How to store pastel drawings

Reader Question: What is the best way to store pastel drawings?

I have some smallish pastel drawings (or pastel "paintings" I guess you would call them, since the pastel covers the whole paper) that are about 8" x 10" and 11" x 14" and I want to try some bigger ones (like 16" x 20"). I can't afford to get them framed yet so I'm wondering how to store them in the meantime.

From my understanding, pastel drawings/paintings are constantly in danger of getting smudged, and fixative only makes the colors dull so I don't want to spray them with fixative.

Any ideas on how to store my pastel drawings so they don't smudge or get damaged?

Here's my method for storing my pastel paintings (and drawings!) on paper:

Firstly, I always leave a half-inch to 1-inch border when I create pastel artwork on paper. This leaves room for a mat to be placed over the artwork, and also allows the edges of the paper to be taped to a mount board without getting any tape on the artwork.

To store the pastel painting, I use acid-free artist tape to carefully tape the corners of the pastel painting to the center of a sheet of acid-free foam board that has been cut to size. I usually allow at least 1 inch along each edge.

So for example, if the drawing is 8" x 10" and the paper has a 1" border on all 4 edges, then the paper itself is 10" x 12". Therefore, the foam board will be at least 12" x 14".

Next I lay a sheet of glassine over the artwork, making sure the entire pastel painting is covered by the glassine. So in the example above, the glassine will be 12" x 14". I use acid-free artist tape to tape the glassine to the foam board, making sure it is completely secure.

Glassine (in case you're wondering) is an archival, museum-quality barrier paper that I always use to protect the surface of my 2-D art for storage or shipping. It's safe to lay against a pastel painting or drawing because the glassine won't attract the loose pastel particles.

Then I place another sheet of acid-free foam board on top of the pastel artwork. (Following the example above, this top foam board will also be 12" x 14".) On each side, I tape the top sheet of foam board to the bottom sheet.

Voila! The pastel artwork is now safely secure inside an acid-free "sandwich". This method for storing pastel art can work for both small and large artwork.

One final note: For the longevity of your artwork, it's important to use materials that are acid-free - rather than say, materials like masking tape and cardboard. It might be tempting to cut corners and use whatever you have around, but over time, things like masking tape and cardboard will leach acids onto your artwork, leading to the artwork's deterioration through yellowing, discoloring, etc. So to ensure that your pastel art stays healthy and safe before you get the chance to have it framed, always store it using acid-free supplies!

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Hope that helps!

Learn more about Pastel Drawing and Painting