Finishing coatings for acrylics

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Rick Schimpf wrote
on 13 Feb 2011 12:59 PM

I've read differing opinions about applying varnish or other material to paintings. Is it a good idea to coat an acrylic painting or leave it alone? If it should be coated, what is recommended?

Thanks

Rick

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Rick Schimpf wrote
on 8 Mar 2011 1:35 PM

Since asking about this issue here at ArtistDaily, I’ve obtained some information that I thought I’d share. Those that have had training may already know what I’ve learned about this but those of us that are self-taught and still learning may not have stumbled across this information. So here’s what I’ve learned. Hopefully, m y sharing will aid someone else.

Acrylic paintings are very durable and acrylic paint can withstand some abusive treatment but covering them is the best practice.  If the painting is to be framed in glass, you may be able to get away without placing a finish coating on it but it would still be better to coat it before framing.

The reason for coating paintings is to protect them from various environmental conditions. Even the cleanest of homes or galleries can still expose artwork to dust and deposits from heating systems. Additionally, placing a finishing coating over your painting enhances the colors and detail in them.

Varnish is the tried and true coating for artwork. I thought about more modern material such as polyurethane but from what I’ve read, polyurethane may cause shrinkage to your painting as well as crack and peel after a period of time.

I’ve started coating my paintings with a gloss spray varnish made by “Winsor & Newton” and the difference in the view of the painting is remarkable. The varnish levels out the entire surface of the painting and gives it a truly finished appearance. I’m not recommending one brand over another. I selected “Winsor & Newton” because it is a name I’m familiar with and this varnish is removable. Other brands may be as good or better but whichever you choose, it is recommended that the varnish be removable in case you want to modify the painting at some point in the future.

One point of caution that I read – if you plan on photographing your painting, take the picture before varnishing it. From what I’ve read, the gloss of the varnish will detrimentally affect the picture.

 Hope this helps someone out there and if I’ve mis-spoke, please let me know.

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judyl40 wrote
on 11 Mar 2011 12:02 PM

Hi Rick. I've always varnished my acrylics, preferring gloss over matte. It darkens my darks, lightens my whites & creates a smooth uniform finish over the work to protect it from UV or any environmental factors.

The best place to start is to read the information on whatever products you are using. Most manufacturers of artists' supports, paints, mediums, varnishes, etc. have all kinds of info on their websites. Some even have video demos.

One of my favourite websites is amien.org for all types of unbiased information on artists products, techniques & methods. (Amien stands for Art Materials Information and Education Network.)

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Rick Schimpf wrote
on 11 Mar 2011 7:45 PM

Thanks for your comments and the tip about amien.org. I'll check it out. Varnishing is the way to go and I should have known that long ago. Somewhere I got the idea acrylics didn't need to be varnished but that sure isn't correct. I spent part of today cleaning and rearranging some old unvarnished paintings. What I found were some paintings with dirty stains because they weren't protected.

Another  "knucklehead U." lesson learned! 

Thanks again

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crowdaddy wrote
on 27 Mar 2011 1:30 PM

Rick, thank you because I've been wondering this also.  I have done all three, where you frame with glass and not varnish.  Some of mine have  been around for 35yrs, I see no deterioration at all.

In fact the surface is still great.  Also tells you I haven't sold them, but that's another story.  I have many with no varnish on canvas (no glass) and they do look slightly like the whites or lights could stand a clean up before they go marketing.  I was wondering if this maybe somewhat because I now paint with more intense colors than years ago, I suspect both reasons. Anyway I'm about to use a varnish on a couple of pieces, windsor newton also, but matte finish.  Like semi gloss, here goes.  Good luck, with yours.  I let you know how they turn out when done.

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Rick Schimpf wrote
on 29 Mar 2011 1:03 PM

One of the many nice things about this site is the exchange of experiences we have had and information we can give. For me, it's nice to know others like yourself have traveled or are traveling along the same learning paths as I. I've have had many starts and stops with my painting. There are times I wonder if  I'll ever learn "the right way" or if there is such a thing.

Since I posted my question, I've varnished about 10 paintings and I like the effect of the varnished finish. However, I'm experiencing a storage problem with my paintings. My "studio" also is my work bench area, and my "can't put it any place else" area. My problem is how to store the paintings so that they take a minimum amount of space, don't get scratched, dirtied, torn and so forth. 

My current dream is to have enough good product that someone will want to at least have shown in a gallery or sold through a gallery. My nightmare is that I'll convince a gallery manager or owner to allow my work to be shown, and then take paintings from storage only to find them somehow damaged.

Paranoia - isn't it great!

 

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crowdaddy wrote
on 29 Mar 2011 3:19 PM

Rick it sounds like you had quite a few ready to go.  Yes, its nice to talk with people about working, and I have problems with info now and then, so I said windsor newton varnish, its liquitex, and I said matte finish and its brilliant.  Well, I don't get too hung up about that stuff but thought I'd let you know, I haven't finishe the painting, it is  a tough one.  I'm used to marine scenes and these trees are difficult that I'm working on.  Great foreground and no style to the trees yet. 

I have the advantage of being able to take my time.  A recent luxury, and as far as storing goes, just make sure they don't absorb moisture. Stack? or shelve.  Yes, we have to find places to put things.

Since you are an artist maybe work out a floor plan.  I know it is difficult because you want to paint.

If you take the time to organize, it eventually pays off in garnering paint time. Just don't look at my studio without tripping over paper, foam board, wood strips, its a nightmare.    Who am I to give advice about organizing?  Later

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Rick Schimpf wrote
on 5 Apr 2011 11:12 AM

Well, I've taken your advice. I've built a storage cabinet out of scrap wood. It's really a stretch to call it a cabinet but by being located in the back of  the house it works. I've still got a long way to go rearranging and perhaps getting rid of things but it's a start.

Thanks for the gentle verbal kick in the butt. Hope your trees are coming along.

Rick

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crowdaddy wrote
on 11 Apr 2011 11:21 AM

Rick, I think that was a smart move to follow your dream, and eliminate wories about perishing products. And the thrifty way you did it, demonstrates your ability to be resourceful.  My trees are much better.  I used a combination of browns, purples, and grey washes and opaque textures to lighten everything up. They blend in better now IIMHO and look to be a part of the design.

I'm going to have to pick up my stuff and put it in my storage racks, I too built out of scraps, but somehow the things that are supposed to be in it are now spread all over.  It's back to work!  Good luck to you.

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Jay Babina wrote
on 13 Apr 2011 7:13 AM

Here's what I use: 

http://www.amazon.com/Liquitex-Acrylic-Polymer-Varnishes-Varnish/dp/B002YKSJZ2

 

I don't like my paintings too glossy but not flat either. I apply it with a scrap of cotton cloth (old T-shirt piece) which also doesn't flood it too much because I don't want it too glossy. I have also used hardware store acrylic varnish (satin) but I trust the art brands more because I worry about a shift in color over the years - like yellowing.

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crowdaddy wrote
on 13 Apr 2011 9:50 AM

Jay,

Yes, too much gloss and it creates some annoying flashes and glares.  Your method sounds interesting.  I'm so glad to have other artists to listen to right now.  It really helps.  Because, I have found myself in the work area, straightening. In the winter, its all I can do to heat the studio, and wait until it is warm enought to work.  I'm not having that issue now.  I'm feeling a resurgence and I have 10 students right now that are keeping me focused.  I'm not ready to varnish, I'm taking my time and am going to wait until after May 7 when this teaching round is done.  I have watercolors I'm working on for demonstrations.  Its all fun.  It makes me so grateful that I can do this.  Good luck to you Jay.

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Rick Schimpf wrote
on 19 Apr 2011 9:47 AM

Thanks Crowdaddy, Jay, and everyone for the discussions on this subject. I had no idea how much response my original question would bring about nor the information resulting from the responses. 

I think the ideas shared here are find examples of the meaning of art. There are no real prescribed methods for accomplishment of a goal. However, some methods prove to be better than others and this forum give learning opportunities to all wanting to participate.

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crowdaddy wrote
on 19 Apr 2011 10:48 AM

You're welcome, and thank you Rick and Jay. cd

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Jimi Jam wrote
on 16 Feb 2013 4:02 PM

Hi Rick

 Somehow, I hooked onto this question. I have always used Benjamin Moore 'Stays Clear' acylic polyurethane. Of course, polyurethane will add an amber color but the Stays Clear does not. I've never had a problem. Actually I think poly is a varnish but varnish is natural and poly is chemical. It's affordable, low odor, low VOCs. It comes flat, low lustre, gloss. I actually like the glossy finish which I consider part of a style. I apply it evenly with one of those disposable foam brushes. I think the spray 'textures' Try it on a small painting you're not so crazy about. Wish you well.  

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Rick Schimpf wrote
on 17 Feb 2013 9:01 AM

Hi Jimi Jam. Thanks for your response and sharing your experiences. Since I posted this question, I've learned a lot from others like yourself at Artist Daily. I now coat all of my paintings with a gloss finish. I've also learned that it is better to not put coated paintings in a glass frame. I recently had a bad experience of trying to remove a painting that had a glass cover only to find I apparently didn't allow enough drying time or provide enough air space between the glass and the painting. When attempting to remove the painting, I found it to be attached to the glass. Fortunately, I was in a good frame of mind and slowly warmed the glass with a hair dryer. Eventually, the glass and painting separated without damage  to the painting. Lesson learned!

Also, I was advised by the owner of a gallery that displayed my work that paintings show better without glass because there is less chance of glare.

I'm still learning and I again thank you and everyone that participates at ArtistDaily. The advice and encouragement I've received hasbeen great.

Rick

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