View Full Version : Varnish Between Layers of Paint?

09-07-2008, 12:09 PM
Anyone ever varnish betweem layers of paint?

What I mean is suppose you paint your background (sky, mountains, trees, grass, whatever, and it comes out looking the best you have ever done. Really great. Now you want to paint some wildlife in front but know you are not that competent at it.

Could you seal the painting and then put a coat of removable varnish before you paint the wildlife. That way, if you mess up, you could remove the top layer of removable varnish and not affect the background.


James :)

09-07-2008, 12:27 PM
morning James I was reading this thread which also has a link to a tutorial that might help out.


09-07-2008, 02:54 PM
Hey James! My approach? Paint (or sketch) the questionable figures on another canvas. Keep playing until you're satisfied that you can ably repro the figs on your master. Then paint your master. But remember, this is acrylic! Meaning that if you screw up, you can always paint over! And over. And over... Varnish? What's that?

09-07-2008, 04:12 PM
I think the process in the thread sam posted might be possibe if you can find a varnish the alcohol medium can't get through. Or if you used some of the newer more open acrylics that take weeks to dry 100% and are more easy to break down and remove than traditional acrylics.

09-08-2008, 09:01 AM

Printed that tutorial for future reference too.

James :)

09-08-2008, 10:10 AM
Could you seal the painting and then put a coat of removable varnish before you paint the wildlife. That way, if you mess up, you could remove the top layer of removable varnish and not affect the background.

What if the final varnish has to be removed at some point? If you don't worry about that sort of eventuality you can try what you've suggested but it's not the best way to go.

Now you want to paint some wildlife in front but know you are not that competent at it.
That's what practice and experience are for :)


09-10-2008, 12:11 AM
It's been my experience that if the background is dry and I want to go back in later and add some figures, I can do that easily by very lightly misting the area where I want to do additional work. As long as the water mist stays damp it is easy to wipe off any unsatisfactory efforts. Of course painting over the top of an error is also a way out when things don't go as planned. I ahven't yet tried to Golden Opens but it sounds like they would give you even more time to juggle a figure before it became hard to remove. Also, my understanding is that with the Atlier acrylics, you could also remove what did not please you, even after it has dried. I ahve not yet tried the Golden Opens or Atlier because I have such a large collection of "regular artist acrylics." Yarnell uses the misting to demonstrate making changes, even on finished paintings he plans to use in upcoming books. As long as the mist is damp (not runny) you can easily wipe off any changes.
:thumbsup: That technique frees you from the worries of varnish between coats.

09-13-2008, 12:20 AM
Okay, a little while ago, on this thread, I said "varnish? What's that?" I have never, ever varnished an acrylic painting. But I decided to experiment on a painting with a problem. Used the recipe given on the hudson valley painter website. I diluted soft gel gloss 2 parts to one part water. Waited 'til the bubbles subsided. Then carefully varnished with a very soft brush. Despite being really careful on brush strokes, still had them. But no bubbles. The coating helped one problem - the pic had a matte surface in one area and a relatively shiny surface elsewhere. The coating evened out the problem. But left the pic incredibly shiny. So shiny that I could not get a very good foto. My best attempt is given below.

Now I am debating whether to glaze with matte to knock down the unacceptable shininess. Or whether the entire concept of varnishing is beyond my abilities.

Any comments?


09-13-2008, 10:38 AM
I have seen varnishes that come in "Gloss", "Satin", and "Matte" finishes. Now as to whether or not they deliver what is promised, that I can't say. I like glossy so that's all I have experimented with.

I have seen people use a matte varnish on an entire painting, and then they go back, using a gloss varnish with an artist's brush (painting with the varnish), and only paint the areas they want glossy. Like water, a river, pond, eyes, vases, fruit, etc... And they leave the other areas matte. Results may vary so you will have to experiment.

Others here may have suggestions on which brand(s) of varnish has a truer satin or matte finish compared to other brands.

James :)

09-13-2008, 11:03 AM
I also read the Hudson Valley recipe for varnishing and noted the artist prefers a very glossy finish on her paintings. However, getting a gloss you don't like shouldn't discourage you into thinking varnishing is beyond your capabilities! Personally, I would just give the painting a coat of matt varnish OR mix half gloss and half matte to get a happy medium. For me, the best route would be to do some testing on something else to find the sheen you prefer. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to varnish. Your painting is not doomed to glassy shine, quite "fixable.":)

09-14-2008, 08:00 PM
Thanks James and Aires, for your comments. I was not aware that the Hudson Valley artist on that website prefers a very glossy finish. Nevertheless, others have also suggested this recipe (2 pts soft gel gloss to 1 pt water) as an isolation coat. I plan on "fooling around" with various other media. Not too worried about "destroying" the pic. It was probably destined for the "paint over" pile anyway! Again, thanks!

09-15-2008, 03:57 AM
Just a couple things here - a layer of medium is not a varnish, so it won't provide the same protection.

And on the idea of varnishing between layers I see two problems if you want to use removeable varnish.
1. If you don't have a barrier layer before each varnish layer then removing that varnish could damage the layer below.
2. If you are using mineral spirits removeable varnish then acrylic layers on top of that WILL peel off or at least be very unstable. I have had this happen within weeks of painting over a varnished painting. So in that case the solution is to use an acrylic based varnish layer, which I would think the acrylic paint will bond with anyway? So not sure how well that would work.

I think the idea of the wet mist, using open acrylics, or just practice practice practice are much more practical. :D Heck, I've just finished my series of the Isle of Wight and appear to have 4 successful paintings and 3 not. Unforutnately 2 of the failures are 36" square canvases, c'est la vie. (the way I paint I actually can't go over them again, so only option would be to restretch)


09-15-2008, 10:49 AM
Don't know about painting over varnish... I've always used the 'if I screw it up, I just paint over that part' method of painting (and have gotten quite good at it, too! hehe).

As far as varnishing, I will say this... I didn't used to (and still have a few paintings that aren't varnished), but I've come to like it... it does give an even sheen over the whole painting, and I like that better. I used Golden's Polymer Varnish (mostly because I wanted water-based, don't do well with 'chemicals' like turpentine) in Satin, and quite like the finish I get. I've never been one for glossy stuff, and this gives a nice even sheen without being overly shiny.

09-15-2008, 12:41 PM
I dont know about painting over varnish.. but I dont varnish untill I am absolutely sure I'm done adding things to the painting.

I use 1/4 grumbacher gloss medium & varnish with 3/4 liquitex matte medium, this gives a very nice sheen to the painting but not glossy/shiny enough to defer light or make it hard to see when hung. some glossy/shiny paintings make it difficult to view due to glare from lighting. So this prevents this.. my art teacher/local artist suggested this to me and its what I use. If a painting is matted and behind glass (Mat prevents it from touching glass and allows it to breathe) you do not need to varnish it, but it will protect it and make it last alot longer.
hope that helps.

09-15-2008, 12:50 PM
[quote=plastechie] I diluted soft gel gloss 2 parts to one part water.

The problem your having with your painting being too shiny is a result of the soft gel gloss that you used. This medium usually comes in gloss or matt. If you are looking for a matt effect you should choose the soft gel in matt. You could also use the matt glazing medium. You can apply the matt product over top of the gloss and that should fix your problem. These products however should not be confused with varnishing a painting which is another product again with matt or gloss finish.

Are you confused Yet:confused: :confused: I found all of the different mediums, gels, varnishes very confusing at first.

Hope this helps


09-15-2008, 01:44 PM
I paint really thick so painting over it is pretty well a no go. I also tried sanding the messed up part to flatten it out but there is no way. Like trying to sand an eraser. LOL! Would probably need a belt sander, but at only a few dollars each for the hardboard, not really worth the effort.

James :)

09-17-2008, 04:09 PM
Right or wrong..I do it all the time! No problems so far!

09-27-2008, 01:34 PM
I use Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish between layers of my painting.I do this for a couple of reasons, 1 . to protect what I have done that I like and if I paint anything over it that doesn't look right I can wipe it off quickly with no problem. and 2. I like the translucent look of mixing a little golden fluid acrylics and the gloss medium. I usually have between 3-4 layers of the gloss medium and paint. I find the problem with Matt Medium is it doesn't always dry totally clear. Now I prefer the gloss because I like a gloss finish to my paintings...soooo if you don't like gloss, ???