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Art Materials Q+A Hotline - Fixatives and Varnishes

The following inquiries were received from artists contacting our Q&A Hotline. 


What is the difference between a Workable Fixative and a Final Fixative?

As its name implies, when a Workable Fixative is applied over graphite, charcoal, pastel, and color pencil, ink, watercolors and gouache, you can work with another media on top of the previous application. The Final Fixative, as its name implies, is a heavier coat of resin used as the final top coat to seal the work.

Workable Fixative vs Final FixativePictured: Grumbacher Gloss Final Fixative vs. Grumbacher Matte Workable Fixative



What is the difference between a Varnish and a Fixative?

Varnishes and fixatives are both made from a resin dissolved in a solvent and vary in the amount of resin they contain.  Varnishes are available as a spray or liquid that are normally used over painted surfaces such as oils, acrylics, watercolors and gouache paintings.  On the other hand, Fixatives are mostly available as a spray applied on dry media, such as graphite, charcoal, pastel, and color pencil drawings.  Fixatives can also be used on top of ink, watercolors and gouache in mix media techniques.


varnish vs fixativePictured: Grumbacher Gloss Varnish vs. Grumbacher Matte Final Fixative




What is the difference between a Retouch Varnish and Varnish?


Retouch Varnish is diluted Varnish.  When an oil painting is finished and dry to the touch, a Retouch Vanish can be applied to protect the paint film until a Final Varnish can be applied.  The retouch Varnish will also give a consistent sheen to the overall painting.   All varnishes consist of a resin diluted in a solvent.  It is important to note that resins are diluted in a specific solvent.  For instance, dammar resin is dilute in turpentine, while most modern resins are diluted in mineral spirits.  If using a liquid varnish in lieu of a spray, brushes used to apply the varnish must also be cleaned in these specific solvents in order to get them clean. If the retouch varnish is made with dammar resin it is recommended that you follow up with Dammar Final Varnish.

retouch varnish vs final varnishPictured: Grumbacher Damar Varnish vs. Grumbacher Damar Retouch Varnish


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