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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > June 19 > Varnishing

Varnishing

Graham Webber concludes his series with advice on what to consider before varnishing an oil painting and offers his ten top tips for obtaining the best results

Whether to varnish an oil or acrylic painting is a matter of personal choice, with different arguments for and against. Varnish will add protection against moisture, UV light or smoke, and means the painting can also be cleaned without damage to the surface itself.

Varnish can also be removed and reapplied by a specialist if it has become compromised, providing an extra layer of protection for your painting. You can use varnish to even out the surface of work. Sometimes, depending on the primer, ground or paint used, patches of colour can ‘sink’ and appear as matt areas over the painting. Applying a retouching varnish can even out these areas and unify the surface throughout the painting, and can be applied between stages as the painting builds. A final varnish can then be applied to provide the painting with a consistent finish, ready to show.

Darker areas of shadow and paintwork can also be brought to life with a varnish, giving a rich luscious quality and prevent them looking flat and dull.

Types of varnish

I normally use a retouching varnish to finish my work but before making a decision, there are a few points to consider. A gloss varnish will inevitably cause glare and reflect surrounding lights, depending on where the painting is hung. This can be a distraction for viewers who can’t get a good look at the work as a whole.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the June issue of The Artist. As we look forward to the UK summer Martin Taylor demonstrates how to paint a seasonal bluebell wood, whilst cover artist, Haidee-Jo Summers, invites us to join her in painting our gardens and focus on capturing light and colour. Learn how to control your watercolour brushwork with Hazel Soan, try sketching on the go with James Willis, bring your waves to life in your coastal scenes with Jenny Aitken, and know when and how to varnish your oil paintings with guidance from Graham Webber. Our top artist-contributors also offer advice, step-by-step demonstrations and inspirational practical features on working from different source material, painting characterful faces, how to select a core palette of colours for landscape painting, the benefits of working with water-mixable oils, the value of a positive wish list, and much more. Enter our various competitions with fantastic prizes up for grabs and understand how to use regular e-newsletters to promote your work with some great tips from our regular gallerist Mark David Hatwood. Enjoy developing your skills in all media with The Artist this month!