The Importance of Varnishing Oil Paintings

Now that you have bought this beautiful oil painting, you will want to take measures to insure that it stays that way. One very important thing to do is make sure it has received several coats of non-yellowing varnish. Varnish is a final, clear protective layer applied to a painting after it is finished and completely dry. The artist should have already done this before selling the painting. It is an important first step in preserving the work of art so it lasts for generations to come.


western sunset oil paintingCowboy Sunset
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
24″ x 18″
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

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Why varnish an oil painting?

1. Varnish saturates the colors making them pop. Varnish brings out the vibrancy of the colors and gives them that just painted look and shine. In addition, varnish helps to keep those beautiful colors from fading as the years go by.

2. Varnish creates an even sheen over the entire surface of the painting. Oil paint colors dry very differently because of the different pigments that go into making up each individual color. When completely dry, some colors appear matte, some satin and some glossy. A layer or two of varnish will even out the final appearance of the painting, giving it a consistent overall look.

3. Varnish protects the painted surface from atmospheric elements and makes the surface easier to clean. All paintings will require cleaning as time goes by; however, varnish will reduce the frequency of those cleanings and reduce the risk of any possible damage to the painting. If the painting isn’t varnished, over time dust, grime, dirt, grease, moisture and pollution in the environment will change the look of the painting. These can dull the colors, causing them to crack and chip off as the years go by.

When should a painting be varnished?

An oil painting should be allowed to dry for a minimum of 6 months. Depending on how thick the paint is applied it might even need as much as 12 months of drying time before applying varnish. It’s crucial that the oil painting is completely dry before varnish is applied, otherwise the varnish may crack. This is because varnish dries before the oil paint does. As oil paint dries it moves slightly and since the varnish is already dry it begins to crack.

If your painting has never been varnished, you will need to wait at least a year and then take it to a reputable frame shop. They maybe able to varnish the painting, however, it will most like be for a fee. Or is you know of an artist in your area who is an oil painter they may varnish the painting for you as well.

One final solution is to varnish the painting yourself, however, I wouldn’t recommend this if your painting is an extremely valuable piece of art. If you do varnish the painting yourself be sure to use varnish designed for fine art oil paintings. Be sure to follow all instructions on the label. It is not recommended that you use varnish obtained from a hardware store as this kind is to too harsh for the painting and could wind up damaging it.

Additional Reading

A Practical Guide To Caring For Your Oil Paintings


Proper Care of Your Sunset Oil Paintings

sunset oil paintingTaking good care of your sunset oil paintings will ensure they last throughout the years and the colors will stay vibrant. Here are few things to consider:

Cleaning Your Painting

Over time your sunset oil paintings will become soiled from dust, lint, cobwebs, dirt, cigarette smoke, or just plain old wear and tear. This can cause all the beautiful colors of the sunset to appear dull and less vivid. With some simple cleaning techniques it is easy to keep the dazzle in those brilliant shades of yellow, orange, blue and purple that make up your sunset canvas art.

The first thing you need to do is remove your painting from the wall. Never try to clean it while it is hanging. You should also remove it from the frame as well. Dust does get into the crevice where the frame overlaps the painting sometimes it is impossible to clean it out while still in the frame. When cleaning be sure to use a soft cloth. Old cotton t shirts or even cloth diapers are great for this purpose. For dusting you can use a feather duster or a Swiffer Duster to remove light coatings of dust, cobwebs and lint. For grimy, oily or sticky areas of the painting you can use an emulsion cleaner that can purchased at an art supply store. Never use a strong detergent as this can damage the colors of your sunset painting.

Preserving the Color

Preserving your sunset oil paintings so they will last a lifetime and even into the next century is a simple task if you follow this easy commonsense technique to care for your artwork. Do not expose your painting to direct sunlight or ultraviolet lights over an extended period of time. Doing so will result in the bright yellow, orange, blue and purple pigments that make up your sunset to fade over time. The best lighting is diffused natural or artificial lights.


African art Camelthorn Trees“Camelthorn Trees of Africa”
Landscape painting by Teresa Bernard
24″ x 24″
Oils on stretched canvas

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Oil paintings need to have some exposure to diffused lighting, if left in storage or in an unlit room for extended periods of time, the linseed oil in the pigment will turn yellow. However, this is a naturally occurring event that the oil goes through. The yellowing can be reversed by putting the painting in a room with natural or artificial lighting. After a couple of days the yellowing in the linseed oil will fade and restore the painting to its original color.

Protecting the Painting

Atmospheric conditions can also affect oil paintings. If you want to make sure your sunset painting will last a hundred years and beyond then you need to take certain steps to protect your canvas art from damage by the environment. Every part of a painting will expand and constrict due to atmospheric conditions. This will cause stress on the painting which can result in premature aging and damage to the artwork. Undergoing rapid changes in temperature and humidity will create the most stress on a work of art. The best environment for a sunset painting is a controlled one where there is a constant 65° temperature.

If this isn’t always possible, the next best thing is to take these precautions. It is best to avoid conditions of extreme dryness and heat or humidity and cold that can occur if the painting is displayed in areas where they are directly under air conditioners, heating vents, fireplaces, etc. Also kitchens and bathrooms can create conditions of rapidly changing heat, cold and humidity. Long term exposure to such conditions can cause the paint to flake, the canvas to rot, or the pigment to discolor.

Additional Reading

A Practical Guide To Caring For Your Oil Paintings

Paintings of Sunsets Collection

A Practical Guide To Caring For Your Oil Paintings

Whether it is a masterpiece by some well-known artist, one of your own creations, a beloved artwork by a friend or relative, your oil paintings will need special care if its beauty and value is to be preserved. Here are a few practical things you can do to make sure your oil painting will last for years.

• Keep your painting away from direct sunlight. This means displaying the painting in a low-lit area of your home. If this isn’t feasible, at least make sure your windows are covered with draperies or shades that filter out damaging ultraviolet rays. Other elements you to need to protect your paintings from are dust, large swings in room temperature, heat from a radiator, smoke and humidity.

• It is a good idea to change a painting’s position now and then. There’s nothing that says a painting or any work of art, for that matter, should stay in the same spot on the wall forever. Switch things around to give yourself a new fresh look at your paintings from time to time.

• Never hang your oil paintings over a fireplace or any place where they are exposed to soot or other dirt. For this reason, it is also best not to hang a valued painting in the kitchen where greasy smoke and dirt will collect on it.

• The best way to hang a painting is using a wire that stretches from one side of the painting’s stretcher bars to the other side. Then it should be suspended from a hook that is sturdy enough to hold its weight. As a rule of thumb, most art galleries hang their paintings about 60 inches from the floor.


nautical still life oil on canvas“Still Life with Coral and Lantern”
Still life by Teresa Bernard
14″ x 11″
Oils on stretched canvas

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• Avoid using halogen lights to highlight an oil painting because the heat from a halogen light can damage the paint by causing it to dry out and become cracked or even flake off. Fluorescent lights are cool and more of them are coming in warmer colors.

• Keep your painting away from high humidity if it is on stretch canvas, panel canvas or wood. This is very important because these types of support materials swell when they are wet, then shrink when dry. This movement in the canvas may cause damage to the painting. For best results, keep all oil paintings in a room where the temperature and humidity levels remains consistent at all times. Also, oil paintings should be protected from mold, which is a risk in a house that is damp a good bit of the time or has poor insulation and/or ventilation.

• When cleaning the frame, be sure to use a soft paintbrush or compressed air. This will avoid scratching or chipping the wood or finish. Aluminum or lacquered wood frames should only be cleaned with a dry, soft, lint free cloth. Do not spray cleaner on the frame while the painting is being housed in the frame. It is best to remove the painting from the frame before cleaning.

• Oil paintings should never be touched with bare hands. If the painting has to be moved, it should be grasped by the sides of the frame using both hands. It should never be held by the top of the frame and especially not by the wire hanger that is on the back. To be especially safe, the mover should take off all jewelry or anything sharp to make sure the painting isn’t scratched. They should also be very careful not to bump the painting. The surface of an old oil painting can crack or scuff if it is bumped.

• If the painting needs to be cleaned, it is best to have a professional do that for you. However, if this is not convenient, be sure to use exquisite care when attempting to clean your painting. It is best to use a soft, clean paint brush or duster on the surface of the painting. Do not use a cotton cloth, which can leave damaging lint. It is best to clean from top to bottom.

• If your painting is damaged, it is best to call a professional in art restoration and conservation to repair it. Don’t try and do it yourself. You will most likely not be happy with the results.

• The front and back of your oil paintings should be checked from time to time to make sure that there are no signs of mold, moth damage, or some other type of damage.

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