Solvent based varnishes will be fine for both oil and acrylic, while polymer based ones are only OK for acrylic paintings so please check before each one if it mentions A(crylic) OK / O(il) OK or A&O OK. We also stock some varnishes for watercolours and gouache please go the the relevant sections.

Gamblin‘s Gamar picture varnish, Golden : MSA (Mineral Spirit Acrylic) Varnish with UVLS both in liquid form and in an aerosol as well as their Polymer Varnish with UVLS, Langridge : Retouch Varnish / Damar Varnish / Picture Varnish (comes in Gloss, Satin and Mat) / Wax Varnish, Matisse & Atelier.

Why bother varnishing? It is the varnish’s function to prevent dirt, smoke, etc. altering the paint surface. It is much easier to remove a dirty varnish and replace it than to remove dirt from the painting itself, potentially damaging the paint-film. Some companies like Golden even suggest adding a layer of non removable Gel topcoat (their is with UVLS protection) to seal in acrylic paintings, if later the varnish has to be removed, there is then no chance of tampering with the actual paint layer.

A few varnishing rules… Acrylic paintings are ready to varnish after a few days (weeks if it’s really humid out there), whereas an oil painting should be allowed to fully “dry” for at the very least three months before final varnishing (some companies recommend up to a year!) and, obviously, the thicker the paint layer, the longer the drying time. If you wish to give temporary protection to an oil paint surface the application of Retouch Varnish is recommended (it is also useful to give you a sort of preview of the varnished work).  When you are ready to varnish, please remember that a couple or even three thin layers of vanish are much better (and in the long run faster to dry) than one heavy layer. If you are using a spray, we recommend you do it outside, on a non windy day, shake your can a long time (like two whole minutes!!) and then start spraying outside the surface you want to cover as sometimes the initial spray can deliver a heavier load of varnish. When you are applying with a brush, do not start at the top left corner (a reflex that comes from writing I suppose) but put two or three random patches in the middle than push one way the varnish to the borders than the other way. Let your layer thoroughly dry, then reapply. For a very glossy effect, you might wish to use a last layer of  gloss varnish spray as a little eye teaser… the micro particles tend to catch the light more than a compact layer. Whatever the method used, deep breathing and a little prayer might be in order before you proceed.

We stock all varnishes below in our three stores

  • Oil OK Gamblin : Gamar picture varnish: a low molecular synthetic resin varnish developed for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, with a high refractive index similar to that of natural resins and oils so colours are fully saturated to bring out the best in painting. Water clear, this Gamar varnish protects form dirt and dust without most of the drawbacks of other varnishes. It is easily removed with no damage to the painting, does not yellow and has a UV stabilizer.
  • Golden are reformulating their varnishes at present and so none are available…
  1. A&O OK MSA (Mineral Spirit Acrylic) Varnish with UVLS in Gloss, Satin and Matte : MSA varnish with UVLS is a Mineral Spirit Acrylic-borne resin system. MSA Varnish forms a tougher, less permeable film than waterborne acrylic emulsion varnishes. It reduces dirt penetration and surface marring, offering an extremely level film with less foam and fewer pinholes. Removable with turpentine after drying. Available in Gloss, Satin and Matte. Recommended for either interior or exterior use. For use on acrylics, oils, temperas, watercolors and various other media.
  2. A&O OK Archival Aerosol MSA (Mineral Spirit Acrylic) Varnish w/UVLS in Gloss, Satin, Matte: This Aerosol MSA Varnish w/UVLS provides a finish layer for fine artworks, is removable for conservation purposes, and offers excellent dirt, dust and moisture resistance in a flexible film. It is produced with clear, 100% acrylic solution polymer and contains UltraViolet Light filters and Stabilizers (UVLS) to provide archival protection, inhibiting light damage. These fast-drying, more convenient varnishes are available with a unique adjustable fan spray tip to allow for precise application with reduced overspray. The products adhere to a wide variety of surfaces and paint mediums, including acrylics, oils, alkyds, watercolors, temperas, and ink-jet prints. The 10 fl. oz. cans contain enough product to achieve approximately 25-30 square feet of coverage.
  3. A OK Polymer Varnish with UVLS is a waterborne acrylic polymer varnish that dries to a protective, flexible, dust resistant surface over acrylic paint. Removable with ammonia. Available in Gloss, Satin and Matte. NB: For future conservation and varnish removal purposes Golden recommend the use of an isolation coat prior to varnishing (such as Soft Gel or Gel Topcoat with UVLS).
  • Langridge
  1. O OK Retouch Varnish: Temporary varnish for paintings six months or younger. Revives dull areas caused by sinking in of paint. Helps adhesion of subsequent paint layers. Dries to a satin finish. Remove with Gum Turpentine.
  2. O (and Tempera) OK Damar Varnish: Used both as a final varnish and as a constituent of artists’ oil and egg tempera mediums. Dries hard and clear. Highest quality resin clarified before filtration. Dries to a satin-gloss finish. Remove with Gum Turpentine.
  3. A&O OK Picture Varnish (comes in Gloss, Satin and Mat):  Final varnish for the protection of oil and acrylic paintings. Unifies painting with an even optical reflection. Highest quality resin clarified before filtration. Remove with Gum Turpentine.
  4. A&O OK Wax Varnish: For oil and acrylic painting. Apply with a clean cloth and polish to desired finish. Dries naturally to a matt reflection but may be buffed to a satin finish if required. Remove with Gum Turpentine.
    1. OK MSA (Mineral Spirit Acrylic) Varnish. Available in Gloss, Satin and Matte.
    2. A OK Polymer Varnish. Available in Gloss, Satin and Matte.
  • NAM : O OK Retouching Varnish (non permanent) spray
  • NUART : A&O OK Value Gloss, Matt, and Satin Varnish sprays

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