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Varnishing Mixed Media Paintings

17 thoughts on “Varnishing Mixed Media Paintings”

  1. I had recently observed through the Winsor & Newton Page The application of a conservator varnish over a finished charcoal surface–I believe using it as a spray fixative. This was applied over the course of the demonstrations several times building up a darker tone–with no lift. What is your feelings about this?

    • Hello Dillard, thank you for your comment. Yes, it is certainly possible to apply multiple layers of fixative over dry media paintings and as you observed this can darken these paintings or saturate colors. It solely depends on the artist, whether these visual changes are acceptable to him/her. The advantage, when truly embedding charcoal like that in many layers of fixative is, that the drawing becomes resistant to color lift and it might be possible to show the work without being framed behind glass.

  2. Hello Mirjam,
    I am working with mixed media on multmedia board, prismacolor pencil on top of acrylic or sometime water soluble oil ground. Then sometimes I add surface layer of prismalcolor NuPastel (a hard chalk pastel). I then seal with many layers of archival fixative and then archival spray varnish. Do you know if I still need to protect with glass? I like to avoid glass if possible. Thanks!

    • Hello Ann Michelle,
      we have found that 6 spray coats of GOLDEN Archival Spray Varnish provides good UV-protection, similar to two brush applied coats of MSA Varnish w/UVLS. Therefore it shouldn’t be necessary to protect behind UV-glass in addition, which is also costly. Regular window glass only provides very limited UV-protection anyway.

      • I am confused. Fixative is acrylic correct? How can you apply a fixative over products/mediums that contain wax or oil and not expect it to crack. She mentions applying a wax medium over an acrylic and sometimes over a waterbased oil ground. She also applies several coats of a spray varnish. Does she think this is archival because she is using archival sprays? How can this be permanent? Does a waterbased oil ground contain oil? I am curious.

        • Hello Donna, thank you for your comments. Many fixatives are acrylic based, but other types of resins can also be used. Our Archival Varnish is acrylic. The acrylic in the varnish is not made into a waterborne dispersion, like with our acrylic paints, but is diluted in solvent. This allows the acrylic varnish to be compatible over oil paints. That’s also why we call it MSA Varnish – mineral spirit acrylic varnish. The Archival Varnish is the aerosol version of the MSA Varnish.

          We hope this helps. Let us know if there’s anything else we might help with.

          • Varnishing has several benefits, also over mixed media artworks that contain wax. A varnish evens out the surface sheen and saturates colors. It can also provide UV-protection, if the varnish contains UV-light stabilizers. Varnished artworks can also be easier to clean or dust.

  3. It’s 2023! But maybe you will see this. I have recently been painting with acrylics and have looked at YouTube videos since I’m unfamiliar with some technical aspects. Following the lead of some professional artists online, I have done canvases where I laid down areas of acrylics, then done scribbling with Sennelier oil pastels, then gone back in with more acrylics on top covering pastel areas with paint and leaving some visible.
    I was planning to use liquitex satin varnish over the paintings at the end, assuming it will all work.
    Now I am panicking! Can you advise? I have a solo show coming up in a month so time is of the essence. I can supply images is you like. Thank you!! Btw canvases are very thick, cannot use glass to cover

    • Hello Christine,
      Thank you for your question. Oil Pastels generally contain non-drying oils and waxes, both of which might cause adhesion issues when acrylics are brushed over the top. We do not have any products we would recommend over oil pastel. However, Sennelier does have a fixative intended for oil pastels which might work as a final layer: D’Artigny Pastel Fixative. It would be good to confirm with Sennelier that it can be applied over acrylics and on flexible surfaces. You might keep in mind, too, that most artists do not varnish their paintings.
      Warm regards, Cathy

  4. Hi,
    I have just started using Acrylic Ink in my mixed media /collages. Usually, I apply an isolation coat (Gel Medium w/ water) over the entire piece. Sometimes I add a varnish on top of this, Is this possible with acrylic ink?

    • Hello Paula, Acrylic Inks are typically thin viscosity or water-like acrylic paints. So you could apply an Isolation Coat to them is you wanted to varnish. You could always test on the side to see if there is any color lift, but we suspect it should be fine. Let us know if you have other questions. help@goldenpaints.com

  5. Hello,

    I was hoping you might be able to help me out with a query if you get a spare minute.

    I’ve been playing around with Sennelier Oil pastels and oil bars over the past few months, working them into layers of wet oil paint.

    I’m curious about drying times of the oil pastel, well, more curious about fixing the oil pastel once it’s off gassed as I know that the pastel doesn’t seem to ever fully dry due to the oils and waxes.

    I’ve been working on primed and gessoed linen so I don’t really want to frame them behind glass, so I’m trying to find a way around it.

    I see from a previous comment that the Sennelier oil pastel fixative was mentioned.

    My query is do you think it would be possible to present oil pastel and oil paint on gessoed linen with out framing them behind glass by fixing the surface with Sennelier fixative then sealing with Golden archival varnish?

    It’s very specific…I know!🙄😂



    • Hello Alan,
      Thank you for your question. We have not tested our Archival Varnish over the Sennelier Oil Pastel fixative, so cannot comment on their compatibility. It is possible that the mineral spirits in the Archival Varnish would penetrate through the fixative, and cause the oil pastel to react in some way if it is solvent sensitive. There is also the issue of having a non-drying layer under a dry layer: that oil pastel will always be squishy, and if pressed upon might move even with varnish on top. The varnish in those areas also will not be fully adhered to the artwork.
      We would suggest creating some test pieces of oil pastels, and then applying the fixative followed by the varnish. This is a good way to make sure that the products are all compatible, and the varnish will dry as it should when applied over this experimental layering of materials. Once the varnish is dry, check what happens if areas over the oil pastel are pressed upon, and check what happens if tape sticks to the varnish over those areas. You can then decide if the results are acceptable. Also, please keep in mind that we recommend allowing oil paint to dry for at least 6-12 months before varnishing.
      We wish we had a definite solution for you, and hope this is at least a little helpful.
      Warm Regards,

    • Hello Alan,
      Thank you for your question. We have not done much testing with oil pastels, but they are art materials which often do not dry completely due to the materials they contain. The Sennelier website describes their oil pastels as containing an “inert, non-drying binder.” You might contact Sennelier for more information on these products. We believe their D’Artigny Pastel Fixative is crafted to provide their oil pastels with a more durable surface. Again, you might contact Sennelier to see how many coats would be needed to display safely without glass (or do some testing!). We do not think putting Golden’s Archival Varnish over the fixative would be needed. Since the Archival Varnish contains solvents, there might also be issues with this layering of products. If you wish to explore, we would recommend testing first on a sacrificial oil pastel surface. We hope this is helpful, and we wish you happy creating!


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