Making and Using a Viewfinder to Compose Better Paintings

What exactly is a viewfinder?

what is a viewfinder?
Use a viewfinder to crop out unwanted parts of an image to make a better composition.

A viewfinder is a useful tool that many photographers and painters use.

In photography, it is the apparatus on the camera that the photographer looks through to compose the photograph he/she wants to take.

In oil painting, a viewfinder is a tool that serves a similar purpose. Artists use these devices as an aid in organizing the scenery of their paintings. It can be moved around to isolate the most appealing aspects of the scenery. A viewfinder achieves this by cutting out the unnecessary elements, resulting in a significantly better composition.

How to Make an Artist’s Viewfinder

artist viewfinder
Window Viewfinder

Making a viewfinder requires little effort. There are two types: window and L-shape. Both types are simple to make, and which one you choose to use depends on the canvas you plan to paint on. They can easily be made from materials such as cardboard, matboard, or paper.

Making a Window Viewfinder

For standard-size canvases, you may want to choose the window viewfinder. Take a simple piece of paper, scrap matboard, or thin cardboard and cut a rectangular window in the center to look through. The window opening should be proportionate to the prepared canvas in height and width. For example, a 16″ x 20″ canvas would require the viewfinder window to be 2″ x 2.5″ or 4″ x 5″.

Other proportions that might be useful are:

Canvas Size
Window Cutout Size
16″ x 20″ or 24″ x 30″ 2″x 2.5″, 4″x 5″, or 8″x10″
16″ x 24″ or 24″ x 36″ 2″ x 3″ or 4″ x 6″
9″ x 12″, 12″ x 16″ or 18″ x 24″ 3″ x 4″ or 6″ x 8″

After carefully measuring and cutting out the window opening, move it slowly around on the surface of your snapshot until the image that interests you appears in the opening. Once you have decided on the composition, tape the viewfinder in position on your photograph to hold it in place.

Making an L-shaped Viewfinder

artist L shaped viewfinder
L-shaped Viewfinder

The L-shaped viewfinder is helpful in determining what size canvas is required if you do not plan on using a standard-size canvas. The two L’s work together much like the aperture of a camera. You move them out and away from each other to enlarge the opening, or you move them closer together to shrink the inside opening.

The L-shaped viewfinder can be made from two L-shaped pieces of cardboard, matboard, or paper. When placed together, they create a frame around your area of focus. You then look through this frame to determine the scene you wish to paint. To make one, you will need a ruler and pencil to draw two identical-sized L-shaped pieces. A good width is about two inches, so they can easily crop out the unwanted areas of the scenery. The length of the arms of each L can be any size; however, 6″ to 8″ works best if you are going to use it on photographs.

How to Use an Artist’s Viewfinder

using an artist viewfinderUsing the viewfinder is a simple technique that has been around and used by artists for centuries. What a viewfinder does is frame in and crop out unimportant areas of an image. The elements inside the frame will make up an attractive focal point that can be used to begin your painting.

How this is done is to take your image and slowly move the viewfinder around until you pinpoint a precise spot that makes an eye-catching center of interest. Once you have your composition picked out, attach the viewfinder to the picture using low-adhesive tape to hold it in place. This will permit you to make several drawings of the scene needed or sketch it directly onto the canvas, getting it ready for painting.

A viewfinder is also beneficial for training your eye to distinguish a good composition. This instrument will give the artist an idea of how an arrangement might work as a viable composition. Over time, your “mind’s eye” will become adept at ignoring extraneous elements, allowing you to visualize compositions without any assistance.

Lastly, both viewfinders can be used in either portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) orientations. This allows the artist to use it as a drawing aid to determine which orientation works best for their painting. Positioning the viewfinder vertically accentuates the view’s top and bottom, while a horizontal hold highlights the composition’s width. This helps you focus on particular parts of the scene, enabling you to decide what will make the best composition, both in terms of emphasis and orientation.

You May Also Like

FROM THE EDITORS: We hope you enjoyed this blog about using a viewfinder and found it’s information to be useful. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the paintings below too. For more information and details, click or tap the thumbnail link.

flower art
Red Poinsettia
(2023)
12″ w x 9″ h
barn painting
The Broadside of a Barn (2022)
12″ w x 9″ h
contemporary still life
Still Life with Red and Yellow Onions (2021) 
18″ w x 18″ h

Art Gallery Quick Links

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Space Art     |     Still Life     |     Wildlife

Additional Reading

The Importance of Varnishing Oil Paintings

Using a Grid to Enlarge and Transfer an Image to Canvas

You can find more details on this subject and many others in the My Artist Blog Index.

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Using a Grid to Enlarge and Transfer an Image to Canvas

The Grid Enlarging Technique

Grid enlarging is a simple technique used by artists every day to create sensational works of art. The best part is that it doesn’t require advanced drawing skills to obtain remarkable outcomes using this method. You’d be surprised to learn that many of the world’s greatest oil painters are not skilled in drawing. They compensate for this by using the grid enlarging technique to start their paintings. What grid enlarging does is to help the artist transfer a smaller image onto a larger canvas, capturing as much detail as desired. Ultimately their paintings become beautiful works of art

What exactly is grid enlarging?

grid enlarging techniqueA grid is a series of equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines that intersect to form a boxed pattern. It serves to divide the original image into smaller blocks to see what goes where more easily. Grid enlarging can be a valuable exercise in helping to improve your drawing and observational skills.

Grid enlarging is the process of using a grid to precisely copy and enlarge a smaller image onto a larger canvas. Artists use this technique regularly as part of preparing their canvases for painting. It entails drawing a grid on your reference image and then drawing another grid on your canvas of equal or greater proportion. Then, one square at a time, you draw the picture onto your canvas, concentrating on the contents of each square until the image is complete.

5 Easy Steps to Grid Enlarging

Step 1: Select your reference photograph and use a viewfinder to isolate the section you want to paint. Next, you will need to determine the proportions of your composition. It is important that the image and the canvas be in the same proportion. For example, a composition that measures 4″ x 5″ is the same proportion as a 16″ x 20″ or 24″ x 30″ canvas. If your canvas is 12″ x 16″ or 18″ x 24″, then you will need to crop your reference photo to 3″ x 4″ or 6″ x 8″.

Smart tip: For detailed information about what a viewfinder is and how to use one, see the article titled "Making and Using a Viewfinder to Compose Better Paintings."

Step 2: The most important thing to keep in mind when drawing your grid is it must be in a 1-to-1 ratio. The size of your reference photo must always be equal in proportion to the size of the canvas. Failing to follow this principle will result in a distorted drawing. Equally important is the lines must be evenly space both vertically and horizontally, intersecting to form perfect squares.

Smart tip: After you have drawn your grids on both your reference photo and canvas, count the number of squares in each row and column on your canvas. It should be the same amount as the ones in your picture.

using a grid for enlarging an imageStep 3: Use a pencil and ruler to carefully measure and mark along the outside edge of the photo. Put tick marks at every inch, half-inch, or quarter inch, depending on the size of your reference image and how much detail you need to transfer. Then carefully connect your marks by lightly drawing your grid directly onto the image.

Draw the grid lightly so that it can be easily erased once you’re finished. If you don’t want to draw on your photograph, you can tape a piece of clear acetate over your picture and then draw your grid on it using a very fine-point Sharpie marker.

Smart tip: Use a mechanical pencil to draw your grid. A mechanical pencil produces a very thin and precise line.

grid drawing methodStep 4: Begin your transfer by drawing everything you see in one block of the reference photograph into the corresponding block on your canvas. Concentrate on one square at a time until it is fully completed, then proceed to the next square.  Disregard squares you’re not working on until you come to them. The reason you should focus on only one square at a time is so that you will end up drawing what is actually there—what your eye sees—rather than what you think should be there.

Copy all the details you see in that one little block on the photo to its corresponding block on your canvas. Be sure to include the shadows and highlights too. Continue this process one block at a time until all the blocks have been drawn onto your canvas. When you have finished that last block, you will have a very close rendering of your reference photo.

grid drawingBegin your drawing with the top left square (A1) and proceed across and down the canvas, moving row by row and column by column, until your detailed drawing is complete. Pay careful attention to make sure you are in the correct square, or your drawing will be off, and you will have to erase some of the drawing and start over from the point where you went off-grid.

An excellent way to keep your blocks straight is to label them numerically and alphabetically along the edges of the photo and canvas. The first block on your canvas located in the top left corner would be block A1. The next one to the right on the same row would be block A2, and so forth. This technique will prevent you from losing your place, particularly in larger paintings.

Smart tip: Use a thin piece of sharpened charcoal instead of a pencil when transferring your drawing. The advantage of charcoal over pencil is that charcoal can be easily wiped off with your finger, kneaded eraser, paper towel, or rag, whereas pencil lead requires more effort to erase. Spray with a fixative to keep your charcoal drawing from rubbing off when you finish your drawing.

Step 5: Once you have transferred the entire image onto the canvas, carefully remove the grid lines and start painting.

A helpful online tool you can use to draw your grids is ArtTutor. Here is the link.

You May Also Like

FROM THE EDITORS: We hope you enjoyed this blog about grid enlarging and found it’s information to be useful. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the paintings below too. For more information and details, click or tap the thumbnail link.

wildflower paintings
Sunflower From Behind (2016)
20″ w x 16″ h
lighthouse artistic works
Currituck Beach Lighthouse (2008)
11″ w x 14″ h
hot air balloon painting
Up, Up and Away!
(2022)
30″ w x 24″ h

Art Gallery Quick Links

Flowers     |     Landscapes     |     Marine     |     People

Space Art     |     Still Life     |     Wildlife

Additional Reading

Making and Using a Viewfinder to Compose Better Paintings

The Importance of Varnishing Oil Paintings

You can find more details on this subject and many others in My Artist Blog Index. Check it out!

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Developing an Artistic Style of Your Own

artistic style

One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever received came from a renowned artist who, after seeing several of my paintings, said that I had my own artistic style. This came as a surprise to me, as I had cultivated my distinctive style over the years, without realizing it.

Until that day, I hadn’t given much thought to even having my own art style, much less trying to develop one. What’s more, I barely even knew what an art style was. I knew all the Old Masters had it and that it was something good to have. So, I set out to find out more about artistic style, what it is, and where it comes from.

What exactly is artistic style?

Artistic style is a specific characteristic or group of characteristics that are consistently present in the works of an artist. It’s that extra little thing that an artist does to set himself apart from other artists.

Many artists, whether they realize it or not, have an identifiable painting style. Their artistic style is neither good nor bad. It’s simply the result of the particular choices and decisions a painter makes while composing his or her oil paintings. These decisions define the identity of an artist’s style and are made up of a combination of the mediums, techniques, and subject matter chosen. It’s not that an artist chooses to paint landscapes, still life, or portraits—those are only genres. Instead, it is HOW the artist handles each of the various art elements—line, form, texture, value, color, and shape—that make up the composition.

Should you develop your own artistic style?

I would say “YES!” If you ever hope to be taken seriously as an artist, you need to develop your artistic style and here are some reasons why:

1. Cultivating your artistic style will help to define you and set you apart from other artists. It’s your individuality and uniqueness as an artist.

2. It’s the unique quality that enables others to identify your work as your own, even without seeing the signature on the canvas.

3. It provides a means to attain personal fulfillment through your art by conveying your concepts and inner perspective.

4. If you intend to exhibit your paintings in art galleries, having a distinct art style is often something that gallery owners or curators look for in your work.

5. Finally, developing your style is necessary if you want your paintings to capture the eye of art collectors. For many art connoisseurs, an artist’s style is what truly defines their art.

How do you develop your artistic style?

Before I can tell you how to do that, I need to tell you how NOT to develop one. You won’t develop your artistic style by copying the works of other artists. Let me repeat that. If you copy the works of another artist, you will never develop a unique art style of your own. The reason for this is that when you copy someone’s work, you are merely imitating the choices and decisions already made by that another artist has already made, rather than making your own.

Novice painters often do this. They copy the works of other artists they like, and this is a disservice to the world of art. As long as they continue to do this, they will never develop their unique artistic expression and move beyond being a mere hobbyist to a serious artist or even a professional. Your artistic style is shaped by the decisions YOU make about the numerous elements that go into your artwork.

An artist’s distinctive style does not develop overnight. It evolves over time due to either conscious or unconscious effort on the part of the artist and is likely to undergo numerous transformations as the artist matures. The best way to develop a style is to do a lot of painting. In doing so, you can expect your art style to progress as you acquire more experience, knowledge, and skills. As you move from painting to painting, you will find that specific artistic characteristics or qualities will reoccur repeatedly. This is your unique style. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to continue with the same art style for the rest of your life. You have the ability to change it at any time, and you will be surprised to learn that it can, and frequently does, evolve.

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FROM THE EDITORS: We hope you enjoyed this blog about developing you own artistic style and found it’s information to be useful. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the paintings below too. For more information and details, click or tap the thumbnail link.

astronaut painting
Spacewalker
(2022)
30″ w x 24″ h
people paintings
Ballerina Feet En Pointe (2022)
6″ w x 8″ h
stormy landscape paintings
Lightning Strikes
(2023)
12″ w x 9″ h

Art Gallery Quick Links

Flowers     |     Landscapes     |     Marine     |     People

Space Art     |     Still Life     |     Wildlife

Additional Reading

A Painting in the Making

DIY Storage for Fine Art Paintings

More information about this topic and many others can be found in My Artist Blog Index. Check it out!

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Three Types of Oil Painting Canvas

oil painting canvas types

Canvas paintings are among the most popular forms of art whether they are composed using acrylic, oils, or some other medium.

Oil paintings on canvas are classic and have been around for centuries. Artists the world over have used a variety of surfaces for their works of art, however, canvas still remains the most often used surface, and it is what I compose all of my paintings on. There are three types of oil painting canvas that I paint on, let me describe each of them.

Gallery Wrap Stretched Canvas

types of oil painting canvas

Some artists call this type of canvas “gallery-wrapped”, while others call it “gallery wrap”.  The terms are often used interchangeably, and I have used both myself.

Gallery-wrap canvas is a painting support surface in which a closely woven canvas fabric completely covers the stretcher bars and is then “wrapped” around the frame and attached with fasteners on the back. Unlike traditional canvas, gallery wrapped canvases have no visible fasteners (such as staples or spline) on the front surface. This method of construction means the artist can paint on the profile (edges) of the canvas, thus allowing the artwork to be the focal point from every angle. It also means the finished painting will not have to be framed before being put on display.

Customers who purchase my paintings on this type of canvas prefer the contemporary look of gallery wrap canvas paintings without a frame. However, I have many customers who love the classic look of framed artwork and will have their paintings mounted in a frame before display.  It all depends on what you prefer. Framed or not, paintings on gallery wrap canvas look great either way.

Features of Gallery Wrap Canvas Paintings

  • Trendy, stylish
  • Back stapled
  • Painted edges
  • Does not require a frame but can be framed if desired.
  • Arrives at your door ready to hang on the wall.
  • Improves the visual appeal and atmosphere of any room.

The majority of my paintings are created on gallery-wrapped canvases and are available for purchase on this website.

Traditional Stretched Canvas

oil painting stretched canvas

There was a time not too long ago when traditional stretched canvas was the only option available when an artist wanted to paint on stretched canvas. This style of canvas is classic, having been around for over 500 years. Today most artists prefer to use gallery wrap canvas, however, you can still find paintings composed on the traditional type of painting surface.

In this type, the canvas material is stretched over a wooden frame called a stretcher and secured with staples or tacks on the sides (rather than the back). The sides are usually left raw or unpainted, reminiscent of way paintings were done by the Old Masters. Paintings composed on traditional stretched canvas require a frame before display.

While some artists like to construct their own stretched canvases, I prefer to purchase my artist-grade canvas in bulk, pre-stretched by the manufacturer, and commercially primed. When the canvases arrive at my studio, they’re ready to receive my paint.

Features of Traditional Canvas Paintings

  • Classic style canvas
  • Side stapled
  • Raw unpainted edges
  • Requires framing before being displayed.
  • Enhances the aesthetics and ambiance of any area.

I have some paintings on traditional stretched canvas available for purchase at the link.

Canvas Board

oil painting canvas board

Stretched canvases can be very expensive, and that cost is often reflected in the price artists charge for their work. However, there is an excellent alternative to stretched canvas that is less expensive, and that is canvas board.

Canvas board is a rigid, lightweight, and sturdy painting surface constructed of a 1/8-inch-thick cardboard panel covered with thick canvas material. This canvas type is durable, resistant to warping, and easier to frame than stretched canvas. Canvas board paintings will require framing before hanging on the wall.

Paintings composed on a canvas board are not inferior to artwork on a stretched canvas. Many highly skilled artists enjoy painting on canvas board, and I’m one of them. Plein air (outdoor) artists prefer these lightweight canvases as they are easier to manage when they go on location to paint.

Features of Canvas Board Paintings

  • Rigid, heavy-duty canvas board
  • Sturdy and more durable
  • Requires a frame before hanging on the wall.
  • Easier to frame than stretched canvas.
  • Adds style and decor to any space.

See my line of affordable oil paintings on canvas board.

In Conclusion

There are many types of oil painting canvas available to the artist to compose art on, and one is not better than the other. It’s simply a matter of preference. What’s important is the quality of the composition, the skill of the artist, and the durability of the painting to last for years.

Once framed (or not) and hung on your wall, canvas paintings can bring any room to life. With proper care, canvas oil paintings will last for many years to come providing you with lots of viewing enjoyment.

Art Gallery Quick Links

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Space Art     |     Still Life     |     Wildlife

Additional Reading

A Painting in The Making

The Importance of Varnishing Oil Paintings

More information about this topic and many others can be found in My Artist Blog Index. Check it out!

Have a question?

If you have a question about this painting, please contact us, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

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DIY Storage for Fine Art Paintings

storage for paintings

In need of storage for my paintings. They are everywhere!

I’m no longer in the workforce, which means I have more time to paint. My retirement affords me the freedom to paint as much as I want, whenever I want. However, I am now in a position where I require more space to store all of these fine art creations until they go to their new homes. To address this need, I created a lightweight yet sturdy art storage rack for my paintings.

A “Do-It-Yourself” solution for storing my artwork.

Pictured here is the art storage rack that I designed to house my paintings. My husband helped me build it in one afternoon.

storage for fine art paintings
My DIY storage rack for all the paintings I’m creating. As you can see, I have room to add more.

The supplies for this project were purchased from a local hardware store.  We used 1/2″ PVC pipe and the appropriate fittings to bring it all together.  Its overall size is approximately 3ft wide x 3ft tall x 2ft deep. Neither my husband nor I had ever worked with PVC before, so it was a bit of a learning experience for us, though not a difficult one. It wasn’t hard to build; it just took some thought as we were constructing it. The only tool required for this project was a PVC pipe cutter. And once the various pieces were ready, the assembly was quick and easy. I now have a sturdy DIY storage rack that works for my paintings and blank canvases.

What do you think of my solution? I’m satisfied with how the rack turned out. I’m quite confident you could build something similar if you decide to go the same route as me.

You May Also Like

FROM THE EDITORS: We hope you enjoyed this blog about storage for paintings and found it’s information to be useful. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the fine art paintings below too. For more information and details, click or tap the thumbnail link.

country settings piece of art
Fence Post in The Meadow (2020)
9″ w x 12″ h
vintage car painting
Forgotten Roads of Bygone Days (2012)
24″ w x 18″ h
lighthouse artistic works
Currituck Beach Lighthouse (2008)
11″ w x 14″ h

Art Gallery Quick Links

Flowers     |     Landscapes     |     Marine     |     People

Space Art     |     Still Life     |     Wildlife

Additional Reading

A Painting in the Making

Developing an Artistic Style of Your Own

More information about this topic and many others can be found in My Artist Blog Index. Check it out!

Thanks for reading this!

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A Painting In The Making

This blog post discusses my painting process—how I transform an empty canvas into a finished piece.

W.I.P. (Work in Progress)

gallery-wrapped canvas
Gallery-wrapped Canvas

All of my artwork is composed and painted on stretched canvases that have been commercially primed. I prefer gallery-wrapped canvas. It is the type of canvas that wraps around the stretcher bar support. This allows me to carry the painting around the edges of the canvas, giving it a more modern look. It also means the painting will not require a frame for display unless the customer wants it framed.

Gesso Primed Stretched Canvas

canvas with gesso layer
Gesso primed canvas.

Even though the canvas I use has already been pre-primed by the manufacturer, it’s not sufficient. Additional layers of primer are needed to provide proper support for the pigment. Before I start painting, the canvas has to be prepared and made ready to accept the oil paint. I apply two layers of gesso to the canvas and allow each layer to dry thoroughly between coats. After that, the canvas is gently sanded to remove any rough edges. I try to prime as many canvases as possible at a time. That way, I always have a ready supply of canvases on hand for whenever inspiration strikes, and I want to start a new painting.

For step-by-step instructions on how to prime a canvas using gesso, check out this article on WikiHow: “How to Prime a Canvas.”

Sketching The Image

sketch image on the canvas using a grid
Sketching the image on the canvas.

After the canvas has been properly prepared, it’s time to start sketching the image onto the surface of the canvas. Every painting begins as a simple grid drawn on the canvas. This grid serves to aid in the placement of the focal point and other elements where they will best complement the overall composition. Using a pencil or stick of charcoal, I begin sketching the image that will eventually become the finished painting. I try to make the sketch as detailed as I can, making sure to include the shadow areas too.

BTW, I normally don’t make my grid lines this dark. It’s best to keep them light. I only made them dark so they would show up better for the example. I will remove them before the layer of under paint goes on.

The Underpainting

underpainting
The underpainting.

An underpainting is the first layer of paint applied to the canvas and serves as a foundation for the subsequent layers of paint that will be applied as the painting progresses. It’s an important layer that’s largely made up of pigment and medium (a mixture of mineral spirits and linseed oil). I use this underpainting layer to get rid of the stark white canvas surface and begin blocking in color, which also helps define the image’s basic outline. I keep this layer thin, making sure not to cover up my sketch lines. That will happen later as I develop the painting by adding more layers of pigment. Once the underpainting layer has dried, I begin laying in oil paint layer upon layer and adding more and more detail as I go until the painting is finished.

Painting in Layers

layers
Layering on the oil paint.

I paint in layers, allowing each layer to dry before adding the next. It takes longer to finish a painting this way, but this technique will enable me to achieve the effect I’m working toward. Depending on the amount of detail that needs to be included in the composition, some paintings will have more layers than others. Allowing each layer to dry reduces the overall drying time required before applying the final layer, which is varnish.

Applying Varnish

After the painting is finished and has had time to thoroughly dry, I will apply a coat of artist-grade clear varnish to protect it and bring out the colors.

For more information on varnishing, see The Importance of Varnishing Oil Paintings.

The Finished Painting

white dog pet portrait
The finished painting.

The Large White Dog
Domestic Pet Painting by Teresa Bernard
16″ w x 20″ h
Oils on gallery wrap stretched canvas

Read more about this painting here.

 

 

Art Gallery Quick Links

Flowers     |     Landscapes     |     Marine     |     People

Space Art     |     Still Life     |     Wildlife

Additional Reading

Developing an Artistic Style of Your Own

DIY Storage for Fine Art Paintings

Three Types of Oil Painting Canvas

More information about this topic and many others can be found in My Artist Blog Index. Check it out!

Thanks for reading this!

Feel free to share this with your friends.


 

The Importance of Varnishing Oil Paintings

varnishing oil paintings

Why is varnishing your oil paintings so important? Let’s find out.

Now that you have acquired that beautiful oil painting, you will want to take measures to ensure that it stays that way. One important thing to do is make sure it has received several coats of artist-grade, non-yellowing varnish. Varnishing their oil paintings is something every artist should do before their artworks leave the studio.

Varnish is a final, transparent protective layer applied to a painting after it is finished and completely dry. It is an important first step in preserving the work of art so it lasts for generations to come.

Why varnish an oil painting?

1. Varnish saturates the colors, making them pop. It 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 make up each 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, the 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 paintings be varnished?

An oil painting should be allowed to dry for a minimum of 6 months before applying varnish. Depending on how thick the paint is applied, it might even need as much as 12 months of drying time. It’s crucial that the oil painting is thoroughly dry before the varnish is applied; otherwise, the varnish may crack. The reason for this is that varnish dries before 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 may be able to varnish the painting for you; however, it will probably be for a fee. Or, if you know of an artist in your area who is an oil painter, they can varnish the painting for you as well.

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

Additional information on how to preserve the beauty of your oil paintings can be found here.

You May Also Like

FROM THE EDITORS: We hope you enjoyed this blog about varnishing oil paintings and found it’s information to be useful. We’re sure you’ll enjoy the oil paintings below too. For more information and details, click or tap the thumbnail link.

varnish space art paintings
Asteroid Collision Course (2023)
9″ w x 12″ h
still life oil paintings
Still Life with Black Jars (2022)
12″ w x 9″ h
wildlife paintings
The American Bison
(2020)
24″ w x 18″ h

Art Gallery Quick Links

Flowers     |     Landscapes     |     Marine     |     People

Space Art     |     Still Life     |     Wildlife

Additional Reading

Making and Using a Viewfinder to Compose Better Paintings

Using a Grid to Enlarge and Transfer an Image to Canvas

More information about this topic and many others can be found in My Artist Blog Index. Check it out!

Thanks for reading this!

Feel free to share this with your friends.