Oil Painting Tips: 3 Reasons to Add Varnish to Your Painting

Finishing a painted piece can be different for every art piece. There are times when it’s hard to determine whether it’s complete or needs more refinement. Sometimes, after completing your painting, you might notice that the paint is uneven, and color saturation might not end up the way you wanted it to.

Whether you have been painting for years or still undergoing oil painting lessons, these issues can still come up. But there’s no need to worry because all you need is to add a layer of varnish!

In this article, we will share valuable oil painting tips, particularly, three reasons varnish plays an important role in finalizing a painting:

It Is the Easiest Way to Improve Your Painting’s Appearance

Oil paints can dry differently depending on the surface quality and the pigments you use. There are pigments that require more oil and are more glossy in finish, while others appear more matte. 

When you add varnish to an oil painting, you will be able to bring in the dried layers of paint together and achieve your preferred surface finish for your painting. However, there’s no need to worry about whether your painting is too matte or too glossy because it’s really up to you to decide what you want the final output to look like. It can be one or the other or the perfect balance of both.

If you lean towards high gloss, you will notice how colors are more saturated, and there is an increased sense of depth. On the other hand, going for a matte finish will give off an equal layout for the paint, with even the darkest hues getting lighter.

Again, what matters is that you find the right surface quality you seek for your masterpiece. Don’t let general rules or the norm define the way you should express your art!

It Adds a Layer of Protection to a Painting

When you produce a beautiful art piece, you will want it to last in its beautiful state for a very long time. Using varnish will protect paintings from any alterations, contaminations, or damages that they might encounter through the years, especially in varying climates and environmental factors.

Of course, there are painters who prefer an unvarnished look. This is understandable, but the decision may result in a certain vulnerability to the work. But varnishing really does pay off in the long run, especially if you use top-notch quality products.

However, it is notable that high-quality varnishes are clear as water, and there’s no need to worry about varnish changing the impact or intensity of the paint colors. Additionally, the varnish adds a layer of protection against dust and dirt, prohibiting them from infiltrating the paint layers and further damaging the artwork.

It Is More Durable and Suitable For Cleaning

Throughout history, painters have used their own forms of varnish as a care tool in preserving their masterpieces. It started with dammar varnish natural resins, but it develops a yellow tint over time and is not as durable for cleaning.

However, this changed in the early 1990s. Contemporary varnishes were introduced and made available for studio painters. According to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the most stable resin to use as varnish is Regalrez 1904. So, if you’re looking for a varnish that can stand the test of time, here’s one to add to your list!


Oil painting is an exquisite way to express creativity and show the beauty of life. It shouldn’t be a surprise to find ways to preserve and protect the artworks you can get. By adding varnish to your pieces, you get to enhance them and add years to their life for future generations to appreciate!

Do you want to learn more about how to start oil painting? E. John Robinson offers oil painting DVD lessons from the basics to advanced levels. Check out their available courses today, or get in touch with us to see how we can help!

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