Varnishing art can be a bit intimidating. You don’t want to damage your painting or drawing by coating it so you may be tempted not to varnish at all! Many people wonder if it is even necessary. Here’s why we think it is!
Coating your Originals:
Oil and acrylic paintings are varnished to even out surface gloss and to protect the paint surface. Dust and oil can build up on paintings and can be difficult to remove without abrading the surface of a painting – think of varnish as your sacrificial layer when a painting needs cleaning. If soup splatters across the room onto your painting you want to be able to clean it off without scrubbing off carefully applied layers of color. This is even more important with acrylic paints as they always remain somewhat tacky even when dry due to micro-pores in the surface film which will continue to gather grime from the atmosphere over the years.
Things to look for when choosing a varnish are: clarity of the film, ease of application, and removability. Watercolors and pastels do not have a surface film and therefore will mingle with any varnish applied to them – making the varnish job irreversible. This is one reason why pastels and watercolors are generally framed under glass. Another reason is that paper is so absorbent. If left exposed it will soak up moisture, grease and dust from the atmosphere.
Liquitex, and Golden both offer a wide array of varnishes made specifically for artwork.
IMPORTANT! Always test your varnish on a sample first, before applying it to a finished piece. Varnishing can have unexpected results and a smeared or cloudy original can be heartbreaking. Dry materials like pastel and charcoal will often darken and become less opaque when sprayed, so be prepared to touch up your sprayed drawing.
Why and how we coat your giclees:
Giclee prints on paper are generally destined to be framed behind glass and therefore are not coated. Canvas giclees do need to be coated. They are printed with pigment inks which remain somewhat water-soluble when dry. Depending on the type of substrate they can also be quite delicate – subject to scuffs and scratches. We coat your canvas giclees to protect them from physical damage and also to add UV protection. With a good quality pigment, substrate, and UV protection your giclees can last up to 200 years. As with originals we can coat your canvas giclees to give you the level of surface gloss you prefer. We have several different products we use to give you the exact finish you’re looking for.