Using charcoal on canvas with other media

Reader Question: If I use charcoal on top of a canvas/acrylic paint/acrylic ink piece, what should I "seal" it with? I haven't tried it yet, but I'm guessing it needs to be sealed or it will smear. Typically I do not seal my paintings because I use metallics a lot and the seal takes away the difference between matte paints and metallic paints. I am wondering if a spray fixative would be enough to keep the charcoal happy and in place. I would like to experiment with making bold lines on top of my paintings and my ink pen isn't bold enough.  

I would definitely advise that you seal your mixed media art piece to keep the charcoal from smearing, otherwise the charcoal would smudge as soon as something brushed against it.

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Rather than use a brush-on varnish (which would smear the charcoal anyway), you should use a spray varnish such as Golden Archival Spray Varnish or Lascaux UV Protect.

I recently answered another question about spray varnish that explains how to spray varnish your art, so that page might help give you an overview of what spray varnish is and how to use it. Most spray varnishes are available in gloss, satin or matte, so you can have some control over the sheen of the final finish.

If you want to keep the contrast between your metallics and your matte paints, you could consider adding the metallics last, and applying them over the spray varnish. So, you could add the charcoal, then spray with a matte spray varnish, then add some metallics over that. To protect it, you could apply some gloss varnish over the metallics with a brush. Just some ideas!

Hope that helps and Happy Art-Making!

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