I love pastels. I love charcoal. Both are cheap, fun to use and low on the toxicity scale. These were my favorite growing up. That pretty much ended when I started taking art classes in about seventh grade. That’s when they teach you to spray all of your work with a thick layer of aerosol fixative spray. Mainstream fixative is just awful! It is highly toxic and extremely flammable. It comes in a hairspray-esque can that creates a choking mist of toxic fumes you can’t help inhaling even if you are outside and holding the can as far away from you as possible–obviously I speak from experience…
But it does keep charcoal and pastels from smearing. It’s also used with watercolors and gouache. For a long time, I accepted this hairspray from hell as a necessary evil but often asked a friend to do the dirty work for me. Even so, the noxious chemical coating lingered on my work ever after.
As far as I know, this is the only non-toxic fixative spray out there. It comes in a regular spray bottle. Spectrafix is more expensive than its deadly predecessors, but one bottle will last a really long time. I love being able to use it while I’m working instead of having to stop everything, go outside and then wait for the fumes to dissipate. This is a product I would have killed for as a kid but was sure couldn’t exist. I’m so glad it does!