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  1. #1
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    Varnishing oils?

    I was wondering. How long until you are able to apply varnish on top of an oil painting, from completion. Also, if anyone knows, When can you sell a oil painting after it is finished, do you actually have to wait that 7 months drying time??

    Thanks guys.

    ~JB


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  3. #2
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    ive heard you can apply the varnish as soon as once your done painting, or after several months after the painting dries.

    but then again i dont use the stuff so dont quote me on that
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    I *think* that the standard drying time is about 6 months, but I reckon a lot probably depends on the consistency of the oils (how much linseed you've used etc.) I imagine that if you've done some impasto work with lots of linseed oil then it will probably take the full 6 months to dry out properly. Adding a varnish too soon might cause your paint to crack. But then again, if your paint has been thinned a lot, then it might only need a month or two to dry.

    I'm not 100% sure if I'm right as my memory generally sucks and it's been so long since I've done any oil painting!

    All the best
    JK

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    Quote Originally Posted by JustinBeckett
    I was wondering. How long until you are able to apply varnish on top of an oil painting, from completion.
    Depends on how thick the paint is, what pigments and mediums you used etc.
    Once it's touch dry you can use retouch varnish to bring the colours back up and provide a temporary varnish.

    When can you sell a oil painting after it is finished, do you actually have to wait that 7 months drying time??
    See above.

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    6 months is the mimimum accepted curing time for normal drying oils of average thickness, 12 months for heavier impastos. Faster drying (alkyds) or thin paintings can cure in 1-2 months. Retouch can be used after @ 1-2 weeks. If you use retouch, lay it on very thin or its solvents could get to the still curing paint. I've sold paintings or sent off works that have been lightly coated with retouch, and then later added a final or advised the buyer when to do it themselves.

  7. #6
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    ultimately, the time frame depends on the way you paint.
    if you add driers, its shorter.
    if you paint thick, longer.
    the recommended time frame is just an estimate.

    once the painting is dry to the touch (about a week for me),
    you can apply a retouch varnish.
    unlike a final picture varnish, a retouch varnish allows the painting to "breath".
    the surface may be dry, but the lower layers are not.
    with this sort of varnish, the painting can continue to dry in its regular way, while still having a nice gloss.

    partly, what makes the retouch varnish "breathable", is a higher distillant content.
    this also makes its gloss fade eventually, a few years or so.
    retouch varnish is considered and intermediate varnish, you use it before the painting is truly complete.
    you can even use it between coats of paint.

    once the painting is done, and has sat around long enough to FULLY dry (about 3 months for me, i dont paint very thick), you can use a final picture varnish.
    unlike retouch, this varnish does NOT breath.
    imagine it like a layer of glass over your painting.

    a few things to keep in mind:

    IF your painting is not fully dry, the varnish will eventually crack.
    this is due to the paint layers contracting beneath the surface of the vanish.
    weather can do this as well.

    do not varnish on humid days.
    varnish is oil based, and can trap moisture between it and the painting.
    this is called bloom, and will create a cloudy fog across the surface of your work.

    also, as a personal preference, i do not use damar varnishes.
    i prefer synthetics.
    damar is a resin, and dries VERY hard and enamel like (like amber).
    it depends on what mediums and surfaces you are using when you paint,
    but my methods have always jived a little better with sythetics.

    oh yeah,
    as for selling the painting.
    i often sell originals after the initial coat of retouch.
    i then have the client ship me the painting back, or i go visit them, to apply a final coat a year later.

    hope that helps!
    - Dan Dos Santos
    www.dandossantos.com

  8. #7
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    I've actually never applied the actual real-deal varnish to any paintings I've sold, only retouch. I don't know, I guess i generally don't have paintings done 6 months before a show. Nobody has ever contacted me about updating the varnish either.

    A teacher I had in school also told us something about cleaning and reapplying every 5-10 years, but I don't really remember the whole story so I'll leave that questionable ball in somebody elses' court.
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  9. #8
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    Thank you guys, makes much more sense now. Now for another question. Well, since you can't varnish right away, your painting sits there for a while, it gets dusty, the dust sticks to the painting...How do you store the painting? I just have mine sitting on my easil for a while, or on a table somewhere, but that doesn't seem to work, i get dust on it, and i hate dust! Can you wrap the painting with something? So the dust doesnt stick to it..

    `JB

  10. #9
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    I wouldn't cover it with anything which is going to touch the surface until you are dead certain that the surface paint is dry (obviously), but you should be fine just tipping it against the wall, image side in. Once your surface is dry enough for retouch (and/or once your retouch is dry) I don't know any reason not to cover it, say with a sheet of velum. I've never had any problems just so long as the painted surface is in no danger of getting scratched. Will this cause the paint to take longer to fully dry? I don't know. Depends on how air-tight it is I suppose.

    You can always dust it off with a big soft mop brush before varnishing too.
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    Oh thanks for that Dave, very useful tips.

    By the way, DS, thanks alot for that huge amount of info.

    ~JB

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JustinBeckett
    it gets dusty, the dust sticks to the painting
    this used to happen all the time to me.
    surprisingly, the 2 main culprits are:
    dust in my brushes (while im painting)
    and CARPET!
    if you are painting in a room with a carpet, get it out of there... it will make a mess of your piece.
    - Dan Dos Santos
    www.dandossantos.com

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    Hey DS, thanks. Ok, yeah, the dust can definetely be taken care of in my brushes, just by rinsing, i assume. As for what you said, "get it out of there" did you mean, the carpet or the painting?

    ~JB

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    Quote Originally Posted by JustinBeckett
    the carpet or the painting?
    The better and easier solution.

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    For Thick Impasto, One Year

    Since I do mostly impasto, I would say no less than a year. If you're just doing glazes, I think you only need to wait 4 months. If you're using damar varnish, the time is shortened, I believe.

    It also depends what the ground is. If you were foolish enough to use an acrylic gesso under your oils, then the oil will never insert its tentacles into the ground as it would if you had used the correct rabbit-skin glue ground.

  16. #15
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    If you were foolish enough to use an acrylic gesso under your oils, then the oil will never insert its tentacles into the ground as it would if you had used the correct rabbit-skin glue ground.
    though it will also be far less likely to give you a great big crack or spiderweb if anything should happen to tap it a few years down the road. Personally, I've yet to see or read any evidence that gesso is harmful to your painting.
    "Every little step considered one at a time is not terribly daunting" - Ethan Coen

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    Thanks again guys.

    Dave, i just have to say, i have never really taken a look at your website. Now i have. I really enjoyed looking at your work, you have some really great work.

    ~JB

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    Hey, I've got another varnish question... I just started varinshing quite a few of my paintings, They're all 6 months old. I'm using Windsor Newton Artist's Gloss Varnish and Artist's Matt Varnish mixed in a ratio of about 3 to 1 for a semi-gloss (The package says you can do this.) And I'm also warming it until it's clear before I use it (as instructed on the Artist's Matt Varnish bottle because it has bees wax in it.) I am also wiping the surface of my paintings clean and letting them dry for a day before varnishing.

    So I think I'm doing everything right, here's my question... Most of the time, if not all of the time, the varnish is being resisted by my paitings when I brush it on and it beads off in some areas. I seem to be able to overcome this problem by rubbing the varnish on in a circular motion with a clean rag instead of applying it with a brush. Has anyone else experienced this issue? Do you know why? Is there anything wrong with rubbing varnish on istead of brushing it? I use just cold pressed linseed oil as a medium.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobRey
    Most of the time, if not all of the time, the varnish is being resisted by my paitings when I brush it on and it beads off in some areas.
    hahaha!
    i have had this problem for SOOOOOO long.
    its not the varnish, its the painting.

    this happens a lot in areas that have a lot of white for me, or areas that have a lot of medium mixed into the paint.
    the trouble is, whether it be the medium or the paint, that the paint's consistancy is so enamel like that it is impermeable.
    this is one of the primary reasons i dont use damar in my mediums...
    it dries like a rock!

    check the ingredients of your paint, and try to make sure they are all the same.
    for the most part, they will all be linseed oil.
    but look at your white... it may have linseed oil AND safflower oil.
    very few brands use just linseed oil in their white, gamblin is one of them.
    use paints that use JUST linseed oil, and use only linseed oil mediums (and solvent), and this problem should go away.

    ideally, your medium should simply dillute the paint.
    water colors, you add water.
    linseed based oil paints, you add linseed oil.
    keeping the paint consistant will help a LOT.

    if it still happens, you are still using too much oil.
    in this case, try using more solvent than oil to dillute your paint.

    well, thats my philosophy anyways...
    i know a lot of people may argue with it, but it works for me.
    - Dan Dos Santos
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  20. #19
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    As Dan said, the paint surface has become quite slick, but I don't believe you necessarily need to restrict your medium of choice. When this beading up problem has happened to me, resins have helped the surface become more sticky, but it still often needs to be worked in. I suspect the beeswax content may be giving you the extra trouble. Rubbing on the varnish is not necessarily worse than brushing and is usually recommended with waxes, but can risk getting an uneven coat, so be careful about that. I like Golden's MSA varnish, myself.

  21. #20
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    Pretty much what dan said, you'd never guess this gut paints in oils.........alot!!!
    "There are three classes of people: those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see.”

    "When it takes forever to learn the rules, no time is left for breaking them"

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    Quote Originally Posted by DSillustration
    the trouble is, whether it be the medium or the paint, that the paint's consistancy is so enamel like that it is impermeable.
    this is one of the primary reasons i dont use damar in my mediums...
    it dries like a rock!

    check the ingredients of your paint, and try to make sure they are all the same.
    for the most part, they will all be linseed oil.
    but look at your white... it may have linseed oil AND safflower oil.
    very few brands use just linseed oil in their white, gamblin is one of them.
    use paints that use JUST linseed oil, and use only linseed oil mediums (and solvent), and this problem should go away.
    Dan, i hate to tell you this, but the main reason for beading on dry layers is... too much oil.
    Resins are actually supposed to help with the problem, not contribute to it.
    The traditional solution to beading/trickling paint (when working in multiple layers, not necessarily for final varnishing) was to rub the painting with a cut onion or potato (!).
    When this happens I'd recommend brushing the varnish layer out repeatedly with a large, soft brush rather than rubbing it in.

    Tristan Elwell
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  23. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell
    The traditional solution to beading/trickling paint (when working in multiple layers, not necessarily for final varnishing) was to rub the painting with a cut onion or potato (!).
    I always wondered about the onion rubbing thing, thanks.

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    That all makes a lot of sense, I do tend to use a lot of medium when I paint.

    I've also heard in the past that safflower oil is a bad thing, but I've never heard why. Windsor Newton talks about it like it's better than linseed, but I've never entirely trusted that.

    Thanks Elwell for the onion/potato thing, I'm intruiged... how does that work? does it break down the oil? add starch?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elwell
    Dan, i hate to tell you this, but the main reason for beading on dry layers is... too much oil.
    Resins are actually supposed to help with the problem, not contribute to it.
    The traditional solution to beading/trickling paint (when working in multiple layers, not necessarily for final varnishing) was to rub the painting with a cut onion or potato (!).
    When this happens I'd recommend brushing the varnish layer out repeatedly with a large, soft brush rather than rubbing it in.
    like i said:
    Quote Originally Posted by ds
    if it still happens, you are still using too much oil.
    in this case, try using more solvent than oil to dillute your paint.

    well, thats my philosophy anyways...
    i know a lot of people may argue with it, but it works for me.
    - Dan Dos Santos
    www.dandossantos.com

  26. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobRey
    ..I'm intruiged... how does that work? does it break down the oil? add starch?
    From what I've read, it's the acid in the onion and starch in the potato that are somewhat useful as cleaning agents, but don't really affect the oil that much. They leave a slight film behind that the subsequent oils or resins can adhere to.

    FYI:
    http://palimpsest.stanford.edu/byfor...1996/0351.html

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