The Unvarnished Facts About Varnish

You know I’ve been making a transition from Jo Sonja Acrylics to Golden Open Acrylics.  I’ve been very happy with the results and I really enjoy using the paints.

One little thorn in my side has been the learning curve for varnishing.
Varnishing has never been my strong suit…… mostly just getting by as best I could.  Throw in a new product, and you’ve got me.  But I think it’s important to use brand name with brand name for the safest results.  Each brand makes their products to interact with each other.  There is no guarantee if you cross over and mix one brand of product with another.

So I’ve been experimenting a little.

This is what I’ve learned – both from trial and error – and from tech support at Golden Paint.  A lot of it is the same process I used with the Chroma Jo Sonja Varnishes.

It is very important to apply an isolation coat of Gloss Varnish first.  This will give a hard, protective covering on the painting.  It will also absorb any of the matting agent used in the Satin varnish that can turn milky.

I use Golden Gel Medium – Soft Gel (Gloss).  Mix 2 parts Soft Gel with 1 part water in a small container.  Use a soft brush and a light touch to brush the varnish on.  Use a thin layer to avoid puddling and avoid over working.  You should let the Gloss layer dry overnight before applying the next layer.

For a satin finish I use Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS (Satin) .  Mix 4 parts Varnish with 1 part water in a small container.  Do not guess on this measurement.  If you don’t have enough water in the mix, it will dry milky.  I use a plastic spoon to measure the varnish and the water.  Use a soft brush and a light touch to brush the varnish on.  Use a thin layer here, too, to avoid puddling.  Do not overwork.

The varnish is fairly thin, so you can use less in the brush than other varnishes.  Be sure to check the edges for any drips.

This varnish dries very quickly, but Golden Paint advises to wait several hours before re-applying.  The varnish is not cured for 3 days.  So if you re-apply in a few hours be especially careful not to overwork the brush, thereby re-activating the previous application.

Here’s what I think is a good idea.  Find a scrap of wood or even a piece of poster paper and paint it black – a couple of coats.  Let it dry and test your satin mix on it before you apply it to your precious project.  Just save the scrap and you can use it over and over.  Believe me……….it’s worth the time and effort to make this little test.  Since I mix the varnish each time, and since I paint on dark backgrounds so frequently, I want to know it’s not going to turn milky.

You can save any unused varnish mix in a sealed container.  It won’t last forever, but should be okay for short periods until you get your next project ready to varnish.

The Golden products can be purchased at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or on line.  I order mine from
The Golden Open paint is not available at my Michaels or Hobby Lobby, so I also order it from dick blick

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8 Responses to The Unvarnished Facts About Varnish

  1. Mileah Hall says:

    Hi Ronnie!
    Thank you so much for this information. I am teaching art full time at my local school district, middle school and high school. I’m not allowed to have oil paints in the classroom but want the students to experience the look and feel of oils. I know the Golden Open paints should mix more like oils because of their extended open time. I’m planning to work with them some while on my Christmas break. We’ll see how it goes!

    Happy New Year!


  2. Leslie Hutchinson says:

    Good information! Merry Christmas Ronnie!

  3. Judith dodds says:

    How come you are going to another brand of paint ronnie

  4. Florence says:

    Thanks Ronnie. Very helpful. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  5. Judy Carlson says:

    Thanks Ronnie. Varnishing is my least favorite thing to do and hopefully your tips will make the process less frustrating.
    Merry Christmas and a happy and productive New Year.

  6. Karen Dodrill says:

    Thanks, Ronnie! That information about varnish–VERY helpful! Appreciate it.

  7. Patty says:

    This is great, been getting ready to do some varnishing, yes I do finish things in fact, I have several things that are all lined up for the varnishing fairy to do her thing on. Do you want to be my varnishing fairy, I can pick you up at the airport. !!!!

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