Why apply varnish to paintings?

What is varnish exactly?

Varnish is a solution of either natural or synthetic resin dissolved in water or solvent that is used as a protective coating on a finished painting. There are two main types of varnish an artist can choose from gloss or matte varnish. Some varnishes also offer UV protection which I highly recommend. I use only gloss UV varnish for the following reasons:

  • Protects against UV ray damage
  • Dries completely clear
  • Gloss varnish deepens the colors of a painting making it the most preferred choice of artists.


Why is varnish important?

Varnish protects the painting from dirt, dust, and light abrasion. Over the years dirt and dust may stick to the varnish rather than the painting. The painting can be specially cleaned to remove the dirt and dust without damaging the artwork. Varnish also evens out the painting’s final appearance, giving it a uniform sheen.


When do you apply varnish to a painting?

One of the wonderful benefits of painting with acrylic over oil is that acrylics dry quickly allowing the artist to varnish and deliver artwork to clients within a few days. Artists who use oil paint must wait at least six months for the paint to completely dry before they can apply varnish. That is a very long time for a client to wait for a painting.


What happens if varnish is applied to a painting before its completely dry?

The most common result of applying varnish before a painting is completely dry is cracking and damage of the surface.


How many coats of varnish should be applied to a painting?

A minimum of 2 coats must be applied evenly. I apply 2 coats of professional grade gloss UV varnish to all of my paintings. Gloss varnish tends to give the richest, brightest, and deepest colors. I love the after effects of applying varnish to my paintings. They really come to life!

Liz Whaley
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Contemporary Artist

Original Colorado Artist - Creating and Selling Original Contemporary Art Paintings to Inspire your Life & Style your Home!

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