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I started drawing/painting again this past February after a 30 year pause in action... so I'm still relearning/learning/stumbling. Done one show and did 10x better than I expected. However, in the last 2 weeks I got time to take pics of artwork and build a quicky-WIX site. The feeling I got when i picked up each piece to photo was that the artwork itself seems unfinished & rough.. if that makes sense. Dull maybe? I think I'm equating quality with some level of glossiness... like walking around a museum - every painting has some level of gloss to it (artifact of oil and varnishes?)...

So am I wondering about something that makes no difference - or should I spray/varnish/something my finished pieces. All my pieces are done on heavy-weight cold or hard pressed water color paper. 

Rick Wallace

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I'm certainly not an expert on the show circuit, but my personal opinion would be that it depends on the artwork.  I also paint in watercolor, and there are some paintings which seem to benefit from a gloss varnish and others that don't.  But I would recommend treating all your paintings with some kind of clear coat protection from UV rays and dust.  If you apply a spray matte finish, it won't affect the appearance of those that you want just protect.  But generally, if I have a painting in watercolor or acrylic were I want the colors to "pop", I will apply a gloss coat.

Do you spray it on the acrylics or brush it on?  Any recommendations for what to use?  How about on oil paintings?

I can't speak to finishing the oil paintings, as I don't use that medium.  However, for water-based mediums there are a great number of good products.  Krylon makes a non-yellowing clear coat acrylic spray in both a gloss and a matte finish, and this product works well for both acrylic and watercolor paintings.  If you want a nice gloss finish on a canvas acrylic painting, you can also brush on acrylic gel medium, which is made by a lot of different companies.  I have used the Liquitex brand with success on a few of my paintings.  The gel medium is thicker than the spray, and will leave a nice glossy finish. I have also used the gel medium to "mat" watercolors to other surfaces, such as wood plaques.  However, your watercolor must be sealed well with the spray acrylic first, otherwise the gel medium will cause the paint to reactivate and smear!

Thanks for the info.

that solves the issue I had the first time I tried! one of my "best" pieces I sprayed with a can recommended to me at an Lobby of Hobbys and a lot of color migrated. Thank you!

I use Krylon UV Resistant Clear Acrylic spray coatings, Rick.  Comes in gloss or matte finish. I’ve tried some fancier sprays, but like this one best.  Some of the other sprays sit too wet on the paper, but this one dries quickly.  Less wet time, the better with the watercolors!  And you don’t need to over spray it...just a couple light passes over top about 12 inches from the surface.

An oil painting should always be varnished. I like to use Gamblin Gamvar because it can be safely applied as soon as the painting is dry and firm to touch (no curing period).

Thanks.  Any application suggestions?

Always brushed on.

Again, thanks.

How do you keep the spray from dripping or splotching?  I've used this on my charcoals and sometimes it works fine but other times it leaves large spots and has ruined pieces.  I'm spraying outdoors in a protected area with the piece upright and light passes with the spray.

I haven't had a problem with this using the Krylon UV spray, but I have experienced this with other brands. I think its because some of the other brands go on heavier.


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