View Full Version : To Varnish or not to Varnish

10-08-2001, 05:34 PM
ok......when you finish an oil painting, do you need to varnish it? What brand do you all recommend and do you all use matte or gloss? Thanks so Much!!

Shey :D :D

10-08-2001, 11:47 PM
I think it's always a good idea to varnish your paintings. It protects them from dust and the elements and really 'pops' the colors. Not to mention evening out the shine. Some areas of the painting may have more shine to it, if you've used mediums all the more so. It's important to remember that an adaquate amount of drying time must be observed before varnishing. The recommended drying time can vary from 6 months to a year. If you've painted in very thin layers, using medium, you could probably get away with 4 or 5 months. If you paint with very thick brush strokes you'd be best to wait out the year. Personaly i like Grumbachers Damar Varnish. It gives a pretty shiney look so be sure to photograph your work before varnishing (to avoid excessive glare). Use thin coats and do it very evenly and quickly. It pretty fumey so be sure to have plenty of ventilation.

10-09-2001, 11:43 AM
I will have to head out to the art store and find some! I just finished my first oil painting so I will wait awhile before I varnish it. I did use a little Linseed oil to re-wet the painting at one point. Thanks for the info!


Leslie M. Ficcaglia
10-10-2001, 11:07 PM
Thus far I have only used retouch varnish on my paintings and I'd be interested in hearing how others handle this step. One of my main concerns is that Liquin and retouch varnish both give me fierce headaches, so I have been putting off resolving the problem of a final varnish. On the other hand, I have quite a few paintings out there now which should probably have that final coat.

10-11-2001, 07:07 AM
Leslie and Shey, I add 55/45 ratio, Grumbacher retouch varnish to solvent, for the thinnest coat I can use, right after the painting is dry to the touch. Important: Do not use this on still-wet paint. It dries in about 2 hours on a dry day. This way it has a thin, even sheen and the client can take it soon after it is finished. I tell the client to come back in one year to get the final varnish. Grumbacher recommends not applying any varnish for at least 6 months to a year, but I like the coat evened out before it gets handed over, and with a very thin coat, the paint still has room to breathe and dry. Renee http://www.LongIslandFineArt.com

10-11-2001, 09:24 AM
varnishing is an aesthetic decision! but it also helps protect the life of the painting. i use mediums and like to have the reflective qualities evened out by a coat of final varnish. most of the time i use homemade damar varnish with some beeswax melted in to make it matte. takes about 1 day to dry completely.

defintely do not varnish your paintings until they are thoroughly dry. this means at least 4-6 months even for a thinly painted picture.

damar varnish is the best and has withstood the test of time. it's relatively easy for conservators to remove when the painting needs maintenance in a couple hundred years or so. make a thick lustrous varnish at home with the following recipe:

1 old pair pantyhose
2.5 lbs damar resin chunks
1/2 gallon pure gum turpentine
empty glass bottles
coffee filters
covered bucket or nonreactive metal pot

cut off one leg of your panty hose and fill it with damar chunks. tie the end off, still leaving enough room for the damar to move around freely. submerge this contraption in a covered bucket filled with 1/2 gallon of turpentine. with gloves on, squeeze the hose so that the turp touches as much of the damar as possible.

the damar should sit in the turp for at least a week. i like to squeeze it each day. you will notice a little less mass in the hose each time you squeeze it. when you are satisfied with the strength of the varnish, pour it into glass containers through a funnel lined with coffee filters. this removes any remaining wood residue from the damar. you should end up with a varnish that is straw-colored or about the color of weak tea. the color depends on how much filtering you can do and the quality of the initial damar.

if the resulting varnish is too thick or too intense, thin with turpentine until the desired consistency or gloss is achieved. this recipe makes what is called a "5 pound cut" which is very saturated, glossy and sticky. most name-brand turpentine is more like a 3 pound cut.

11-01-2001, 04:38 PM
Hi shey,

thanks for posting the question, I was curious myself, and I thought of the same heading as well lol, luckily I had a look for varnishing questions and found yours.

I didn't realize that you have to wait from 6 months to a year for the oil paint to dry, I've been enlightened thanks, I've recently finished an oil painting, I'm just waiting for my photographs to come back from the developer so that I can post it.