Varnishing is yet another aspect of painting that is rife with differing opinions and practices. Some people wait over a year before varnishing, others 3 months, some 1 month. Some don’t think varnishing is necessary at all with modern oil paints.

When I painted a coffee pot recently, I decided at the beginning that it would be a good one to try varnishing. The subject is shiney which I figured could only be enhanced by a gloss varnish. Varnishing is also supposed to restore the original richness of blacks and darks in the painting, so I used a black background and low key lighting.

I finished the painting in January and the paint layer is quite thin, so this seemed like ample drying time. In his book ‘Alla Prima’, Richard Schmid suggests 3 months is adequate drying time, or sometimes less depending on the thickness of the paint. ┬áThis book is considered the bible of painting and Richard’s advice as gospel, so I felt confident this was long enough.

The varnish I bought is the gloss one by Jackson’s. Gloss is best for bringing out the darks in the painting according to Mark Carder.

The actual varnishing took very little time in the end. I opened all the windows and the door in my conservatory/studio as it’s pokey stuff, poured some onto the painting and used a normal diy style paintbrush to cover the painting. I then left the painting flat for 20 minutes to dry a bit before putting it on my easel to finish drying.

The effect is actually subtler than I expected, so much so that you probably won’t see much difference in the before and after pictures. However, in person, the painting has a sheen which gives it a ‘finished’, more professional feel.

Let me know if you have any tips on getting the most out of varnishing.