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Overcoming the fear of varnishing

Updated: May 2


Although I love the look of a varnished painting, I must confess I've always been a little bit afraid of the varnishing part of the process. I did this post on my Instagram account when I thought I was ready to share my own varnishing thoughts, after trying to answer my multiple questions by watching videos and tutorials on Youtube, reels on Instagram, reading some blog posts or asking other artists or in art shops.

My doubts about varnishing

  • I do mix media; is there any varnish for all mediums?

  • Do I need to just paint with dry mediums or just wet mediums to varnish with the exact correct product?

  • If I use charcoal to sketch my painting, should I fix it first?

  • And if I use watercolor during the process? Should I fix it too? And Chinese ink? And pastels? What about oil pastels?

And above all...

Will varnishing ruin my painting?

My conclusions

First of all, I need to make clear that I am not an expert and these are the conclusions I got from watching, listening and reading a lot from other artists. These conclusions, then, may not be correct, and I would be more than happy to receive corrections or any other recommendation.

However, I put this right here so anyone who may have similar doubts can try what I have tried.

  • There is no specific varnish for mixed media, so you need to learn as much as you can about varnishes to decide which one will serve you better.

  • I can definitely mix dry and wet mediums in a painting, but I need to know that a varnish that I use for one may not work for the other one.

  • I like to keep it simple and fix everything I can. The truth, is that I only have a fixative for charcoal, pastels or colored pencils. I have used it before for oil pastels to try, but it does not work very well. It fixes them a bit but not completely. I know that there is a fixative for them specifically, so this probably works. If I use oil pastels, I then don't fix them and use a spray varnish at the end.

  • If I only use watercolors I use a watercolors spray varnish for them. If I mix them with other mediums the spray varnish for acrylics and oils works just fine.

  • If it is only acrylics and oils, I prefer to use a liquid varnish. However, you must know that oil cannot be varnished before it is completely dry (which may take you about six months). I think the one that I use is the only one that you can use when it is dry to the touch (which takes you around two to ten days).


The exact products that have helped me overcome the fear of varnishing


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