I got multiple chalk pastels sets and I'm really excited to use them, but I'm afraid to see the artworks messed up afterwards. Even though there are probably sprays I can buy to solve this problem, is there a way to use a homemade formula or one from scratch?
You will see a dulling or muting of the colors if you use fixative, which is why many pastel artists will actually “fix” in stages. Personally I like to build up muted color layers and use my highlights and whites on the top.
No matter what, you should always apply multiple light layers of fixative, letting them dry in between stages.
Hair spray is good in a pinch (I have used it for decades), but it is never artist grade, as it likely is not pH neutral. Depending on the aromatics and the constituent chemical composition, you may actually (but probably won’t) promote long term damage to the paper.
There is one other notable alternative to acrylic-based spray fixative other than hair spray, but you will need to test them: the “impregnating” sprays used for shoes / leather.
But if you REALLY want to make it yourself, the classical method would be to dissolve damar varnish flakes in turpentine and use an atomizer.
- Separate the works with a spacer (an art-class classmate built a box using corflute with a set of vertical 10mm balsa spacers in the corners with rounded tops to keep them separate and help guide the works in.)
Don't drive long distances over long bumpy roads (a friend did that and her landscape pastels were ruined.)
Comment above about hairspray not being PH neutral is useful: even at art class they recommend hair spray -- so err on the side of caution and buy fixative if pH neutral.
Cover work with glass -- but leave a space between the glass and card so any excess powder can fall from the work without gathering visibly in the frame.
And use enough 'tooth' to hold the pastel.