hang it on the wall or store it away, it needs to be sealed appropriately.

Ways to Seal Pencil Drawings Easily

Isn’t it very disappointing when you’re working so hard on a pencil drawing but later finding it smudged in your sketchbook or hanging on the wall? All artists go ballistic because of smudging at some point.

But fortunately, there are some easy hacks through which you can protect and preserve your pencil drawings from smudging.

Moreover, these techniques are budget-friendly. No doubt, these hacks will change your art life significantly. Follow these professional yet easy techniques to keep your pencil drawings and artworks in excellent condition for the longest possible time.

Method 1: Fixatives are Great

Among all other methods, the fixative is my favorite for sealing my pencil drawings. Why is it so? No other chemical can allow me to use it as a part of the drawing process. If I can keep working with my drawing and creating a protective layer, then surely, I’m going for that option.

Now, what is a fixative? A fixative can be defined with the word ‘fix.’ Meaning they help fix graphite on the paper. Also, it prevents the graphite from moving and staining when it comes to contact with any surface or skin.

It also helps preserve various types of drawing from UV rays of sunlight, yellowing, fading of graphite, and most importantly, smudging.

This product comes in a spray format. There are two types of fixatives; workable and final fixative.

The workable fixative is used when you want to add a protective layer to your art and then continue drawing more details.

On the other hand, a final fixative is applied as a finishing coat. You must apply it after you are completely done with your drawing.

As you can see, it is essential to pre-determine which type of fixative you need to use.

Be it a workable or final fixative, you have to be cautious about the instructions for using it. Make sure to follow the application methods to get the best results. Otherwise, you may end up messing up.

You’ll need to follow these easy steps to make it work.

Follow these easy steps:

Step 1: Before using a fixative, be in an open space or a well-ventilated area. It’s better to use it outside to avoid its horrible chemical odor.

Step 2: Using a respiratory mask and hand gloves are recommended because fixatives are toxic and may cause skin irritation.

Step 3: I would recommend testing it on a spare page to ensure it’s working without any damage. Choose a good-quality spray to avoid any unnecessary hassle.

Step 4: Place the drawing board vertically. Laying it flat on the table or floor might cause dripping and uneven application.

Step 5: After making sure that the paper surface is clean from any kind of dirt or dust particle, spray it all over the drawing. Don’t forget to spray with a light touch from a distance (at least 30 cm or 6- 8 inches) and keep moving.

Don’t stick around on any specific part of the drawing. Instead, put an even layer of thin coating and repeat a few times to get a better result.

Before adding a new coat, wait for seconds and then reapply. You should spray it from different angles to get the coating evenly.

Step 6: After finishing spraying, wait for 5 – 10 minutes. That’s pretty much it.

Do not use hairspray as a fixative. If you are concerned about the longevity of your drawing, avoid using hairspray as an archival of fixatives because it tends to yellow the paper and might cause discoloration of artwork.

Method 2: Frame Your Drawings

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of protecting one of your unique creations? Building a protective barrier, right? And nothing can be more extreme than putting your drawing behind the glass.

So, if you are looking for a barrier, just put your pencil drawing inside a sturdy glass frame, and it will stay as it is until broken.

It’s a great idea to preserve single art pieces for display purposes. But not a practical choice for scrapbooks. When looking for a frame, choose a high-quality glass with proper UV protection.

It will prevent the drawing from smudging and fading in the sunlight. Don’t hesitate to spend a few extra bucks shielding your masterpiece.

Method 3: Try Varnishing Method

Though the terms fixative and varnish are often used interchangeably, they have specific differences.

Fixative works as a temporary fix between the layers of color. It is not designed to be the final coating, as you can continue to draw over it after each coating.

On the contrary, the varnish is simply the final coating not designed to be used as a part of the drawing procedure. The primary function of varnish is to protect from UV rays, environmental dirt, and rough handling.

It is applied in a thicker layer than fixatives. Can you use it as a part of the drawing process? The answer is no because it might saturate and cause discoloration of the paper and the colors of the drawing.

Varnish is also termed a final finish because it is used after finishing a drawing. It fixes the dry particle of your pencil’s graphite, which refrains the drawing to be smudged.

Have you ever noticed how sheen a drawing with a varnished surface looks like? Besides protecting, varnishes also affect the appearance of the artwork. It determines how much light will be reflected by the surface of the painting.

There are different types of varnishes. One deflects more light which strikes the surface and gives a glossy finish with a high sheen appearance.

The other one gives a matte finish by deflecting less light. The satin finish falls somewhere in between these two. The choice is up to your preference and taste on what type of varnish you need to use.

Method 4: Take Help of Wax Paper

You might have seen using wax paper for baking and cooking. But can it preserve your drawings? It can. This slippery paper can help you protect your pencil drawings efficiently.

Don’t worry; I won’t tell you to draw on it. All you need to do is, follow these easy steps.

Step 1: Grab a roll of wax paper or a pack of pre-cut wax paper sheets.

Step 2: Trim the papers to the correct size according to your drawing

Step 3: Slip them in between your sketchbook. If it’s a standalone drawing, you can lay a piece of the wax sheet on top of the drawing to protect the outside.

Step 4: For securing the wax paper, you can use a thin strip of tape or painter’s tape on the top of the drawing board.

It’s crucial to use only masking tape or painter’s tape. Otherwise, it might rip off your drawing while taking it off, which is undoubtedly more horrible than a smudge.

Before starting pencil drawing, cut your wax paper and lay it underneath your hand while working with your drawing. It will protect your drawing from graphite stains and keep a smudge-free workspace.

What if you don’t have any wax paper available? No worries. You can use some parchment paper or cling wrap as a substitute.

Method 5: Page Protectors are Useful

We all, at some stage, have seen or used page protectors in school to assemble assignments in the binder. This method helps me protect my pencil drawings and keep them organized.

You will need a file with individual page protectors to use this method.

Put your drawing pieces in an individual page protector and then file it as per your wish, be it chronologically, thematically, or stylistically.

An artist needs to keep his artworks well-organized. Page protectors work brilliantly for this purpose. They help you categorize your work neatly, clean, and effortless manner.

You need to be careful while choosing your page protector. Make sure that they are rigid and can’t be bent easily. I love to use super neat and rigid PVC page protectors as they keep my drawings straight and smudge-free.

Don’t Rely on One Method.

You might be working on a sketchbook or a standalone drawing; you need to choose the right strategy to preserve your workpiece.

You are drawing on a sketchbook, so using wax paper or parchment paper will be the best option. If you have drawn an exclusive masterpiece, you should use a glass frame. If you’re drawing on a standalone piece, go for page protectors.

As you can see, it doesn’t matter what type of pencil art you are doing. There are different strategies to choose from, which you can apply to keep your masterpiece clean and fresh with an extended lifespan.


Q: How do you seal pencils without fixative?

If you think of using any substitute for a fixative, glassine interleaving paper would be an excellent choice. It is an acid-free translucent paper which is an ideal option to protect and preserve your delicate drawings like colored pencil, charcoal, and graphite.

Most of us are familiar with hairsprays. And you can use it as an alternative to a fixative too. Though it is not an ideal option for professional artists, nor helpful for the longevity of your artworks. But it will work in a pinch to protect your drawings.

Q: Does hairspray stop pencil smudging?

Though it is not recommended, hairspray can be applied as a final fixative for pencil drawings. It can be stolen for you to stop your pencil drawing from smudging.

But you should be concerned that using hairspray can cause discoloration or yellowing of paper eventually. Hairsprays used in the parlor are an inexpensive alternative to commercially available fixatives. 

You have to spend a few more bucks to buy a good-quality fixative. If you aren’t worried about the durability and freshness of your artwork but want a temporary smudge-free solution, then go for it.

Q: Will pencil drawings fade?

The main element a pencil contains is carbon. It is used in the form of graphite in pencils.

Graphite pencil carries black pigments with the highest lightfast rating, meaning that pencil drawings don’t tend to fade over time. That said, pencil drawings are anticipated to last for more than 100 years.

But some colors fade over time. Simply it is not practical to find a one-size-fits-all statement about the fugitive colors. But in general, the higher the quality of the pencil, the more lightfast it would be.

Q: How do you varnish a pencil drawing?

Varnishes come in spray format and are formulated to be used in a dry medium. Its goal is to fix the dry particles of medium in their place to protect them from smudging.

Let’s look at how it should be applied to drawings.

  • Choose a well-ventilated or open space outdoors as you will work with a chemical.
  • Place the drawing in an upright position. It should neither be vertical nor flat.
  • To prepare the aerosol, you can shake it up a few times properly. It will help mix the contents adequately.
  • Place the can at about twelve inches in a vertical position from the drawing.
  • Hold down the nozzle and then move the spray across the drawing horizontally in slow motion.
  • Start from just past an edge of the drawing and spray across to the opposite edge. Then repeat the process until the whole drawing is covered with a coating, from top to bottom.
  • When finished spraying, let the artwork dry for about 30 to 45 minutes.

Then you can give the drawing another coat if you want to. Two or three coats are enough.

Final Thoughts

Whether you work for your client or want to update your portfolio, or maybe as a newbie, we believe it is essential for you to know about the strategies on how to Seal Pencil Drawings to keep your creations crisp and clean.

And for that, we got the article for you at the back. This makes your work easier and your research shorter. Because we covered everything you need about pencil art and works here.

Enjoy your pencil drawings and embrace them by preserving them. Apply these methods accordingly to have a great drawing and finishing experience.

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Loard Eva

Hi there! I’m Eva, artist, designer, photographer and mom of three little gentlemen altogether. When I’m not playing with my kids, you’ll find me researching and writing for ChooseMarker.

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