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In most instances the need to apply a final varnish is unnecessary. Suggest a professional retouch spray to protect paintings while they dry. Wait a year for thickly painted paintings to be varnished. A final varnish can trap moisture when used on paintings that are dry to the touch.  Read Ralph Mayer’s “The Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques” for more information.

This concept of not varnishing might have been born of the findings related to Impressionist paintings.  A notable number of paintings were not varnished during the lifetime of the artists who executed them. Some were varnished after conservation treatment or for other reasons.  Waiting a year to varnish is still a good solid piece of advice, but it has nothing to do with trapped moisture. Oil paint does NOT contain water that needs to evaporate out. Oil paint dries by oxidation.  Reading Ralph Mayer is not a good piece of advice. Mayer was limited by his own bias and the state of the art of technology available to him at the time he researched art materials.

Varnish with Gamvar or retouch varnish when the painting is dry to the touch.

Retouch varnish is thought to provide a “free pass” to prematurely varnish a painting before it is sufficiently dry. Retouch varnish is traditionally made of diluted damar resin.  It has no practical place in modern painting practice.  Artists use it to justify fixing dull, sunken-in color areas but it only adds problems to a painting.

No need to varnish.  Use a professional retouch spray.

Another unfounded piece of advice and if the artist is not proficient at applying a spray, it can lead to overspray and uneven surface sheen.  That is a real nightmare to fix.


Apply Gamvar when the painting is dry to the touch and firm in thickly painted areas.  If the painting is thinly painted, it can be varnished in 2 – 3 weeks. Wait a month or two for thick textured paintings.  No need to wait for 6 months or more to varnish a painting, especially if you intend to use a natural resin varnish such as damar dissolved in turpentine.  Gamvar can be used sooner because the solvent used in Gamvar is mild and won’t disturb the paint film. Gamvar won’t crosslink with a freshly dried oil painting.

Once again, somehow. for many artists, the use of  Gamvar cancels the appropriate waiting period before varnishing can be done.  Even worse is to advise using damar before a painting is completely dry.  It is a recipe for creating wrinkled paint.  Also, just because Gamvar uses a mild solvent, it still does not justify varnishing a painting prematurely.

Varnishing is dependent on how much oil is soaked into the painting.

Please stop soaking your paintings in oil.  I get that it means that if a painting is “fat” it needs longer drying time before the application of varnish. The advice needs far more details to be useful.


Your painting must be completely dry. Some artists use Gamvar but the preference is to use Damvar (sic).  Wait at least 2 years to varnish and don’t use Damner (sic) because it turns yellow over time.  However, damar does not turn yellow unless the owner of the painting smokes. The yellowing is caused by nicotine.  Damar made today does not yellow. If you do need to clean off a painting use Woolite.  It is gentle and good for cleaning.

Lots of interesting spelling issues in this piece of advice. Is “Damvar” a combination of Gamvar and damar resin?  Hopefully not.  Mixing this combination will result in a mess that will evoke the words “damn varnish” or “Damvar” for short because the Damar will NOT dissolve in the solvent used in Gamvar.   Also, interesting new “research” has revealed that damar doesn’t yellow due to chemical changes in the resin, it is those pesky smokers that cause all the trouble.  While the notes in painting conservation files contain many instances of removal of tobacco residue on paintings, it has no impact, from my understanding, on the way a natural resin assuredly yellows.  Finally, it appears that Woolite solves all the cleaning problems and leaves your paintings “fresh and clean.” Please don’t do this.


Use an oil-based outdoor furniture spray sealer to protect your painting.

Somebody had to venture out into the land of hardware store paint/varnish solutions.  Thankfully the advice did not go into lengthy justification of why anyone would use furniture sealer to “varnish” a painting and convince artists to use this material. 


Use Gamvar because you can apply it when the painting is dry to the touch.

Another case of justifying quick varnishing by using Gamvar.  Dry to the touch is not an indicator of “dryness.”  The process of oxidation of oil paint is lengthy. No shortcuts exist that safely accelerate the drying time allowing varnish to be applied within a few weeks of the last paint application.

Only use dammar (sic). 

Short, to the point, misspelled, and anchored in the 19th century.


Gamvar is better than dammer (sic)which yellows and cracks.  Apply a light film of Gamvar to get rid of any dull or shiny spots.

Well, spelling damar is still an issue. (Very few instances of spelling damar with a double “m” appear anywhere.) Applying Gamvar will homogenize an uneven surface but probably not with one light film coating.  Varnishing to create an even sheen is one of the more complicated things an artist has to master.  Conservators who are well-versed in varnishing techniques approach varnishing with a healthy amount of respect and attention to detail. Application on surfaces with uneven sheen requires modulating the amount of varnish that is applied based on the appearance of the painting.  Dull spots need more varnish and shiny spots need less.  Shiny spots may also need the varnish to be brushed repeatedly until the varnish is very tacky. The varnish brush bristles serve to cut into the varnish and ramp down the sheen.  Much of this technique was written about and shared with artists when Gamvar was only sold in gloss.  Cutting the gloss means repeatedly stroking the surface with a brush in multiple directions until it is nearly dry.  The brush hairs cut into the varnish and make micro furrows that scatter light and dull down the gloss.

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