Obviously, painting varnish on a conte crayon piece, with its dusty chalkiness, would only result in smudging the image. But is there a way to use varnish without smudging the conte crayon drawing?
It seemed worth a try because using fixatives with conte crayon has its disadvantages — mainly, the smell. If you live in an apartment or anywhere simply not having an open-air space for good ventilation, the fumes can be too much. Using a regular acrylic varnish gets rid of the problem of the fumes.
Adult coloring books are great for experimenting — especially when they’re licensed under Creative Commons. Conte crayon seemed to go well with an Egyptian papyrus concept, and a couple of images from SuperColoring.com were perfect for this experiment (see image credits below).
The paper used is extremely important, as we’ll get to later. The images were done on beige Strathmore textured paper (though now, the label is gone). Shown are the conte crayon drawings before they were spray varnished.
Once the images were finished, a small spray bottle was filled with matte varnish: nothing special, just regular Liquitex matte varnish. I’ve used it many times for varnishing acrylic paint, and it works great.
The image was sprayed with the varnish, and the first thing that most people worry about with varnishing non-paint mediums is the pigment getting darker. The image did get slightly darker — but if you’re prepared for this, it may not be a huge deal, depending on the final result you’re looking for.
The Result: It All Depends on the Paper
The problem was obvious once the spray settled a bit, though: It made the pigments bleed. What were previously nice edges turned into blobs of color seeping outside where they were supposed to be. Clearly, the image was ruined. The paper pilled, also.
But what about mixed media paper? Would that fare any better?
It seemed it did, though that part of the experiment was quick and not as thorough. Basically, if conte crayon was drawn onto some mixed media paper and sprayed with the same varnish, everything seemed to hold up. However, the paper was pretty heavy at 140 lb. (sold in single sheets at Hobby Lobby). This quick tryout may work in the future and will maybe become a future experiment; for now, if trying it out, use with caution!
For now, it’s safe to say that DIY spray fixative is a possibility — but the paper will make all the difference.
Coloring Pages Used:
• Anubis as a black-coated jackal by Jeff Dahl (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license)
• Souls of Pe and Nekhen by Jeff Dahl (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 license)