How to Seal Oil Pastels: Ultimate Guide to Preserving Your Artwork

Diving into the world of oil pastels, both seasoned artists and beginners often wonder how to best preserve their artwork. Understanding how to seal oil pastels is crucial to maintaining the vibrancy and longevity of each piece.

This article offers insights into selecting the right materials and the application process to effectively seal your masterpieces. By following our guidance, your oil pastel artworks will stand the test of time, reflecting your skills and passion.

Materials needed

To seal your oil pastel artwork, you will need the following materials:

Oil pastels

First and foremost, you will need a set of oil pastels. These vibrant and versatile art materials come in a wide range of colors, allowing you to create beautiful and expressive artwork.

Fixative spray

A fixative spray is essential for sealing your oil pastel artwork. It helps to protect your artwork from smudging, dust, and fading over time. Make sure to choose a fixative spray specifically designed for oil pastels.

Palette knife

A palette knife will come in handy when applying the fixative spray. It allows for precise and controlled application, ensuring even coverage without disturbing the delicate layers of your artwork.


You will also need a paintbrush to clean up any excess oil pastels and to help apply the fixative spray evenly.


Choose a suitable surface for your oil pastel artwork. You can use a variety of options such as canvas, specialized oil pastel paper, or even wood. The choice of surface depends on your personal preference and the effect you want to achieve.

Newspaper or drop cloth

To protect your working area from any potential mess, place a newspaper or a drop cloth underneath your artwork. This will make the cleanup process much easier and prevent any unwanted stains on your surrounding surfaces.

Preparing the surface

Before you begin working with your oil pastels, it’s important to properly prepare the surface. Follow these steps to ensure the best results:

Clean the surface

Start by cleaning the chosen surface with a soft cloth or paper towel. This will remove any dust or debris that could affect the adherence of the oil pastels.

Apply a layer of gesso

Once the surface is clean, apply a thin layer of gesso. Gesso acts as a primer, creating a smooth and stable surface for your oil pastels. It also helps to prevent the oil from seeping into the surface, ensuring the longevity of your artwork. Let the gesso dry completely before proceeding to the next step.

Applying the oil pastels

Now that your surface is prepared, it’s time to start applying the oil pastels. Follow these steps to create a vibrant and textured artwork:

Choose your colors

Select the oil pastel colors you want to use in your artwork. Consider the mood and subject matter you are aiming to portray. Oil pastels are highly pigmented, so a little goes a long way. Experiment with different color combinations to achieve the desired effect.

Blend the colors

Oil pastels are known for their ability to blend effortlessly. Use your fingers or a blending tool to mix the colors together, creating smooth transitions and gradients. This technique adds depth and dimension to your artwork.

Layer the oil pastels

Build up your artwork by applying multiple layers of oil pastels. Start with lighter colors and gradually add darker shades to create depth and contrast. Layering also helps to enhance the vibrancy of the colors.

Add details and texture

Once you have established the base layers, add finer details and texture to your artwork. Use the edge of the oil pastels or a palette knife to create intricate lines, patterns, or textures. This step allows you to add your own unique touch and create a visually interesting piece.

Fixing the oil pastels

To ensure that your oil pastel artwork stays intact and protected, it is crucial to fix the layers in place. Follow these steps to properly fix your artwork:

Choose an appropriate fixative spray

There are various fixative sprays available on the market, specifically formulated for oil pastels. Choose a fixative spray that is compatible with oil pastels and provides the desired level of protection.

Test the fixative spray

Before applying the fixative spray to your entire artwork, it is advisable to conduct a test on a small section. Apply a thin layer of the fixative spray and observe the results. Make sure it doesn’t cause any adverse effects or alter the appearance of your artwork.

Apply the fixative spray

Once you are satisfied with the test results, proceed to apply the fixative spray to your entire artwork. Hold the can at a distance of approximately 12 inches from the surface and spray evenly. Use sweeping motions to ensure complete coverage. Allow the fixative spray to dry completely according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

How to Seal Oil Pastels

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Additional layers

If you wish to add more depth or make adjustments to your artwork, you can apply additional layers of oil pastels after fixing the initial layers. Follow these steps:

Wait for the first layer to dry

Allow the fixed layers of your artwork to dry completely before applying additional layers. This prevents the colors from smearing or blending unintentionally.

Apply additional layers if desired

Once the previous layers are dry, you can add more colors, details, or texture to your artwork. Experiment with different techniques and layering styles to achieve the desired effect.

Finishing touches

To complete your oil pastel artwork, give attention to the following finishing touches:

Clean up any excess oil pastels

Use a clean cloth or a paintbrush to gently remove any excess oil pastels from the surface of your artwork. This step helps to refine the details and ensure a clean and polished final result.

Sign your artwork

Don’t forget to sign your artwork! Adding your signature not only adds a personal touch but also establishes your ownership and authorship of the piece.

How to Seal Oil Pastels

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Drying time

After applying all the necessary layers and finishing touches, it’s important to allow your oil pastel artwork to dry completely. This ensures that the colors and fixative spray have fully set and helps to prevent smudging or damage during handling.

Display and storage

Once your oil pastel artwork is dry, it’s time to display and store it properly. Follow these recommendations for optimal presentation and preservation:

Choose an appropriate frame or display method

Consider framing your oil pastel artwork using acid-free materials to protect it from environmental factors. Alternatively, you can use a display easel, mounting it on a specialized art board, or even showcasing it in a protective glass case. The choice depends on your personal preference and the desired presentation style.

Store your sealed oil pastel artworks properly

If you need to store your oil pastel artwork temporarily or for an extended period, make sure it is properly protected. Place a layer of glassine paper or acid-free tissue paper over the artwork to prevent smudging or dust buildup. Store it in a dry, cool place away from direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, and humidity.

Tips and warnings

Consider these tips and warnings to ensure a successful oil pastel sealing process:

Choose a well-ventilated area for spraying

When applying the fixative spray, make sure to work in a well-ventilated area. The fumes from the spray can be harmful if inhaled, so open windows or use a ventilation fan to ensure proper air circulation.

Avoid excessive spraying

Applying too much fixative spray can cause the colors to dull or alter the appearance of your artwork. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and apply thin layers of the fixative spray to achieve optimal results.

Avoid touching the surface too much

Oil pastels are prone to smudging, even after fixing. To avoid any unwanted smears or damage, try not to touch the surface of your artwork excessively. If necessary, use gloves or handle the artwork with a clean, soft cloth.


Understanding how to seal oil pastels is essential for artists who want to maintain the vibrancy and beauty of their work.

By following the outlined steps and tips, you’re ensuring your artwork’s longevity and preserving its allure for years to come. Let the vivid and dynamic qualities of oil pastels inspire each artwork you craft.


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