The right time to varnish

24 Feb 2009

Q: I finished an acrylic painting about two weeks ago. Last week I added some highlights to the piece, and this week I began varnishing the artwork. When I applied the varnish, the paint lifted up in a small area of the painting. What happened? How long should I let a painting dry before I varnish it?

: Acrylic paints dry very quickly while oil paints take six months to a year to cure completely. Oil-based varnish could cause the paint to lift because it takes a longer time to dry properly and the paint will come off if the varnish is not completely dry. If your canvas is primed with an oil-based gesso or primer, the acrylic paint may also have lifted because you cannot apply water over oil. If you paint with acrylic on an oil-based canvas, the acrylic will peel away.

--by Camille LaPointe-Lyons

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