When to use retouching varnish.

Retouching varnish

Once finished a painting there may arise glossy and matte or flat areas in the canvas. That looks not nice, especially exposed in wrong lighting. It is caused by a combination of the colour used, the type and amount of thinning agent added and the absorption of the ground.

The amount of oil in the paint as well as the amount of solvent that is added can vary per colour. It´s called sunken-in areas and it has nothing to do with a bad painting technique. Treating the sunken-in areas, once they are thoroughly dry to the touch, with a very thin coat of  retouching varnish restores the gloss and colour.

If the sunken-in areas are very absorbent it may be necessary to repeat the procedure (once dry) in order for the gloss and colour to be of a sufficient level. The varnish dries in a few hours and leaves a porous film which in turn gives suitable adherence for a following coat of paint. It is very important to apply retouching varnish very sparingly, as the paint, not yet completely dry, may dissolve in the solvent of the varnish. Use for applying a broad varnish brush. The painting can dry now completely. After a drying time of at least one year is a layer of final varnish is recommended.


    About ben

    Ben Lustenhouwer is a professional portrait artist. Over the last four decades he has completed several hundred commissions from all over the world. He has painted heads of state, VIPs and the man in the street. He has received a thorough grounding in figurative art, is very well versed in human anatomy specializing in the human face for portraiture. He is expert in the full range of media including graphite, charcoal, watercolor, acrylic and his own specialism, oils. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge with all those wishing to learn or improve upon their painting and he understands only too well the challenges and frustrations associated with painting a portrait.
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    2 Responses to When to use retouching varnish.

    1. Tori says:

      I just discovered your work and your blog. I am overwhelmingly happy about it! I can’t get enough of it all. Thank you for putting this together. This is the answer to my struggles. I began a portrait this weekend after viewing your edited demos and the difference in my work is already very clear. I am purchasing your full portrait demo and am looking forward to pouring through the rest of your blog.

      My question regarding varnishing:
      How do you feel about spray retouch varnishes?

      Thank you!!

      • ben says:

        Hi Tori.

        Thank you for your kind words. Long time ago I applied spray for the retouching varnish and it is a perfect solution, but I cannot stand the spray in my studio. But if the painting is not really dry to the touch it is a not a bad idea. But be careful.
        Kind regards.

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