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How to Protect Charcoal Drawings without Fixative

how to protect charcoal drawings without fixative

Charcoal is a popular medium for artists because it’s easy to use and allows for beautiful, soft lines. However, charcoal is not durable.

Charcoal drawings can be protected from smudging and damage by using a fixative. But what if you don’t want your charcoal drawing to have that shiny finish? What if you want the charcoal to stay as charcoal?

Well, to address these problems, in this article, we will discuss how to protect charcoal drawings without fixative!

What can I use to Protect Charcoal Drawings instead of Fixatives?

Using Honey

Another way to protect charcoal drawings without fixative is by using honey! Honey has been used in many different ways for thousands of years. It is commonly known as a food preservative, so it’s no surprise that honey works well with charcoal too.

  • First, you will need clean charcoal sketches or artwork to protect you from smudging and damage
  • Then, just take the honey and spread an extremely thin layer over the charcoal drawing
  • You should let your charcoal artwork dry overnight before handling them carefully to avoid streaks

This method only lasts for about five days, but your charcoal drawings should stay protected until then if done correctly. For longer protection, you can use an isolation coat instead of honey (or acrylic medium) on top of this.

Adding an Isolation Coat

There are a few ways to protect charcoal drawings without using a fixative. One way is to use an isolation coat. This clear spray will seal the charcoal and keep it protected without giving it an extra shiny coat.

Using Acrylic Matte Medium

what can i use to protect charcoal drawings instead of fixatives

You can also use an acrylic matte medium, which is safe for your charcoal drawing, to protect all of your charcoal drawings without fixative.

  • Paint this thick solution over any charcoal sketches you want to protect
  • Then, paint an acrylic matte medium-thick solution on top of any charcoal sketches you want to protect as well

The great thing about using this method is that all charcoal drawings can be fixed after application if desired. You can just apply another thin layer of spray paint or watercolor paint right onto the artwork itself. Therefore, it means no more restrictions on artistic freedom for charcoal drawings.

Applying Wax

Another way to protect charcoal drawings is by using wax – beeswax, or paraffin (for example). Wax works like a fixative but doesn’t give off fumes when dry and helps prevent smudging while allowing charcoal’s delicate black lines to show through.

  • To apply these, get pieces of soft-colored carpenter’s chalk from the hardware store. You can ask them for the type often used for drawings. Or just get beeswax or paraffin
  • And rub them on top of the wax until they are fully coated with wax
  • Then apply a thin coat on top of the charcoal drawing

Framing your Charcoal Artwork

If you want to be extra careful, you can also frame charcoal drawings. This method can keep them from being damaged over time and protect them from the environment.

  • First, you will need a charcoal drawing that is finished or near-finished for best results. You can also use charcoal pencil sketches, which are harder to damage and smear than charcoal
  • drawings because the pigment isn’t as intense
  • Next, choose a frame with glass panels on the front and back, so both sides of your charcoal artwork remain protected
  • Before hanging up your charcoal drawing, add an archival acid-free matting around it to protect not only the work but also all of its surroundings. This way, any other paper items nearby won’t be damaged by humidity over time!
  • Lastly, display your charcoal work where they won’t get dirty – away from pets who play outside or children who like to draw on the walls

A charcoal drawing in a frame may be easier for some people who are not used to working with charcoal. However, they don’t last as long and can only protect charcoal drawings up close (they won’t work if you want your charcoal artwork hung high).

Creating a Digital Copy

Suppose you’re not comfortable with any of these methods or don’t have the time. In that case, you can always create a digital copy of your charcoal artwork.

This way, you can still enjoy the beauty of the charcoal artwork. Still, if something happens to the original, you have a backup copy. It’s also easy to share online with others!


There are many ways to protect charcoal drawings without using a fixative, which is toxic and potentially bad for the environment.

No matter which method of protection you choose for your charcoal drawings, just make sure that you take the necessary precautions when handling them to not smudge your work.

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