Varnish is used on a fully dried oil painting to even out the gloss of the paint and to protect it from dust and other contaminants. Please note that it may take between six months and a year (or more) for an oil painting to completely dry, depending on a range of factors such as climate and the thickness of paint application.
If the painting becomes dirty or yellowed over time, the varnish may be carefully removed with an appropriate solvent then new varnish applied – thus preserving the colours of the original painting. Often a conservator is employed for this purpose.
Picture varnish should never be used during painting as a medium, as any attempt to clean off the surface in future may result in paint being removed. Conversely, care should be taken never to use a medium as a varnish. For a simple introduction to the proper use of mediums please see our mediums page.
Usually the longest lasting paintings are based on simple and time-tested techniques. Beware of faulty techniques in oil painting, as it can take a long time for problems to develop in the surface of your painting. Always use varnish in a well-ventilated area and carefully follow safety instructions.
Our range of varnishes includes:
Damar Varnish is a traditional gloss final varnish for oil and alkyd paintings. Also used in making some painting mediums. Remove carefully with Gum Turpentine. Damar Crystals are also available.
Artists’ Gloss Varnish (formerly called Paraloid Varnish)
A high gloss, non-yellowing acrylic varnish. Remove carefully with a small amount of methylated spirits on a lint-free cloth.
A fast-drying, touch-up varnish. A thin coat restores luminosity to dull areas to aid colour matching. Used as a sealer for painting grounds if the surface is too porous. Must be dry before overpainting. Retouch Varnish is sometimes thinly applied as a temporary picture varnish for works that are touch dry but not fully dry enough for a final varnish. Remove carefully with Mineral Turpentine.
A satin matt varnish made from beeswax and natural resin. Can be rubbed and buffed to a sheen with a lint-free cloth. Use Gum Turpentine as solvent.