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How to Stop Pastels From Smudging

Keep your pastel masterpiece in great shape during storage.
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Oil pastels are brilliant in color 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 colors 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 color.

Things You'll Need:

  • Wax Paper
  • Glass Frame
  • Mat Board
  • Fixative
  • Old Newspaper

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

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 50 and 80 degrees. 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.
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