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Oil painting... avoiding dull need of Oiling out

I jumped back into oils this week.

Prepped a nice, small wood cradled panel with several layers of PVA size.

This followed by three thin layers of gesso, sanding lightly each of the three layers.

Oil painted onto the surface and within a day the colors dulled as they dried on the surface.

So, this must be the gesso soaking in the oil from the paint, right?

How does one avoid this issue? Oiling out seems like it should be a last resort.

Thoughts - Insight?

You can try to put a thin layer of retouching varnish on your painting. Your painting must be dry to touch. It helps to restore the gloss and colors. If one layer is not enough (your support may be very absorbent) you can add one more layer once the first dries. Be careful when applying as the solvent in varnish may dissolve the paint. This varnish leaves a porous film, so you can continue to paint over if you need. It dries quickly. I use it sometimes and I prefer to use varnish in spray. I hope it can be useful.


I will echo the words Olga posted. I paint always in oils and leave to dry, and take a photo for posting whilst there is no shine. The next day I give a coat of re-touch varnish and a second if necessary.

I am amazed how the colours and tones return.


Very nice… can you paint again on the surface after the retouch varnish has dried?

Yes, absolutely! You can paint over it. It can be used as a temporary varnish to restore colors and it can be used when you need to come back to your painting.

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i also found this gamblin video on oiling out useful. it’s at the bottom of the page of videos

gamblin oiling out video

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Olga_lefort, Katybee, woodworks… thank you all for your replies and insight.

Im putting it to work!

I’ll post a photo of the piece when Ive finished.


That was VERY helpful. Thanks for posting.

I think your problem is that your ground is too absorbent. That could be one thing or a combination of serval things, that the wood panel is not sealed properly, (I use shellac) or the quality of the gesso, or overly thinning your oil colors. First thing I would suggest is to buy a quality professional prepare panel and see what happens, just to make sure it is not the painting technique. I oil out occasionally to refresh a area for another layer of color but mainly only oil out to even the shine before varnishing. Anyway reverse engineer your process to find the problem.

So, Jim you use shellac as a primer sealing your wood panel and then gesso before you oil paint? Does the gesso adhere to the shellac for any permanency?

Hi Curtis
Just saw your email so here is what I am doing.
This is for painting on wood, Masonite (hard board) Birch, or Maple panels, (not MDF -you can use it on MDF but that stuff is not archival) The shellac is to isolated the wood from the ground, you just coat it well once and lightly sand it. I use Zinsser Bulls Eye shellac, if you want an art brand name Rublev makes a sealing varnish. Then I top coat with acrylic gesso or an oil ground. You can just paint on the sealer if you double/triple coat it and sand between each layer. If you want to just skip to something that seals and gives a white surface I have used Zinsser White Cover Stain Oil-Based Interior/Exterior Primer and Sealer works great and it can be sanded. I use that for large scale mural and displays. Anyway a lot of stuff online just search around. Best of luck. Jim

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What brand of varnish spray can you recommend?

I am hoping that my oil paintings will reinvigorate to look similar to when the paint was fresh and wet on the surface. (?)

Hi Curtis,
I am living in France and buying my retouching varnish directly from a local art supplier and manufacturer. I use bottled varnish and apply it with a brush. But I have also a spray from Lefranc&Bourgeois which is good. I think that any retouching varnish will be good to do the job. I hope you will be satisfied with the result.

Thanks Olga - much appreciated!

Just oil out the painting, typically using the same medium you used to create the painting. Wipe off any excess.

Do any of you ever just use a light coat of just linseed or safflower oil to oil out after painting dries to touch?