by della

Frequently Asked Questions:


Help, my SpectraFix nozzle is clogged!

In the event that your spray head becomes clogged and will not spray, don’t worry! There are a few things you can do to get it flowing again, and if all else should fail, we will happily send you a replacement by mail. But try this first, as it works pretty much every time… and, you can also take steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the future. This is a common occurrence for spray nozzles that spray sticky substances through tiny apertures, and with SpectraFix you have the added advantage that the casein will soften and dissolve in water, so you can be up and spraying again within minutes.

Try unscrewing the spray head ( plus tube) and flipping it upside down on its head in a cup of hot water (not scalding.. don’t want to melt the plastic)… let it sit for a few minutes and then try scraping at the hole with your fingernail or some other ‘soft’ scraper. Don’t use a needle, you might damage the hole. Better to just let it soak. Then, flip it over so that you’re holding it between your index and middle finger with the tube dangling into the water between them, and pump down with your thumb so it sucks the warm water up through itself and the spray forces out the clog. A few times of soaking and then spraying hot water ought to do it. If it absolutely won’t clear, let me know and I’ll mail you a new spray head. No problem!

To prevent this happening in the future, just turn the bottle upside down and spray until no more comes out. Wipe the nozzle to remove any residue, and store the bottle. SpectraFix will last for several years.

Will SpectraFix change the color of my pastels?

While there is a slight value shift with all types of fixative, due to the physical presence of the fixative substance surrounding the pastel granules, when tested alongside other popular fixatives, SpectraFix is the clear winner! There is little or no color change compared to the resin or acrylic-based fixatives

Please watch this video from Jason Morgan in which he tests SpectraFix against Winsor Newton Fixative and another popular fixative called Advanced Colored Pencil fixative by Brush and Pencil.

Many artists have told me that they see no color shift at all with SpectraFix. One nationally-known artist and personality in the Pastel world told me that he is delighted with SpectraFix’s non-effect on color. He said that Whites and Reds are particularly vulnerable with resin-based fixatives, often disappearing entirely after successive sprayings, but with SpectraFix they were not lost at all. Not a bit of it. The colors remained true and bright. Another pastel artist and professor of Materials and Techniques at a national art school, also stated that he felt there was no color shift at all with SpectraFix.

There are those artists who so love the soft texture and colors of unfixed pastel that they never fix their work, and use sanded, gritted or sueded paper and framing under glass. If we decide to fix, but we must learn to control our media. Just as in watercolor or oil painting, the color goes on brilliantly, but as it dries, it may dim or darken, so we must adjust our color choices as we work to achieve our desired effect. Knowing this, we adjust from the very beginning of our work and aim in a trajectory that will land us exactly where we need to be for the final effect. So it is with fixatives and pastels. We can build it from the bottom up, spraying between layers to construct a strong foundation. The upper layers might even be unfixed to assure hitting those difficult high notes, or laid on with colors that – once fixed – will be exactly the right hue.

Does SpectraFix have a shelflife or a ‘Use By’ date?

SpectraFix Degas spray lasts for years and does not spoil because it contains alcohol, and the Concentrate contains a preservative, however fresher is better. Ten year old SpectraFix Degas will probably still do the job, but a fresher bottle will produce a stronger film.

Eeek, I’m getting spotting and droplets on my pastels!

Unfortunately, spots happen with all sprayers. We apologize for this annoyance, our sprayers are the best money can buy, but they do occasionally emit droplets and these spots can show up in the finished work, especially if they land in an area of unbroken color. Dang! We have refrained from using pressurized aerosol cans to bottle our product due to the harsh propellant chemicals used and the impossibility of recycling. This is why we LOVE our new refillable Flairosol sprayer, it helps enormously with this issue, as it effortlessly produces a fine mist, free from droplets and spotting, and it’s refillable! so you can purchase fixative in bulk and just refill.
If you have spots showing up in your work, try spraying more over it to cause the surrounding pastel to become the same color; cover it up with a little more pastel and spray with fixative lightly, allow it to dry, then lightly spray 2 – 3 more coats; gently break up the spot with a sharp edge, touch up with pastel and respray.

Which papers and supports work best with SpectraFix?

SpectraFix works well on almost all papers, but there are differences. Gritted, sanded or velour papers work well, as do all watercolor paper and print making papers. Lighter papers like Canson Mi-Teintes may curl slightly, but this can be remedied by taping the edges down before spraying or spraying the back of the paper at the same time. Very thin papers, such as newsprint, rice, mulberry or laid may exhibit some curling if sprayed heavily, because SpectraFix does contain water, but this can be helped with the previous techniques. Yupo does work, but because Yupo does not absorb any moisture, the casein itself absorbs trapped moisture, for instance, under a frame in high humidity, with no space between the glass and the artwork.

Canvas or wood panels, both gessoed or unprimed, glass, ceramic, stone, leather, fabric… all can be good surfaces to use with SpectraFix. The only surface I would not recommend would be using SpectraFix as a final top layer of a flexible, yet slick surface like acrylic or oil paintings on canvas. SpectraFix does work well with oils and acrylics, but sandwich them under a layer of oil or acrylic paint, not as a final top layer, especially with a flexible support.

LaCarte sanded paper does not react well to liquids since the glue is water-soluble, although if it is sprayed and left to dry thoroughly before re-working, the pastel will adhere very strongly to the paper and easily accept more layers. However, if you disturb the surface while it is wet, the sand lifts off! So do let it dry completely, and you will have a beautiful piece of work.

Can I use SpectraFix fixatives with oil paints?

Yes! but not as a final topcoat. Casein underpainting has been used for many centuries under oil paints, and it has been found to be very archival, as the oil links permanently with the casein, not just by virtue of a physical grip, but by actual chemical bonding. You will find that SpectraFix fixative will hold your charcoal, pencil, conte, pastel or whatever you choose to make your initial drawing, and prevent it from smudging when the upper layers of oil paint are applied to the canvas or panel.
It is not suitable for use as a final varnish or fixing layer on the top of an oilpainting, as it will very likely be prone to flaking off. Please use a varnish.

SpectraFix and Acrylics?

SpectraFix works well with acrylics, but similar to oil paints, it must only be used underneath a final layer of acrylic and not as a top coat.

Does SpectraFix fixative work on Oil Pastels?

Yes, it does. Oil Pastels are normally made with a non-drying oil, such as Mineral Oil, and as such will never quite harden or dry, but SpectraFix can provide a bit of a tougher toothier surface, which can allow further application of oil pastel when the surface becomes slick and impossible to layer further. It can be used as a final protection as well.

Which type of alcohol should I mix with SpectraFix Concentrate?

You can use any clear, unsweetened, plain alcohol to dilute SpectraFix Concentrate, however, you will need to make sure that it is 40% – 60% diluted, otherwise the alcohol will be too strong and may cause the casein to curdle. Straight vodka works well for this, as it is 40% right out of the bottle. Rubbing Alcohol works too, but if you use the 93% Rubbing Alcohol (Isopropyl) mix it 50/50 with water, which should make it a 45% alcohol solution.

There have been rare reports of some cheap vodkas or rubbing alcohols causing the casein to curdle into lumps, and this is a result of very bad alcohol distillation and harsh chemistry. Almost all brands won’t do this, and I’m afraid we can’t name the ones that do, since it is a bit of a random rarity, but make sure you TEST FIRST!! Just mix a little alcohol with the concentrate, and if it remains as a milky solution with no visible stringy lumps forming, you should be good to go!

Does SpectraFix provide UV protection?

Yes, to a degree, however your best defense against fading is to avoid inferior pigments with low lightfastness (cheap or student grade, for instance), and do not hang artwork in prolonged direct sunlight. We may be adding a specific varnish with UV blocking properties in the future.

Where can I buy SpectraFix?

SpectraFix products are carried by many local stores in the USA, Canada, Australia and the UK. It is slowly entering Europe, but is not carried in Mexico, Asia or South America yet.
You may purchase directly from this website, or online through many outlets including DickBlick.com and JerrysArtarama.com, Jackson’s in the UK or Opus in Canada, or call your local art materials store and ask if they carry our products. Remember, we cannot ship liquids by air, except small containers of 3oz or less, such as the Concentrate, so if you live in the EU, please order the Concentrate or try obtaining it from the UK.

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