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Oil painting, drying and varnishing

I have wondered something for a while. A lot of people on DPW use oil paint and yet it seems they put them up for sale almost immediately after painting them. I have not used oils for a while due to them having to dry but when I did I waited for months for them to be totally dry and then I applied a spray varnish to protect them that was also removable and I would label the painting on the back as such. Most sources say an oil painting should be varnished - but only after truly dry. So, to sell them quickly do you just wait until they are dry to touch, package them carefully and then enclose instructions that the buyer should have them varnished at a later date? I would not want to sell a painting that started deteriorating in a few years or that could not be cleaned if it were exposed to smoke or dust.

Alexis, I was at a workshop where we discussed Gamblin Gamvar.
( https://gamblincolors.com/varnishing-help/ )
It can be applied as soon as the paint surface is dry to touch. I have been using Gamvar Satin for quite a while now, and really like it. (sorry for sounding like an advertisement :slight_smile: )


I use Liquin, after about a week. I do not paint thickly, so perhaps that helps my paintings to dry faster. Either way, after a bout a week, they can be varnished with liquin. I have been painting over 5 years, and thankfully have not had any issues doing this.

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I, too, use Gamvar to varnish my paintings. I usually paint a bunch at a time and when they are all quite dry, and after I photograph/scan them, usually about 2-4 weeks, I vanish all of them on a warm day en masse.


I use Gamvar also. I like the glossy one. Alkyd oil paints dry very quickly but If I’m painting something with a true Cadmium then I allow extra time for that to dry. Gamvar is fine once the surf e is dry to the touch.

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Thank you for asking the question … I’ve had the same question, and have had differing answers from other artists. Many seem to use Retouch varnish as an option also.

Winsor Newton, the makers of Liquin, say not to use as a final varnish–or a varnish at all. It becomes part of the painting and can not be removed. Like many people who’ve answered the question, I use Gamvar. Though I’ve occasionally had problems due to humidity in Florida, I was able to remove and safely re-varnish by adding in 10% Gamsol mineral spirits.

I had never heard that before about liquin! A local artist that I take classes with had taught me about liquin. I have had difficulties getting gamvar varnish to apply smoothly. I find Liquin much easier to work with. If I decide to paint over, I scuff painting with sandpaper and try again.

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I have occasionally had issues with Gamvar also. I found that if I added 10% Gamsol mineral spirits to Gamvar that it went on smoothly. Also, I used very little (as they say in their video). I always wipe my brush off a bit on a paper towel before putting my natural hair varnish brush on my painting. Also, a tip I received from one of their reps–start in the middle of the painting and work out. This helped me avoid any pooling at the edges. Gamvar can be tricky but if you do these things, you should be fine. Experiment on some old paintings to get the hang of it. What I love about Gamvar is that I can varnish with a final varnish right after my paintings are dry to the touch. I usually wait from 2-3 weeks but have done it sooner. I’m in Florida so if it’s humid my paintings take longer to dry. I never want to send out an unvarnished painting or one with a temporary varnish. Most people don’t know the first thing about varnishing a painting so I want my customers to be able to enjoy their purchases without worrying about this.

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One more thing. I also started mixing Gamvar gloss and Gamvar satin and have found this is even easier to apply. No need to add in the Gamsol when I do this.

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Hi All, I have been painting for 23 years and have used Liquin always.
I have never had a problem, though I do wait for the paint to dry quite substantially before I varnish. I know other artists who do the same.

Carol, Liquin is wonderful stuff, but according to Winsor Newton, its manufacturer, Liquin is “Not suitable as a varnish or final coat.” This is directly from their website. This link also provides some more detailed reasons behind this statement. https://fineartviews.com/blog/31160/dont-use-liquin-as-a-varnish Certainly, if you feel okay about using Liquin this way, then continue, but I think the readers of this forum may want to explore more about using it in a manner not advised by its manufacturer.


Thank you everyone. I have ordered Gamvar both satin and gloss. I guess a painting could go for years when it’s not varnished with a removable varnish and if it was in a nice clean place no one would see a problem and say it was all good - but eventually smoke or dust could start showing up and it would not be able to be removed.

Hi Alexis, I have been using Gamvar for quite a while. The gloss one suits me as I found the satin to give a too matt finish, but you can experiment with a mixture of satin and gloss to achieve the finish you require. Liquin is definitely not a final varnish.

That’s what I figured - will try a mix on a painting I don’t like and I agree totally.

I learned the hard way to photograph first and then varnish!

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Thanks Vana for this information, I certainly will check it out.

I paint both acrylic and oil, usually acrylic background and oil foreground. I use heavy layers of paint, i pour acrylic directly on to canvas or build up layers of oil paint with palette knife, which is it self a challenge to varnish because painting is so heavily textured. While i was experimenting i needed cheep and efficient way to varnish paintings, but varnishes work only on acrylic or oil, none are able to varnish both. I wanted some varnish that would do all- seal, give a smooth and velvety feel to canvas, sink into pores and easily reach across the texture, water and UV resistant protection, dry super fast, has a nice shine - just enough to enrich the vibrancy of color and give deepness to darker values but not glossy… after some research found something interesting : PVA glue. A glue that has elasticity- vinyl did the job. Unapologetic as im i feel glad i did try all and made many experiments. Later i tried Gamvar and i was impressed how soon i could varnish, but it had no other qualities im looking for, also it destroyed few of paintings dear to me because of inability to cover acrylic paint. I tried Gamblin solvent free gel, which is medium and varnish too, i loved it but it tinned the paint too much to build layers. I tried dammar but again it has limits that can not varnish acrylic. As of now i do not use any varnish because i hate to risk ruining another painting… i set few canvases on side for future experiments, i will update when i try more of different ideas on varnishing.

Hi Alexis, you can paint with alkyd colors too, it really dry in one day, I use the white, black and umber from w&n and the rest normal oils, no matter if you paint thick, and after a week you can varnish with retouching and looks perfect.