How to Varnish Paintings

What is used to varnish paintings?

Traditional varnishes include natural resins—dammar and mastic dissolved in turpentine. These are being replaced today by synthetic resins that remain flexible longer and are less prone to yellowing. These newer resins also do not require polar solvents, such as alcohol or acetone, to remove them, allowing removal from a painting surface without greatly affecting the paint layers below.

How do you apply varnish after painting?

Varnishes can be applied by brushing or spraying. The most common practice is to apply a picture varnish with a wide but thin, soft hair brush. For oil paintings, it is recommended to wait at least six months before applying a varnish. A similar although smaller waiting period is recommended for egg tempera paintings before varnishing. Acrylic paintings can be varnished within one week after drying, but an isolating coat is recommended before applying the final varnish. The paint surface is first dusted using a soft hair brush to remove debris and dirt.

How many coats of varnish should you put on a painting?

Most pictures require only one thin coat of varnish. However, the number of coats needed depends on several factors, such as coverage, uniform sheen, and the condition of the painting. For example, two coats may be required if a painting has a blotchy appearance. An isolating coat may be necessary, as is the case for acrylic paintings and paintings with fragile paint layers.


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