Cathleen Lengyel > Scribbles > Artist Help > Put Down The Hairspray – And Other Non-Art Supplies

Put Down The Hairspray – And Other Non-Art Supplies

Hairspray bottle clip art from: Cliparts Zone

OK, put down that can of hairspray!  

Put it back in the bathroom and walk away!

Today I want to discuss some of the non-art related supplies people have been told to use on their artwork, and why that’s not such a good idea. You’ve just finished an amazing graphite piece and you don’t want it to smear before you have a chance to frame it.  What do you do?  You don’t have any fixatives on hand so you think back to that art teacher years ago or advice from a stranger online who said, “Just spray it with hairspray!  That will seal it fine.” Yes.  Yes it may seal it.  It may not.  Sort of a gamble depending on the type/brand.  However, there’s something worse that many people don’t realize. Have you ever seen a 20 year old drawing that was sprayed with hairspray?   Yellow.  The paper has yellowed. You can use the finest brand of archival surface for your work, but you spray it with hairspray and in a few years the damage is evident.  It can also damage the paper in other ways.  Many hairsprays contain various acids.  Remember how you purchased that acid free paper for your artwork?  Why then would you want to spray your final piece of art with something containing acid?  The acids in the hairspray not only add to the yellowing of your paper, but over time it will cause the paper to breakdown.  Not something you want when you have a wonderful piece of artwork you want to protect. Fixatives which are made specifically for artwork are the only things you should be spraying on your work.  Period.  The cost isn’t much more than hairspray.  Fixatives are designed to protect your work and not breakdown your paper or the medium you used on the paper.  A can of fixative can last quite a while as well.  It’s a good investment.  There are specific types of fixative for each medium and a few general purpose that can be used for multiple mediums.   Check out my fixatives post here: Fixatives – What, Why, When .. .. The next items I want to talk about is baby oil and Vaseline. When learning colored pencil blending there were many artists talking about using baby oil or Vaseline to blend the colored pencil.  Does it work?  Yes.  People say it’s a cheap alternative to using Odorless Mineral Spirits.   While I have seen this type of blending in videos and it does appear to work, why risk ruining your artwork?  they are not designed for art.  Think about this as well, they are oil based products.  Oil is not going to dry very quickly or easily.  
Odorless Mineral Spirits (OMS) quickly evaporate from your paper, and you only need a tiny amount on a brush to break up the binders in your colored pencil work.  It does not damage your paper.  
Baby oil and Vaseline on the other hand saturates and permeates your paper.  The lack of evaporation could lead to long term issues with your artwork becoming sticky and eventually lead to mold/mildew.  Who wants that?  These two methods are most definitely not something you want to use if you are striving for archival quality artwork! So please, the next time you hear of a nifty inexpensive trick to use with your artwork that includes some “common household items” take it with a grain of salt and walk away!  You want your artwork to stand the test of time.  Use materials which are tested and designed specifically for artwork. Until next time, Keep Creating!
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