How to Stop Pastels From Smudging

Updated February 21, 2017

Oil pastels are brilliant in colour and soft in texture, making them a pleasure to work with. Unlike paints, there is no evaporable solvent in pastels, meaning that they do not fully dry once your work is finished. This makes archiving the drawing in your portfolio difficult, as the colours will likely smudge. Whether your pastel piece is a work in progress or a finished product, there are several methods that can help prevent the smudging or running of colour.

Place your pastel drawing between two sheets of waxed paper if you intend to keep working on the piece. The paper protects the drawing without absorbing or smudging your colours.

Cover your work surface in old newspapers. Place your drawing on the top of the papers. Shake your can of fixative for one to two minutes to prepare it for use.

Hold the can 10 inches from your drawing and coat it with a thin layer of fixative using smooth, sweeping passes.

Allow the drawing to dry undisturbed for 5 to 10 minutes.

Mount the drawing in an appropriately sized mat board. If desired, insert the mounted drawing into a glass frame for display purposes.


Ensure that your work area is well ventilated and that the temperature is between 10.0 and 26.6 degrees C. Most fixative manufacturers recommended these working conditions. You can find fixative at your local art supply store or crafts retailer.


Do not allow children or pets near your container of fixative. Avoid using fixative if you are pregnant.

Things You'll Need

  • Waxed paper
  • Old newspaper
  • Fixative
  • Mat board
  • Glass frame
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About the Author

Brandon Getty began writing professionally in 2008, with columns appearing in "Thrasher" magazine. He received a Bachelor of Arts in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lives in Stockton, Calif.