View Full Version : fixing acrylic varnish problem

09-28-2006, 05:30 PM
I should have come here first - but...

I have used Liquitex matte varnish (non-removeable) on my previous paintings with no problem. I apply carefully and do not go over brush strokes. This time it really messed up :crying:. On the first coat I did not dilute it at all. I was careful, but one stroke (right across the middle, of course) dried cloudy and you could see the brush mark. I let it dry for an hour or so, then tried washing it with tap water (in a panic), dried that and applied a second slightly thinned coat in the perpendicular direction to the first. Now I have obvious brush marks and the overall finish is streaky with cloudiness.

The painting is on stretched canvas. I probably didn't let it dry long enough - I just read I should have waited 3+ days and it was only 2. Is there any way to salvage my painting? It was my best so far :( . (It is also a rainy day - does that make it even worse?)

Thanks for any help you can offer.

09-28-2006, 07:18 PM
Amy Sorry you've had this problem. I have had the same problem with acrylic varnish. (Also Liquitex brand). I put mine down to room temperature being too hot at the time. I now always varnish in normal room temp. There is nothing you can do as far as I know. The painting I ruined sat idle against the wall till my sister asked if she could have it, she didn't care about the streaky varnish (God bless her,) so it found a happy home in the end.

I always tell myself when things go wrong 'look for the diamond in the coal face' as there is always a bright spot to be found in a rough patch. You will find it, even it is just that you learned something for next time.

09-28-2006, 08:09 PM
Thanks for the feedback, Elaine.

I have been reading the web since I posted, looking for answers. I have found no ideas at all on how to fix this - just plenty of warnings that it can happen and how I should try to avoid it. I am definately looking at it as a learning experience!

I'm going to let it sit for a few days. I may try going over it with gloss medium to see if I can even it out or else I will just try to get over it :rolleyes:. My husband said "I see it, so what?", so he has your sister's attitude. Thankfully, it is MY dog and my painting - not one I did for someone else.

So, since you "learned your lesson" :lol: do you do anything differently now? (Other than wait for a cooler day?) What do you think of my idea to cover it with gloss medium? (not varnish, regular medium)

This was my first attempt at a portrait and about my 3rd or 4th acrylic painting, so I have a lot to learn about the entire process. Still, I was pleased with it... If anyone has any suggestions on how to lose the streaks or advise against other foolish fixes I may attempt, please share! Here's my girl in all her glory (before the varnish - that's her in my avitar).http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/28-Sep-2006/17005-EPortSm.jpg

09-28-2006, 11:36 PM
It may sort itself out when it completely dries between the layers. It is a great painting!

09-29-2006, 05:05 AM
I have this happen very rarely, and it's why I'm thankful I use removeable varnish. (MSA) I can't recommend it enough.


09-29-2006, 06:31 AM
To Annette-- Everyone seems to be overlooking a fix to your problem with varnish. If I read your question correctly, the problem is a cloudy streak across the painting. The matte varnish you used is matte medium that is the same medium used in acrylic paint, therefore you can paint over this area and bring it back to the original state. Then if you want to varnish over the entire painting avoid too much brushing. Consult the manufacturer for a solution. Hope this helps. I have had the same problem and even worse ones with varnishing and saved the paintings. Good luck. Len

09-29-2006, 10:18 AM
The varnish I used is supposedly different than matte medium. Liquitex says we should use the matte vanish (or gloss varnish) and that matte medium is not sufficient (although it's what everyone used to use). So there must be something different about the varnish. However, I think it could be painted over.

The problem now is that the 2nd coat I put on later in the perpendicular direction is streaky all across the entire painting. So I would have to repaint the whole thing to fix it. I'm a beginner, I have only done a couple of other paintings - I have no confidence at all that I could fix this one by painting over it. I'm pretty sure I would ruin it worse.

I did consult the Liquitex site (and many others) and read all about why this probably happened. There are no suggestions anywhere on how to fix it - only warnings to avoid it. I think fala may be right that there is moisture between the layers, but I'm afraid it's locked in there.

Does anyone have any advise or warnings about my idea to paint over the whole thing with gloss medium (not varnish this time, just medium) to try to even it out? (I read not to do more than 3 coats of matte varnish or you will surely get cloudy streaks, so I am looking for something else. They said if you want more coats to START with several of gloss medium and use the matte varnish as the top 2 coats. I'm going backward - looking for a fix.)

Thanks everybody. At least it's nice to know I am not the only one to have had this problem.

09-29-2006, 01:57 PM
I had a painting once where I felt like I had too much gloss medium in one part and I wanted to tone it down. I actually used matt medium to paint over the area and it worked. Then I finished the entire painting off with gloss medium. To my surprise the matt part seemed to disappear once again.

It might be worth the risk to paint over it with a thin layer of gloss medium. The painting is really nice. I would wait at least 3 days or more to do it. I have noticed that paint can be lifted if you don't wait long enough for it to dry.

09-29-2006, 06:44 PM
Thanks for sharing your experience, Tiasa. I will definately wait a few days this time - I want the weather to dry out as well as the paint. On my previous paintings I waited weeks or months to varnish just because I didn't get around to it sooner. I thought I was being more efficient this time :rolleyes:.

If anyone else has advise or experience, please share. I will let you know what I do and what the outcome is afterwards. Thanks again, Amy

P.S. Thanks for the nice comments about my painting Tiasa and fala. I was hesitant to show it here because there are so many talented artists. I appreciate your kind words :) .

09-29-2006, 11:04 PM
Hi Otter, your painting is lovely! and worth trying to 'save'.
I haven't advice on how to do that, but I wanted to tell you that I use Matisse Gloss medium/varnish mixed 50/50 with water for varnishing my paintings - I do two or three coats (vertical then horizontal -apply with a wide soft brush and leave to dry between coats). Matisse never has a problem with cloudyness. It appears that way when you apply, but it always dries clear.

Please don't hesitate to show your work here, everyone is very helpful, and we are all at different stages with our work.

09-29-2006, 11:54 PM
It's been my experience that the paint manufacturers really do want to help out. It might be worthwhile to call Liquitex, they have probably heard of this situation before and may be able to recommend a solution that doesn't appear on their website.
It is a beautiful painting and well worth the effort to save it.

10-10-2006, 07:46 PM

I took 2bear's advise and called a number I found for Liquitex. It was acutally the distributor, but they hooked me up with the resident artist who was very nice.

Basically, there is no real fix for my cloudy, streaky matte varnish problem. He suggested, as others here did, that I repaint over the whole thing. We discussed other options. He told me if I was going to go over the whole thing with a gloss medium I should then re-varnish it afterward -- unless I used the gloss medium & vanish product. Gloss medium itself would be like an unvarished painting as far as attracting dirt, etc. One idea he gave me that I thought was great was to keep a canvas on hand for testing varnish before I apply it to my finished painting. Then I can test if it is thinned correctly, if my brush is working :wink2: , etc.

Turns out the gloss I have on hand was not Liquitex, but Dick Blick Gloss Medium and Varnish. So that's what I used. I thinned it a little and tested it on another canvas (painted). It did seem to grab more on my dog portrait, so maybe there was something else going on with that one. I got a much better coat, but it streaked in some of the same places as the first matted coat. I have waited several more days and I am going to put on another coat of the gloss to try to totally even it out. After that I will probably leave it alone - although he did say I could re-coat it with matte vanish. I just want to fix it and not make a mess :rolleyes:.

10-11-2006, 02:37 PM
Sorry to hear there was no fix for this one. I have been putting off varnishing mine until I read your outcome. I have Liquitex Gloss Varnish which is very thin and watery. I did do a test and it went on smoothly but it is very, very glossy. I also bought the Liquitex Matt Varnish, but it is much thicker. When I am in the mood to take a risk, I will probably try to mix them and varnish a painting.

Maybe you could get some kind of a print made of the copy you posted. Just a thought.

10-11-2006, 05:44 PM
Thanks for the thought, Tiasa. I can get a print made, but I think I can still save the original. I just finished the second coat of Dick Blick Gloss Medium & Varnish thinned with a little water and am waiting for it to dry. It may not be perfect, but it is better yet. It's not terribly glossy, but each coat does make it glossier - which I'm not crazy about - but so far so good. You can mix your 2 varnishes to get a less glossy product or, at least, add water to your matte varnish so it's thinner and you don't get the mess I did.

Again, I tested my varnish on the other "scrap" painting and it did go on smoother, so maybe there is something else going on with my dog canvas. I like this idea of having a scap painting because I have been much more casual about applying the varnish to parts of it to see what I can get away with and it seems I was more than careful enough with my portrait. Something about that particular paint or canvas or brush-full of matte varnish or ?? grabbed more and made the initial mess.

What I have learned for the future:
Wait a week or so before varnishing (probably more than long enough, but hey, it's worth the wait :o )
Lay your painting flat when you varnish
Thin the varnish with up to 25% water (too much can also cause problems)
Test the varnish and brush on a scrap canvas (gesso over it for next time)
Apply with broad, even brush stokes and don't go over it
Don't touch it until it is totally dry (i.e., don't freak out and pour water over it like I did!)

It's nearly dry and looking pretty good - only subtle streaks this time and they are out in the background, not on her face. Did I mention that is my Eponine - named after a character in Les Miserable? Maybe that has something to do with it :lol:. I am calling it finished and will frame it for my wall. Thanks for all of your help and input.
Happy painting - and varnishing :thumbsup:. Amy

10-11-2006, 08:51 PM
I am so glad to hear you are going to be able to frame this picture and enjoy it!. Thanks for the posting--and all the info on varnishing! Patty