Saturday, November 8, 2014


cold & rainy
I varnish every painting with damar varnish.  Here are my materials in the bag are damar crystals, I put them in a jar and pour turpentine over it, then leave it for a few days. (the jar on the left)  Sorry not to include this step, you may have to shake the jar every so often....

Here I'm filtering the solution to get the impurities.

This is naturally in the crystals.

I'm putting more Turpentine into the dilution, because it felt too thick,  I'm just going on experience with this, the thicker the mix, the thicker it will be on the surface on the paint.

I love the smell of turpentine.

This is why I varnish, notice the black, and what it looks like before and after varnishing.

I use a brush, and check to make sure I got in uniformly applied.

I varnish the month's work, all except one that had a huge glob of not yet dried white paint.

Everything needs to be dried to the touch, before it's varnished, according to John Carlson if you varnish early the paint will dry with the varnish.

Yes this bench has all the carpentry stuff  I've needed over the years and it's a chaotic mess, but that's my life.

Here is a painting I did on  a piece of primed canvas, not preferred but it was all I had that day.

I'm going to glue it down to a panel, the glue will be spread out evenly over the surface before I lay down the canvas.

Then put a piece of cardboard, then another stiffer board and then weight on that.  I'll let it dry like this, then varnish it later.


  1. does this varnish come out glossy? and is there a way to prep a satin version ? I ask as I varnished some paintings with pre made stuff the other day and they look a tad too shiny for me. I never knew you could mix your own consistency ( being newish to this)
    great post thanks :-)

    1. The dried (varnished)painting will have a bit of a "wet" look, although over time this too will dull down, probably from dust. I've made the mistake of using too thick of a mixture, and it does look too glossy, like a frosted donut, but if the mix is thin enough it doesn't do that. It might be that I'm using a dry-surfaced canvas (treated with rabbit skin glue as a sizing) and this can draw some of the oil out of the paint, I think if you start with a surface that's got a smoother, less penetrable gesso on it, the varnish would work differently. I'm actually thinking of re-varnishing some year old paintings before I send them out again because the surface no longer looks "wet". I like the damar crystals because you can control the thickness (with turpentine) and it's a lot cheaper.

  2. Thank you for showing this. Are the painting also more resistant with this varnish or just nicer?

    1. Thanks for reading, Chani! I think they are, bur don't have proof, I know they look better!

  3. Matt, is that your garage? and what are you using the Zinners for?

    1. Yes this is my "shop" if you're referring to the can of primer, I'm using that to restore the widow sash just behind it, part of a job.