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Why Oil Painting Over MSA or Archival Varnish Is Not Recommended

6 thoughts on “Why Oil Painting Over MSA or Archival Varnish Is Not Recommended”

  1. Thank you, Greg, for this great article! I am assuming that overpainting the MSA with acrylic instead of oil, would not have these same negative effects? My paintings are made with acrylic paints. I varnish them with either the Polymer Varnish, the MSA Varnish or the Archival Varnish spray depending on my needs. If I then discover I need to repaint something over the varnish, instead of removing the varnish, I apply an isolation coat over the varnish, then repaint, then revarnish. Please let me know if there are any cautions you think apply for this process. Thank you!

    • Hello Nancy,
      Thank you for your comment. The distortions and drying issues mentioned in the article are very specific to oil paints over MSA Varnish and do not apply to acrylics. Generally, we do not recommend painting over removable varnish, as it complicates the structure of the painting and should only be a last resort. That being said, it should be fine to apply an isolation coat over MSA, Polymer or Archival Varnish to lock them down, then paint with acrylics on top of the isolation coat. Of course, this should only be done if these varnishes are over an acrylic painting. We have seen adequate adhesion between acrylics and our MSA Varnishes and good to excellent adhesion between acrylics and Polymer Varnish. We are currently testing these applications and will publish our findings in a future JustPaint.org article.
      Best Regards,
      Greg Watson

  2. Hi Greg,
    I have a question about oiling out a painting. Will golden msa varnish lighten the areas of sunken oil colors of a oil painting. I’m presuming since it is very clear it would not be necessary. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Your competitor “gamblin” is very hot on this topic, but I think your varnish is rather unique or I imagine you folks would have mentioned it in your description and application of your product. Thank you so much for any info
    Teresa M Shea

    • Hi Teresa,
      We do not recommend oiling out before varnish. Any oil left exposed, even in thin layers or under a varnish layer, will yellow with time and cannot be reversed or removed. MSA varnish can be applied directly over fully cured oil layers that have dried for 6 months to 1 year. MSA Gloss will work the best to saturate sunken in colors. If you wanted to use Matte or Satin, we recommend reducing absorbency of the surface first with a diluted version of Gloss 1 part varnish to 1 part solvent or with Archival Gloss, then apply Satin or Matte with the normal dilution of 3 parts varnish to 1 part solvent. Keep in mind, that Matte varnishes can lighten darker colors and reduce saturation, especially with several layers. If you have further questions about varnishing, please do not hesitate to email help@goldenpaints.com or call 800-959-6543.


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