View Full Version : Varnishing oil painting

03-21-2002, 01:34 PM
I was wondering if any of you have a special varnish, varnish brush and particular way you apply varnish to your dried (at least 6 months) oil painting. I am looking for brand names. Also, is it ok to apply retouch varnish until your painting dries for the 6 months? If you want a little less shinny surface, is it ok to add a little turpentine to the varnish?

All answers are welcomed!


www.judithdagostino.com (http://www.judithdagostino.com)

03-21-2002, 05:28 PM
Adding turps will not affect the final gloss unless you cut it down enough to actually apply a thinner layer, after all turps is the basic carrier of many varnishes anyway. What kind of effect are you looking for in your varnish? If you paint with a wide tonal range, especially if you have strong darks, then a gloss varnish is pretty much essential.

The ideal varnish should be [i]"one that will remain transparent and colourless in the long term, possess and retain adeqate elasticity, privide protection for the paint layer, and, if it becomes necessary when it has aged, be removable using a 'gentle' (nonpolar) solvent."[i] Unfortunately this describes no varnish available so one has to pick and choose the properties that one considers most important!

Of the traditional varnishes, the soft resin varnishes - mastic and dammar - are the only ones worth considering. Amazingly one still sees oil-resin varnishes (oil lacquers) recommended today despite the fact that they have a significant number of problems and it's worth knowing that the resin varnishes almost completely superseded them with the availability of sufficient quantities of solvents in the 16th century so even then these problems were understood.

Purely in terms of optical characteristics dammar varnish is the undoubted king, nothing else, including modern synthetic varnishes, gives the same depth. Its removability is adequate and considering the problems with synthetic varnishes for oil paintings I would stick to it. It is easy, probably cheapest and best to make oneself from the raw resin and distilled turpentine.

Hope this helps,

Scott Methvin
03-21-2002, 09:57 PM

I agree with Enion. Get some good dammar. And the very best brush.

You can buy excellent quality dammar varnish in a glass bottle, either gloss or with beeswax added to matte. I would recomend the brush to the spray.

The best varnish brushes are made of ox hair. Very soft and most are made in germany. The hair comes from the ears and is collected from the slaughterhouses. Quality manufacture is important because a cheap brush sheds hair. This is disaster when varnishing.

Kremer has both items on line.