Creating And Preserving Artwork

As an artist, you want to create artwork that stands the test of time, especially if you're selling your work at a premium price. Creating fine art that will last requires appropriate supplies and storage.


If you are on the fence about what to buy, it can help to take recommendations from other artists who have been creating for a long time. One of the major requirements is to purchase supplies that are acid-free. This means the material has a neutral pH, which can prevent your art from yellowing or cracking. There are some instances when acid-free does not matter, such as practice drawings you don't intend to sell and will just keep in your sketchbook. The acid-free surface you use will depend on your type of artwork. Cotton watercolor paper is a good surface that can work for many mediums.

Mediums And Pigments

Also consider the quality of the pigments you use. Colored pencils and paint all contain pigment, and not all pigment lasts indefinitely. Professional-grade supplies will tell you if the pigment is permanent or fugitive. The pigment should be given a "lightfast" rating, which will give you an indication of how long the pigment lasts. If you want quality artwork, select only pigments with the best lightfast rating. Graphite and charcoal can be considered archival, but they are easily smeared and require additional protection during creation and storage.


Some types of artwork may require a fixative or varnish to decrease the chance of fading or damage. Although some fixatives say they are intended for use on graphite, colored pencils, etc., do not trust this until you have tried it on a sample. In some instances, the fixative may cause the medium to smudge or change color, which would ruin the artwork. If you want to add varnish onto paintings, they must be completely dried, or in the case of oil painting, fully cured before varnishing. An oil painting may take months before it's cured, depending on the thickness of the paint. Use a varnish that says it protects artwork from UV light and is intended for your specific type of painting. Oils often require special products because of the composition of the medium.


If you will frame the item, be sure to use glass that is resistant to UV light. Even permanent colors may change if kept in direct sunlight. For pieces that will not be mounted and framed, they can be kept in a portfolio separated by acid-free paper or glassine, which is a special type of paper that will not stick to or smudge your work. Everything that touches the front and back of your art should be acid-free. You don't want plastic sleeves, portfolios, or anything to directly touch your artwork, because it could cause archival issues.

When placing your items in long-term storage, they must be kept in a climate-controlled environment. Extreme temperatures can ruin artwork, canvases, and frames. For example, freezing temperatures can cause damage to both acrylic and oil paintings, such as cracking and flaking off. Part of a climate-controlled environment is maintaining appropriate humidity. High humidity can cause the frame of canvases to warp or reactivate some mediums that are not permanent, such as watercolors. Consider humidity-controlled storage options to protect your art.

Creating high-quality artwork requires you to consider the quality of the supplies you use and how you store the finished product. Being meticulous about using the best supplies will help your artwork last indefinitely.