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How to varnish an oil painting (in this case a master copy from the Louvre)

I just made this video of me varnishing my oil painting if the audio isn't clear I added the script and useful information below, I hope you enjoy the video:

welcome to my studio,

today I am going to varnish this oil painting - a copy after jean august Dominique Ingres its called the bather1


as you can see the painting has sunken in at some areas and is glossy at other areas, this is something varnish helps resolve,it unifies the surface of the painting.

these are the materials you are going to need:

natural turpentine

dammar varnish

a soft flat brush

im going to talk about a few topics and also include links to my website

Sam Rachamin artworks

and to two other websites that I found very helpful regarding varnishing.

some precautions:

1.lay down the painting so the varnish doesn't drizzle and create drips on the painting

2.clean the painting from dust and dirt

3.clean the area around the painting

4.make sure the studio isn't damp or humide for some reason, that might effect diffrent types of varnish in a negative way. a window or use a vent breathing the fumes from the varnish or turpentine is not healthy

that is the stamp that proves that it is a master copy done in fronte of the original.

now I'm going to clean the painting with a dry brush at first,

and then add a bit of turpentine to clean more aggressively the dirt that got really stuck to the painting.

general information about varnish- varnish is basically a protective layer for the painting.

varnishing has been around for century’s, and painters used all kinds of materials from egg white mixed with sugar to beeswax and even shellac to protect their paintings .

in the 20 th century while impressionism was on the rise and there was a revolt against the academia, painters stoped putting varnish on their paintings to give a more matt dry and rough look to their paintings,

i personally do not varnish all my paintings but since this is a master copy i do feel the need to complete the process that Ingres has done.

an important point to clarify about oil painting is the fact that it doesn't dry it goes through a chemical reaction with the oxygen in the atmosphere.

in this process of oxidizing the oil that serves as the vehicle of the pigment crystallizes Becomes hard and traps the pigment inside it, this creates a film of a 2 dimensional surface that is normally just called dry paint.

why is it important to know all this,

well because varnish separates the atmosphere from the oil paint, if the oil painting hasn't finished Oxidizing. the varnished painting will eventually crack or break maybe even ruin the entire painting.

in order to prevent this undesirable effect we need to wait between 1/2 a year and a year or more for the oxidation process to be complete.

varnish divides now a days to 2 groups the natural group and the synthetic group,

i use the natural kind and that's what Ill focus on in this video,

natural varnish comes from trees

Also divides in to 2 subgroups that are called the hard raisin and the soft raisin,

the soft raisin include mastic and dammar and dissolve in turpentine in to a glossy liquid


the hard raisin include copal and amber that do not dissolve in to turpentine, they need to be cooked to become a liquide.

the hard raisin varnishes are extremely hard and durable against humidity,

applying the varnish

should be quick but not to fast , the way i apply it is by whipping what ever access i have on the brush on the side of the jar, and only then do i apply it on the painting,

when applying it go on one direction and before it dries go in the 90 degrees perpendiculer direction to eliminate any brush strokes,

and don't go back to areas you've already covered that will abrupt the surface of the painting.

vanish becomes sticky very fast so its very easy to ruin what you just did,

i put between 1to 3 layers of varnish on my paintings depending how absorbent they are and how glossy i want them, i usually wait a week between each layer,

this is the finished painting with the last layer of varnish

that's it !

if you have anything to add , or questions or if you are interested in buying a master-copy and even subscribing to my workshops in the museums in Paris

go to

i hope you found this video helpful , good luck varnishing

Varnish Links

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