View Full Version : Advice on varnish and layers

06-08-2015, 04:11 PM
I've been using standard liquitex gloss varnish on most of my works. I'm really having trouble applying it without some brush strokes. I bought fancy brushes, etc. No luck.

My larger question is what varnishes can I use with acrylics that I can use with layering. I want to apply some glazes, varnish, then another, and so forth. Acrylic varnishes tend not to be hard. But I wonder about alkyds. Something/anything that won't crack or yellow/damage over time?

Thank you!

06-08-2015, 04:42 PM
Sometimes I glaze over an isolation layer (20% water 80% medium, but you can vary the percentages.)

06-08-2015, 05:08 PM
You can cut it with water as suggested. I use a sponge instead of brushes but I don't know if others would agree with that method.

- Jay

06-08-2015, 05:13 PM
I would think adding water would make it more likely to get bubbles, as you spread it across the surface. I use a fine synthetic brush, but damn those brush strokes... :-)

On a side note, I tried using Kamvar, and is that stuff ever NASTY!


06-08-2015, 05:16 PM
I'm with Jay - I use a small circular craft sponge (from a craft store) to apply my Liquitex gloss or matte varnish. I could never get brushes to work nicely for me. I apply the varnish with horizontal strokes, let it dry 3 hrs, then apply vertical strokes. I have not had any issue with any strokes being left behind and the finished product is great.

06-08-2015, 05:20 PM
I think I know what kind of sponge you're talking about. I'll grab a couple and experiment. I think Golden has some product that is "self leveling" but it may be something thicker. I'm surprised there isn't an additive to acrylic varnish to achieve self leveling.

06-08-2015, 05:37 PM
This is the sponge and little dish I pour the varnish in (instead of squirting it on the sponge). I only dip about 1/3 of the sponge in the varnish.


06-08-2015, 08:06 PM
I tend to like spraying an isolation coat and allowing it to dry thoroughly. Then spray a layer of removable varnish. If you want to layer, I might suggest that you use the isolation coat, ending with an isolation layer before the final varnish coat.

Jon Bradley
06-08-2015, 09:14 PM
You can also try diluting gloss medium far down to a thick-ish liquid and line it up down an edge. Then just let it run down until it's all covered and smooth.

I tend to dry brush a film on my stuff more often for a "finish", but it takes a little getting used to.

06-09-2015, 06:37 AM
Liquitex makes a varnish/medium that you can paint over or glaze...the final varnish is not supposed to be overcoated with paint/glaze....use the gloss/medium and when finished, apply a final varnish (acrylic)...

I've been successful with a 'mop type' watercolorist brush...the cheap ones allow some hair to fall out so be careful...but once the loose hairs are out, the brush holds up well....wash after varnishing with warm soap and water, lay brush on side to dry and re-use over and over ....

Mike L
06-10-2015, 05:27 PM
I'm a day or two away from varnishing a small piece. Everything I've read indicates that varnish can be laid down directly over acrylic paint but, to make the varnish removable without damaging the paint an isolation layer is necessary.

My plan is to use Golden Soft Gel (Gloss) mixed 50/50 with water (as per instructions) as the isolation layer and then one or two thin coats of uncut Liquitex High Gloss Varnish.

From my woodworking experience, if brush strokes don't level out using a small pad painter from the hardware store will minimize brush strokes in thicker media.


Andre Yusin
06-12-2015, 12:06 PM
What you'll be putting your Liquitex High Gloss Varnish on though? It emerges that this particular varnish is for rigid surfaces only, not for stretched canvases or other flexible mediums.

That said, can I consider my small-sized 4" x 4" canvas panels to be rigid surfaces? Probably not awfully important since they do appear to be quite rigid but still curious.

06-12-2015, 12:09 PM
I am painting on a rigid surface - in this case, dibond. Sometimes masonite. But good to know that.

Golden has some products; as does Gamblin that I may look into.

Andre Yusin
06-12-2015, 12:17 PM
Ha, that's great but I was trying to warn Mike L. :D

Cindy Schnackel
06-15-2015, 08:16 PM
I also do an isolation coat of diluted acrylic medium. I have experimented to find the best brush, best amount of water, etc, as your climate can really affect how it levels out or how much brushing it will stand before strokes stay. Because I live in the desert SW, I water it down more than typically recommended, at least when our air is especially warm and dry. Liquitex gloss medium/varnish, or Golden GAC 100 or their fluid mediums are favorites. Resisting the urge to keep brushing back into it helps avoid brush marks. If you miss spots you can touch them up when it's dry, or if doing multiple coats, catch them the next time around. You can paint, collage, etc, over these. Once you've put actual varnish on its inadvisable to work over it.

Cindy Schnackel
06-15-2015, 08:19 PM
BTW the only time I had a bubble problem was full strength medium that wasn't the freshest. I thought the piece was ruined! It sat around for weeks while i thought avout pitching it. Since I had nothing to lose, I buffed it back with fine wet-dry sanding film just enough to take the top off bubbles, re-coated with fresh, diluted medium, and it was fine! I'm sure the fact it was good and dry by then helped with the 'sanding.'