Prevent Colored Pencil Wax Bloom

How to prevent Wax Bloom with colored pencils
Colored pencils are one of the most popular colored mediums for drawing. They are generally inexpensive and can be purchased at any art store. They provide quick color, and can be layered and worked to look like a painting. They are a popular choice for many artists for these reasons. Yet, there’s one drawback to colored pencils that rears its ugly head – sometimes weeks after completion.

Wax Bloom?

Ever completed a colored pencil masterpiece only to find it covered with a white, waxy haze a few days later? That white, waxy haze that develops on some colored pencil drawings is called wax bloom. This mysterious phenomenon makes some color pencil artists wonder if they did something wrong in the drawing process, or that the colored pencils that they used were low quality. Fortunately, neither of these reasons are to blame and wax bloom is easy to fix and prevent.

Why Does it Happen?

Wax bloom occurs because of the waxy binder inherent in colored pencils. As the material in the pencils “settles” on the surface, the waxy binder slowly rises to the surface on the drawing, producing the light white haze on the surface. This usually happens with heavily layered drawings that have been drawn with waxy pencils. Some brands of colored pencils are more wax-heavy making them more prone to wax bloom. The trade-off being that waxy colored pencils layer easier and are generally more brilliant in color.

Removing and Preventing Wax Bloom

So how do you remove the haze? Fortunately, removing the haze is rather easy. A soft cloth will do the trick. Be careful though, if too much pressure is applied, some of the pigment could accidentally be removed as well. Light swiping is recommended to gently remove any waxy build-up. If you are concerned that you may accidentally remove pigment from the surface, use a cotton swap or a q-tip instead of a cloth.

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To prevent wax bloom from appearing on your work, use a colored pencil fixative. Fixative is available in an aerosol can and is applied to the drawing using swift passing sprays. Fixative can come out of the can in unpredictable ways, so do a test spray before applying to your drawing. Fixative can also change the color of your drawing slightly. If this concerns you, create a test sheet using the same colors as your drawing and spray this area first. Light applications of fixative is always recommended.

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Lesson Discussion

    1. There are several brands on the market. Be sure you pick one that is meant for colored penci or dry media. There are basically two types:Workable fixative and Final Fixative. Workable Fixative will still allow you to adjust the work while still preventing smudging or bloom. A final fixative is meant to be exactly that–you’re completely done and you want to seal your drawing. Several light layers of workable fixative will still set your pencil well enough. Some people use hair spray, but hair spray is meant for hair and may contain ingredients that might cause discoloration, and even degradation of pigments and paper. Do some research about which fixative brand will work best for you.

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