How to Varnish Pen and Ink Drawings

Reader Question: Do I need to varnish my pen and ink drawings? What should I use to do this? I want to protect them but I don't know how. Thanks.


It is indeed a good idea to protect your pen and ink drawings when they are finished to prevent damage from dirt, dust, or smudging if the ink drawing happens to get wet. You'll need to use a spray varnish for this (also called a final fixative). 

Plus, spraying a pen and ink drawing with a fixative gives the artwork a nice finish, somehow unifying the look of the piece. 

Here are my two favorite brands of spray varnish:

I've provided links below to the relevant products so that you can easily find them on Blick Art Materials, my favorite online art supplier. I'm a member of Blick's affiliate program, which means if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I'll receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Your purchase helps support this site and keeps it free of ads. Click here for more info.

Lascaux UV Protect

Lascaux UV Protect is a spray varnish that offers your pen and ink artwork archival, UV-protection. It is non-yellowing and dries clear. Lascaux UV Protect can also be used on other media, such as watercolor, acrylics, pastel, and even oils.

Golden Archival Spray Varnish

Golden Archival Spray Varnish is another good choice for protecting pen and ink artwork. This archival varnish is available in Gloss, Satin and Matte. Like Lascaux UV Protect, Golden Archival Spray Varnish can also be used with other media.

Whichever spray fixative you use, be sure to look for one that is labeled "archival", because that means it won't turn yellow over time.

Also, be sure to follow the instructions on the can very carefully, and always spray in a well-ventilated area (it's best to spray outside, if possible).