Watercolour by Cheryl O
Maelle - by Cheryl O
Watercolour on Paper
Commissioned (Sold)

The question of when to varnish often comes up. Here are some of my criteria for making this decision.

You need to varnish an acrylic painting if:

  1. You have thinned the acrylic with a lot of water. It will have lost some of its ability to stick, and could be wiped off with a wet cloth.
  2. If you have collaged with thin papers or delicate items like thin foils. You don't want edges that could be caught or torn.
  3. The painting will be hung in an environment with smoke or oils, such as a restaurant.
  4. You want an even sheen on the painting. I am fond of a high gloss varnish on top of an abstact or brightly coloured painting.
  5. I do NOT always varnish fabric on a collage. I check whether the varnish will significantly darken the fabric first. Some papers need to be tested this way too.

You need to varnish an oil painting if:

  1. The shine is uneven in a way that you do not like. This problem is more common with oils, since oil content in individual pigments or oil mediums can vary a lot.
  2. The painting will be hung in an environment with smoke or oils.

You need to protect a watercolour with a fixative only if it will not be hung behind glass. This is not very common. For a commissioned watercolour painting such as the one above, I assume that the client will be framing any unframed items behind glass.

And the single most important thing to know about varnishing is - do not keep stirring into it as it is drying or you risk making it go cloudy. Lay it down smoothly and if you missed a spot, let the first layer dry (3 hours minimum, or what the bottle says) and make sure you get that spot with a second layer of varnish.

Conclusion: I do not find it necessary to varnish every acrylic or oil painting. When I do, often I do two layers.

Hope this is helpful.

Excited that Creative Collage starts today!

Happy Painting All!
Cheryl O
Today's Quote:

"The essence of all art
is to have pleasure in giving pleasure."

Mikhail Bayshnikov
From The Awe-Manac by Jill Badonsky
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Cheryl O • Email Cheryl Website