Should I Varnish My Painting?
Varnish serves 2 main purposes: to unify the appearance of a picture surface and to protect the surface from UV rays and dirt.
Varnish is available Acryic based, Oil based and Polymer based.
How Do You Remove Varnish?
In order to answer this question it is important to identify what kind of varnish you are removing. Here is a quick overview for the removal methods of the various varnishes on sale at Jackson's Art Supplies:
Liquitex Satin and Matte varnishes (all codes begin with ‘AX3905’)
Liquitex Gloss Medium and Varnish (all codes begin with ‘AX3901’)
Lascaux Transparent UV Protect varnish
AV Quick Drying Gloss Varnish
AV Acrylic Spray Varnish
Montana Acrylic Spray Varnish
Pebeo Vitrail Varnishes
Jackson’s Acrylic Polymer Varnishes
Winsor and Newton General Purpose Spray Craft Varnish
Marabu Aqualack Varnish
Genesis Heat Set Oil Painting Varnishes
Daler Rowney Poster and Watercolour Varnish
Removable with Distilled or Rectified Turpentine (Do not use odourless mineral spirits):
Liquitex Soluvar Varnish
Golden MSA Varnish is removable with distilled or rectified turpentine once dry.
Michael Harding Varnishes
Roberson Dammar Varnish
Jackson’s Picture Varnish
Winsor and Newton Dammar Varnish
Winsor and Newton Artists’ Varnish
Winsor and Newton Artisan Watermixable Varnishes
Winsor and Newton Retouching Varnishes
Robersons Retouching Varnish
Daler Rowney Soluble Varnish
Removable with White Spirit:
Royal Talens Retouching Varnish
Marabulack Spray Varnish
Golden Archival Aerosol Varnishes
Removable with Ammonia:
Golden Polymer Varnish
Other means of removing:
Winsor and Newton Artists’ Acrylic Gloss, Matt and Satin Varnishes can all be removed with Winsor and Newton’s Acrylic Varnish Remover
Zest It Varnishes – Removable with Zest It
How to remove varnish - method
Some varnishes will have removal instructions on their label. The instructions on how to remove varnish on the Golden website offer good advice that on the whole, can be applied to the removal of most varnishes (providing you always use the appropriate substance for removing it with, as stated above). The advice that they give is as follows:
‘A good procedure for removing the varnish is to start with a soft, low lint cloth (50/50 cotton/polyester T-shirt material works well). Saturate this cloth in ammonia and lay over an area of the varnished surface. If possible, work with the painting in a horizontal position, on a table or floor.
If the work must be done vertically, as on a wall, a method would have to be devised for keeping the saturated cloth in contact with the varnished surface. In either case, to minimize evaporation, use a plastic sheet to blanket the saturated cloth.
Work in areas no larger than 2 square feet per application. Larger areas tend to become cumbersome and make thorough varnish removal difficult. Allow the saturated cloth to lie on the painting for 2-5 minutes. Before removing it, use a clean ammonia-dampened cloth to gently pat the surface to remove the varnish. Note: excessive force may damage the paint layers below the varnish. Repeat this process until the entire painting surface has been treated.
After a single treatment over the complete surface of the painting, some residual varnish may remain. Repeat the procedure, and continue doing so until the varnish has been sufficiently removed. Additional ammonia exposure may result in some swelling of the underlying paint layer’.
Please note that all fine art varnish manufacturers do recommend that removing varnish should be avoided if at all possible, as it can alter the appearance of the paint surface with improper handling. However there are occasions when there have been problems in the application of a varnish and the artist may need to remove the applied varnish in order to re-apply successfully.