Where we talk about Watercolour Varnish

Yes, you can do it.  Doooooo it.

Here’s the video on YouTube that I mention in the podcast. There’s actually 4 parts, but this is the one that people watch the most so…



Welcome to Art A&A I’m Lezley Davidson with Peeling Onions and we’re going to talk about our last module of varnishing and that’s about watercolor and yes you can varnish watercolour – in fact I encourage you to varnish your watercolours.

It’s very simple. Take some fixative, spray fixative hold at about 30 cm or so, that’s about 2 feet 2 feet a foot and a half, 18 inches from the surface of your paper and coat it lightly the secret to any kind of fixative or spray varnish or anything like that is several passes of light coats.

I tried to fix a drawing once of my mothers wedding picture and I got up real close and sprayed the crap out of it ’cause by God I was gonna fix that puppy. Yeeeeah…it just saturated all the graphite and made it yicky. It was sadness.

Anyway so 18 inches away, light passes. I would turn your paper a quarter turn each time so that you’re coming at it from each angle and you’re going to totally fix the crap out of that watercolour. Because basically you want the surface to not be movable.

You can use a spray varnish if you want to but you know how I feel about spray varnishes so I use a brush on varnish. Mix up your varnish, use a very very soft nylon bristle and you load up your brush with a lot of varnish and you’re basically going to float it across your paper. Okay – you’re not scrubbing, you’re barely touching the paper with the brush. You’re allowing the varnish to basically flow off the brush and onto the paper.

Most varnishes tend to be fairly self-levelling so you don’t have to worry too much about big gobs of it in one area. Just set up your light so that you can see across your page – make sure you’ve covered all of it and let it dry.

Then you can mount that onto a wooden support or, a masonite board or something else. I’ve mounted them on canvases as well and paint the edges. A nice one is a wooden gallery support, so you’ve got that depth, that 1 1/2″ to 2 inch depth that you can paint the edges. You paint them in thinned down acrylics so it’s washy and transparent or thick, whatever you like and you can hang it without framing.

If you want to frame it, mount it onto a masonite board or a Peterboro illustration board or mount board and then you can frame it in a  frame but you don’t have to use glass because you’ve varnished it. Ta dah!

You can also use the wonderful two-part resin varnish which is that really really super shiny thick one – it’s beautiful on paintings. I have a video on YouTube that shows you how to use that. I’ll post a link on the show notes page on the blog. Peeling you can use the same thing for a watercolor painting you just want to to use the varnish after you’ve mounted it onto a solid surface. Because you can’t pour the varnish the two-part resin varnish onto the ground it’ll stick to whatever it is poured on to.

So there’s lots of options with watercolour now and more more galleries are accepting watercolors in nontraditional supports which is awesome.

Okay if you like this podcast please head over iTunes and subscribe early this nice comments and a rating. Or leave me a question at or on the podcast page. Great, thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week.


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