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VARNISHING WATERCOLOURS

CAUTION: The varnishing of watercolour paintings is a non-reversible addition to the artwork that will permanently change both the nature and appearance of the piece. Understanding these issues as well as performing application testing is critical before applying any varnish to a watercolour painting.

 

Watercolour paintings are very fragile and easily damaged if not protected. Traditionally framing the watercolour under glass has been the solution. It is possible to varnish watercolour paintings with minimal change to the colour and texture of the painting and to make the varnish completely removable with the use of an isolation coat. Without an isolation coat the varnish becomes a permanent component of the painting.

 

ISSUES TO CONSIDER

  • Application of a varnish and/or an isolation coat will change the appearance, texture and feel of the substrate of a watercolour painting. If done properly this change can be minimal.
  • Gloss varnish or mediums can darken colours
  • Satin and matte varnishes and mediums can lighten colours
  • The physical barrier offered by the glass and frame will be gone
  • When shipping artwork, contact between the varnished painting and packing materials should be minimal.
  • A varnished watercolour painting may be considered mixed media by some watercolour societies once acrylic varnish is applied
  • A varnish or isolation coat can become permanent components of the painting due to the absorbent nature of the watercolour substrate
  • Photograph painting prior to varnish application to minimize glare
  • When varnishing watercolour paintings, be aware that although an increased number of coats will result in greater protection against UV radiation, it also reduces the textural quality of the paper and paint.

 

LAYERS APPLIED FOR A REMOVABLE VARNISH

 

FIXATIVE: 1st layer applied to finished watercolour painting

  • A sprayable coating that would fix or secure the watercolour painting to the surface it was painted on
  • Allows isolation coats, varnishes and other media to be applied over watercolour paintings without causing bleeding or streaking.

 

Use GOLDEN Archival Varnish Gloss (aerosol) to fix the watercolour painting. Apply 2-3 evenly sprayed coats depending on sensitivity of watercolour painting.

 

ISOLATION COAT: 2nd layer applied over fixative

  • An isolation coat is a permanent coating that goes over the painting and under the varnish
  • The isolation coat protects the painting if the varnish is ever removed due to damage
  • The isolation coat reduces and evens out the absorbency of the painting so the varnish can be uniformly applied

 

For a brushable isolation coat slowly and thoroughly mix 2 parts GOLDEN Soft Gel Gloss with 1 part water. Brush over fixed watercolour using a soft broad brush that holds a lot of material. 1-2 coats should be sufficient.

 

For a sprayable isolation coat (for use with an airbrush or other spray equipment) mix 2 parts GOLDEN GAC 500 to 1 part GOLDEN Airbrush Transparent Extender. 1-2 coats should be sufficient.

 

VARNISH : 3rd layer applied over isolation coat

  • A varnish functions as a tough yet flexible protective film over artwork.
  • It is designed to reduce damage caused by humidity, dust, dirt, smoke, ultra violet radiation, scuffs and scratches.
  • Varnish is, ideally, a removable coating that should endure environmental abuses that would otherwise compromise the longevity of artwork (removability is possible with the use of an isolation coat).

 

GOLDEN MSA Varnish, GOLDEN Archival Varnish or GOLDEN Polymer Varnish may be applied over the isolation coat. If brushing 2-3 coats are recommended and 4-6 coats if spray applied. Please test all of these materials and applications to a test piece prior to final application to minimize issues and familiarize yourself with the materials.

 

LAYERS APPLIED FOR A NON-REMOVABLE VARNISH

 

VARNISH : 1st layer applied over watercolour painting

  • A varnish functions as a tough yet flexible protective film over artwork.
  • It is designed to reduce damage caused by humidity, dust, dirt, smoke, ultra violet radiation, scuffs and scratches.
  • Varnish is, ideally, a removable coating that should endure environmental abuses that would otherwise compromise the longevity of artwork (removability is possible with the use of an isolation coat).
  • When applied on weakly bound media like watercolour paint films, varnish also has the ability to seal and hold the pigment and binder in place on the paper, but in doing so removal is not possible.

 

GOLDEN MSA Varnish or GOLDEN Archival Varnish may be applied directly to the watercolour painting, spray application is highly recommended. Polymer Varnish and other water based varnishes are not recommended for direct application as this could result in bleeding of the watercolour painting.

 

 

Recommended Varnishes

GOLDEN Archival Varnish is a mineral spirit based acrylic aerosol varnish that is formulated with UVLS (Ultra Violet Light Stabilizers) to reduce the effects of UV radiation. It creates a tough but flexible film that is suitable for interior as well as exterior applications. It can be utilized as a fixative or final varnish. If used over an isolation coat it can be safely removed. Available in gloss, satin or matte. Use gloss varnish prior to satin or matte to best retain the original colour. Application of satin or matte varnishes directly to an absorbent surface can result in a lightening of colour.

 

GOLDEN MSA Varnish is a mineral spirit based acrylic varnish that is formulated with UVLS (Ultra Violet Light Stabilizers) to reduce the effects of UV radiation. It creates a tough but flexible film that is suitable for interior as well as exterior applications. It is a final varnish. If used over an isolation coat it can be safely removed. Can be thinned for brushing or spraying with MSA Solvent or rectified and distilled turpentine. Available in gloss, satin or matte. Use gloss varnish prior to satin or matte to best retain the original colour. Application of satin or matte varnishes directly to an absorbent surface can result in a lightening of colour.

 

GOLDEN Polymer Varnish is a water based acrylic varnish that is formulated with UVLS (Ultra Violet Light Stabilizers) to reduce the effects of UV radiation. It is less effective in providing UV protection than MSA or Archival Varnish. There is a concern in using water based materials over water sensitive media since this can lead to bleeding or streaking, especially when brush applied. . It is a final varnish. If used over an isolation coat it can be safely removed. Can be thinned for brushing or spraying with water. Available in gloss, satin or matte. Use gloss varnish prior to satin or matte to best retain the original colour. Application of satin or matte varnishes directly to an absorbent surface can result in a lightening of colour.

Information provided by GOLDEN ARTIST COLORS

 

 


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