Origin French, literally ‘varnishing,’ originally referring to the day prior to an exhibition when artists were allowed to retouch and varnish hung work.
-To protect the underlying painting from damage, dust and dirt.
-To uniform the surface and give an even optical reflection.
What you want from a varnish
-All varnishes should be removable.
-The varnish should be flexible enough to move with the support.
-Varnishes should provide a non-tacky surface so as to resist imbibing dirt.
-Wether Gloss, Semi-Gloss or Matte the finish should be even, enhance the artwork and provide resistance to discolouration caused by heat and humidity.
Types of Varnish
Retouch Varnish- the only varnish that can be applied to oil paintings younger than 6 months. We know you want to use other varnishes before the painting is dry but really, control yourself or risk having cracks in the surface.
Damar Varnish – the most traditional natural varnish still in use. It takes about 50 years for this varnish to turn yellowish brown. It is removable so you don’t have to freak out.
Gloss Varnish – super shiny and lustrous. Hard to walk past as a superior finish to most paintings.
Satin Varnish– somewhere between matte and shiny, Satin Varnish is world wide the most popular finish to artworks.
Wax Varnish – with a wax finish this varnish is to be applied with a lint free cloth. The Matte look can be softly buffed to subtle sheen.
How to Apply Varnish
Take your time. Move away from the dusty areas of your house or studio, those squiggly floating pieces of fluff will and can attach themselves to your freshly varnished masterpiece. For liquid varnishes estimate how much varnish you will need and pour into a flat-bottomed container to avoid spillage.
Use a soft, wide, flat brush dedicated to the task.
Put only the tip of the brush in the varnish so as not to overload it and flood the painting.
Work your way across the middle of the painting and then oppose you next stroke at a 90 degree angle to the first. Work your way to the outer edges. Leave the painting to set for 10 minutes before moving.