Decorative Painting Tips: Varnishing



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Varnishing Guide


Read the full Varnishing Guide

  • Before varnishing, check your project completely - use a big brush to brush the surface completely so that any dust particles are removed. If you have left your project unvarnished for a long time, there may also be grime on your surface. Wiping with a soft cloth will usually work.

  • A good practise before varnishing is to apply a coat of Clear Glazing Medium to your finished work. This will give you a very hard, durable surface upon which to apply the varnish. It also protects your finished work.

  • Slip-slap varnishing is a wonderful way to give an "old world" look to your painted projects. It gives a beautiful "burnished" matte look to the finish. This is a technique that Jo Sonja has taught in her studio for the past several years. Mix Jo Sonja's water-based varnish with Flow Medium in the ratio of 3 : 1. The Flow Medium is a "flattening agent", which, when added to paint or varnish, causes the cell walls of the paint or varnish to dissolve, therefore, allowing the paint to flow, or spread out onto the surface without ridges or clumps. Load your varnishing brush with the mixture - only enough to fill the brush and careful not to overload - and apply to your surface in "slip-slap", criss-cross brush strokes. Work the varnish in to your project working small areas at a time before reloading the brush. Allow the surface to dry. Just takes a few minutes, and then apply two more coats of varnish in the same manner, drying well between each layer.

  • To repair "bubbly varnish" on your project: be sure the varnish has completely dried on your project. Tear off a piece of wet and dry 600 grit sandpaper, about 2" X 2" and soak it in water with a few drops of dishwashing liquid, for about 15 minutes. Dampen your project surface with the same water. Placing the sand paper on the surface, put your index and middle finger on the paper and very gently move the sandpaper over the surface, until the surface is smooth. The dishwashing liquid acts as a lubricant and the position of your fingers prevents you from pressing too hard and going through the old varnish to the painting. Let your surface dry at least overnight, don't be impatient. Don't worry if you see blotches on your project, it will disappear when you apply the new layer of varnish. Thin the varnish with distilled water, and apply one smooth coat. That may be all you need, or you can follow with more thinned coats.

  • In cold weather, try not to wear woolen (real or acrylic) clothing when you're varnishing. Bits of fibre tend to find their way onto your project. You won't be able to remove them once you're finished varnishing and its quite frustrating.


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