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How to Varnish Your Oil Paintings

You shoul learn how to varnish your oil paintings as part of your artistic training.

Varnishing protects the finished painting from dirt and moisture and at the same time brightens the areas that have dried dull, producing an even sheen on the entire surface of the painting.

However, a final varnish should not be applied until the painting is thoroughly dry.

Some paintings dry more slowly than others, so it is wise to allow a minimum of at least three months.

In the meantime retouch varnish can serve as a temporary measure. This can be applied as soon as the painting is dry to the touch.

I find copal picture varnish very satisfactory for the final varnishing: It dries with a hard finish.

Make certain that the painting is clean before applying the final varnish.

Use a lintless cloth to remove any dust that may have accumulated in the three-month drying period.

Pour a small amount of varnish into a dish, so that it is easily accessible with the brush, and use a soft housepainter's brush of 1-inch to 1½-inch width.

Place the painting in a horizontal position and varnish as uniformly as possible, overlapping each stroke slightly to make certain that all of it is varnished.

Leave the painting in a horizontal position until dry, otherwise the varnish will run.

For an added gloss you can repeat the above process on the following day.

Varnish can also be applied with a spray. Special cans are available which have built-in atomizers for spraying the varnish evenly.

Avoid varnishing a painting on a damp day, because the drying will be considerably retarded.

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Rokeby Venus, by Velazquez


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