Defeating the Dreaded Wax Bloom

What is wax bloom?

Ah, the treacherous world of colored pencil art. It seems innocent enough, doesn't it?

The vibrant colours, the intricate details, the subtle shading. But don't be fooled, my friends. There is a lurking menace that threatens to blur our masterpieces and send us spiralling into madness. Yes, I speak of the dreaded wax bloom.

Wax bloom, you say? What in the world is that?

Well, my fellow artists, it is a thin layer of haze that haunts our wax pencil artwork.

It descends upon our precious creations, blurring the details we've painstakingly crafted and leaving us with a grey, dusty mess. It's like a ghostly apparition, unwanted and unwelcome.

But fear not, for there are ways to combat this insidious foe.

You see, this bloom is primarily caused by those two pencil manufacturers, Sandford Prismacolor and Derwent, who insist on using wax carriers in their pencils.

What were they thinking?

Meanwhile, users of oil-based pencils like Faber Castell and Caran d'Ache can sit back and laugh at our misfortune. Oh, how they must revel in their wax bloom-free existence.

What does it look like?

Wax bloom on show!Here you can see bloom on a wax pencil portrait of a steer.

Now, let me introduce you to an artist who has fallen victim to this wax bloom nightmare.

Brandy Perez, an American artist, has graciously allowed us to showcase her afflicted artwork. The bloom has descended upon her steer, leaving a grey, dusty layer that obscures the vibrant colours beneath.

But fear not, for Brandy has shown us the way. With a gentle wipe of a dry cloth, the bloom can be temporarily removed. However, beware, for it is a temporary respite.

Like a relentless stalker, the bloom will come back for more.

Wiping the surface of a picture with a soft clothThis set of four images shows the process

So, what's a weary artist to do?

Well, Prismacolor suggests spraying our artwork with a workable fixative at regular intervals, and then applying a final fixative once the piece is finished.

Ah, fixatives, the saviours of our artistic souls.

But be cautious, my friends, for the world of fixative sprays is a treacherous one.

Apply multiple light coats, they say, not a single heavy one. And beware the end of an aerosol can, for it may erupt an uneven spray pattern upon your unsuspecting creation.

And please, for the love of all that is good, do not be tempted to use hair spray. It may hold your 'do in place, but it won't do any favors for your artwork.

The finished artwork, free of blemishesThis is the completed picture, 16 x 20 inches on rust coloured Colorfix

Prevention and 'cures' for wax bloom

UK and Europe

Now, let's talk fixative brands.

In the UK and Europe, we have Daler Rowney and Winsor & Newton, but be wary of Winsor & Newton, my friends. It has been known to change the colors red and purple, and there are even tales of surfaces being dissolved!

Oh, the horror!

On the other hand, the French-made Lascaux Fixativ seems to have fewer complaints. Many colored pencil artists swear by it, but let me warn you, it's not cheap. As they say, you get what you pay for, and apparently, we must pay dearly to protect our art from the clutches of wax bloom.


And what of our friends across the pond in the USA?

Krylon is their chosen saviour, offering various fixatives to finalise their artwork. But beware, for there have been whispers of Krylon dissolving thick layers of wax and leaving behind white specks on dark surfaces.

The air itself, it seems, is conspiring against us, as dust particles are picked up by the spray and deposited on our once pristine creations. Oh, the cruelty of it all.

The answer to wax bloom?

But fear not, for there is one spray that claims to be environmentally friendly.

SpectraFix, they call it. Made from milk casein, alcohol, and water, it provides an intermediate layer of protection for our colored pencil art.

Whether it truly works or not, we cannot say for certain. But it doesn't seem to affect colours, and it doesn't dissolve the surface, so it must be doing something right.

At least, we hope so.

Fixative brands

In the end, my friends, wax bloom may haunt our coloured pencil art, but we must not let it conquer us.

We must wipe, we must spray, we must protect our creations from this malevolent force.

And if all else fails, we can always switch to oil-based pencils and leave the wax bloom behind. But where's the fun in that?

There's a certain masochistic pleasure in battling against the odds, in defying the very nature of our chosen medium. So, grab your pencils, my friends, and let us face the wax bloom together, armed with our soft cloths and fixative sprays.

Let the battle begin.

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