Updated: Apr 19
Watercolor paintings are a beautiful and delicate art form that require special care and attention to preserve their vibrancy and longevity. One important step in this process is varnishing, which protects the surface of the painting from dust, dirt, and other environmental factors. In this blog, we will discuss everything you need to know about varnishing watercolor paintings.
What is Varnish?
Varnish is a transparent protective coating that is applied to the surface of a painting to protect it from environmental factors such as dust, dirt, and UV light. It is typically made of a mixture of natural or synthetic resins dissolved in a solvent. When the solvent evaporates, the resin hardens and creates a clear and glossy layer on the surface of the painting.
Why Varnish a Watercolor Painting?
Varnishing a watercolor painting serves several purposes. First, it protects the surface of the painting from environmental factors that can cause damage, such as dust, dirt, and UV light. Second, it enhances the colors and creates a glossy finish, which can make the painting look more vibrant and professional. Finally, varnishing can also help to preserve the painting over time by reducing the effects of aging and oxidation.
Types of Varnishes for Watercolors: There are several types of varnishes that can be used for watercolor art, but it is important to choose one that is specifically designed for this medium to avoid any damage or discoloration. Here are some of the most common varnishes used for watercolor paintings:
Wax Based Varnish: Cold wax mediums (extracted from bee's wax and the like) are a great way to varnish your watercolor art works. They form a thin, transparent layer that can wiped and cleaned from time-to-time incase you wish to leave the art work unframed. Cold wax mediums from Gamblin & Dorland's wax medium from Jacquard are some of the better varnish options available. We have an entire blog on Dorland's wax medium. Click/Tap here to read the blog.
Synthetic Resin Varnish: These varnishes are made from synthetic resins such as polyurethane or alkyd, and they are typically mixed with a solvent such as mineral spirits or turpentine. They create a glossy or satin finish and are very durable.
Natural Resin Varnish: These varnishes are made from natural resins such as damar or mastic, and they are typically mixed with a solvent such as turpentine or lavender oil. They create a glossy finish and can enhance the colors of the painting, but they can also yellow over time.
Spray Varnish: This type of varnish is applied using a spray gun or aerosol can, and it creates a thin, even layer of varnish on the surface of the painting. It is important to use a spray varnish that is specifically designed for watercolor paintings to avoid any damage or discoloration.
When choosing a varnish for your watercolor painting, consider factors such as the desired finish (glossy or matte), durability, and whether or not the varnish is removable or permanent. It is also important to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully and to test the varnish on a small, inconspicuous area of the painting before applying it to the entire surface.
When to Varnish a Watercolor Painting?
It is important to wait until a watercolor painting is completely dry before varnishing it. This typically takes around 24-48 hours, depending on the humidity and temperature of the environment. If the painting is not completely dry, the varnish can mix with the wet paint and create an uneven finish.
How to Varnish a Watercolor Painting?
Varnishing a watercolor painting is a relatively simple process, but it requires some preparation and attention to detail. Here are the steps:
Clean the surface of the painting with a soft brush or cloth to remove any dust or dirt.
Choose a varnish that is suitable for watercolor paintings. There are many varnishes available on the market, but it is important to choose one that is specifically designed for watercolor paintings to avoid any damage or discoloration.
Apply the varnish to the surface of the painting using a soft brush or spray gun. It is important to apply the varnish evenly and thinly, as a thick layer can create an uneven finish.
Allow the varnish to dry completely before handling the painting. This typically takes around 24-48 hours, depending on the humidity and temperature of the environment.
Tips for Varnishing Watercolor Paintings
Always varnish your watercolor painting in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling any harmful fumes.
Test the varnish on a small, inconspicuous area of the painting before applying it to the entire surface to ensure that it does not cause any damage or discoloration.
Use a soft brush or spray gun to apply the varnish to the painting, as a hard brush can damage the delicate surface of the painting.
Apply the varnish in thin, even layers to avoid creating an uneven finish.
Conclusion: Varnishing a watercolor painting is an important step in preserving its vibrancy and longevity. By following the tips and steps outlined in this article, you can ensure that your watercolor painting remains protected and beautiful for years to come.